Meet Giulia’s Sibling, Stelvio, an SUV that marries style and performance.
Before I tell you about this car I want to share with you one of my favorite commercials of all time.
Elegant, graceful, haunting. Alfa Romeo calls this the “mechanics of emotion.” And after seeing this it almost doesn’t matter what this car looks like on the inside.
Who the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is For
- Singles, couples or small families
- Drivers who want a distinct look and drive experience
- Drivers who want a sports car performance in an SUV
- Drivers who may need all wheel drive, which is standard
- Buyers for whom design is a top consideration
- Buyers who want a premium car and dealership experience
- Buyers who value the Ferrari-engineered design and drive experience
- Buyers who like to be the first to adopt a new design trend
What This Car Costs
- Starting price, which includes pushbutton start, rear view camera, DNA drive system, power lift gate and rain sensing wipers: $41,995
- Sport package, which adds red brake calipers, paddle shifters and a sport tuned suspension: $1,800
- Cold weather package with heated seats and steering wheel: $795
- Driver assistance package, which adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure assistance and automatic high beams: $1,500
- Panoramic sun roof: $1,350
- Harman Kardon premium sound system: $900
- Apple Car play: $200
- Price of the model we test drove, including delivery charge: $52,985
A Heritage of Beautiful Cars, Inside and Out
The beauty of Alfa Romeo starts with the names of its models. Giulia, of course, is a gorgeous name for the sports sedan. And Stelvio, which is named for the Stelvio pass in the Alps, famous for hairpin turns and high altitude and where this car was tested and fine-tuned, gives the SUV a masculine image.
But the cars names also impart its Milanese heritage, one that is as focused on racing as it is on beauty. You see it immediately in the curvy elegant exterior framed by the triangle front grille and slanted, steely-eyed head lights. And inside, Alfa Romeo’s dedication to design and refined aesthetics continues in a simple, elegant design that may flatter its occupants more than wow them.
The Stelvio also imparts the Milanese cadence of style: the understated luxury of wealth.
My Favorite Feature: The Elegant, Demure Dashboard
Probably my favorite feature is the infotainment screen. That’s because it’s efficient and easy to see, but more importantly, it’s flush with the dashboard and when it is turned off it completely disappears. It’s like it’s not there.
I also really loved the view from the driver’s seat. The hood lines have a rolling curve that is accented by the curve of the dashboard instrument cover. From the front seat all you see are curves. This is especially thrilling when sitting in slow traffic or looking at the tailpipes of trucks ahead of you. Because who wants to be bored behind the wheel of your car?
The center console features a nicely balanced ‘triangle grid’ of controls, with the gear shifter balanced by the DNA drive mode selector, the infotainment dial and the radio volume control. Other controls are minimal, too; just enough buttons to have critical functions at hand; other functions are available through the infotainment system.
Leather, Leather Everywhere
As with any luxury car, leather is a must. And Stelvio doesn’t disappoint: its leather seats wrap you in comfort and then heat up when needed. The arm rest, door panels, dashboard and steering wheel (heated, that is) are also covered in leather, giving the interior an air of pampered elegance.
Light on Its Feet and Grace in Motion
So, here’s the thing you feel when you get behind the wheel of the Stelvio: it feels light. I felt it immediately. You still sit up higher and have a nice vantage point over traffic, but you don’t have to put your back into steering or driving and your command of the Stelvio takes less effort than other SUVs of comparable size.
Part of this is certainly its weight; at 3,600 lbs, it weighs about 300 lbs less than the Jaguar F-Pace, 400 lbs less than the Audi Q5 and 1,000-1,500 less than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, all a very noticeable difference.
But weight isn’t everything. Mechanics, the way the car is designed to perform, adds to its grace. The Stelvio drives more like a performance car than an SUV, which was a bit of a surprise. I expect to feel the length and height of the Stelvio behind the wheel, but there was no lag in acceleration or feeling of getting all its weight up to speed despite not having a huge engine: the Stelvio has a 4 cylinder turbo engine that delivers 280 horsepower.
Alfa Romeo DNA at Work—Literally
Alfa Romeo, like most luxury cars, believes you should have a choice in drive modes. So its models come equipped with DNA drive modes: Dynamic, Normal and Advanced Efficiency.
I found that in Normal the Stelvio was an OK drive experience. Not all that impressive but fine for tooling around the neighborhood where the speed limit is 25 MPH. Once out on the highway or back roads, however, Dynamic mode was fun. The Stelvio was more responsive and I could really feel its sports car heritage at work.
One thing I loved is that once you set a drive mode, it stays there; there is not a default mode, as in many cars, so the Stelvio doesn’t revert to N or D when you restart the car. Mostly I drove in Normal mode to save fuel, but once I put it in D mode I had to remind myself to switch back to N or A for suburban driving.
The Source of Stelvio’s DNA: Ferrari
Yes, Ferrari. When Alfa Romeo planned its return to the automotive retail market a few years ago, the company, which is owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, hired two top engineers from Ferrari.
You’ll see some Ferrari earmarks in the Stelvio, as well as its sister model, the Giulia sedan. First, paddle shifters that are attached to the steering column, not the steering wheel. This is true racing integrity: no matter how the wheel is turned you can still reach the paddles to make shifting gears as fast and flawless as possible. While this is a great thing to have on the track or on a truly fun roadway, it’s less likely you’ll use them in daily driving. Still, they are a visual reminder of what this car was built to do.
Second, carbon fiber. Everywhere. On the dashboard and door panels of course, but also under the hood in some of the engine components. Carbon fiber is a pedigree component that not only makes a car lighter, but also gives it a posh, refined look.
And last, the engine. While the Q4 carries a 4 cylinder turbo engine, the more powerful 505 horsepower Quadrifoglio model is dubbed as an Alfa Romeo with a Ferrari engine. I’m excited to experience the Quadrifoglio soon, but found that the finely tuned handling and driving dynamics in the Q4 model give the Stelvio refined confidence and agility for an SUV.
And it’s that whole approach, not just the engine or the details, but how they all work together to form this elegant, graceful, emotional SUV with the heart of a sports car.
What We Loved
- The beautiful, simple, elegant interior
- The panoramic sun roof
- All wheel drive
- A satisfying drive experience, even in a smaller 4 cylinder engine
- DNA drive modes
- Adaptive cruise with stop and go, which comes to a complete stop when traffic ahead of you stops
- 4 USB ports, including one right up front in the center cubby and two in the back seat
- The higher ground clearance and ride height of an SUV
- The distinct front ‘face’ of the car, unlike any other car on the road
- The mid-sized feel of this SUV; it was easy to drive and park
- Apple Car Play
What You Need to Know
- Seats 5 but more comfortable for 4
- The dial-operated infotainment system is easy to use but takes some getting used to
- Uses regular fuel
- 22MPG city, 28MPG highway, for a combined MPG of 24; we got about 22MPG on our test drive
- Front USB port is not easy to reach when there are cups in the cup holders
- The rear seats are comfortable but not overly roomy
What We Listened to in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Because every great ride needs a great playlist! The sense of understated luxury inspired this list of modern global hits that made the perfect accompaniment to our drive.
Disclosure: Alfa Romeo provided the Stelvio for my review; all opinions are my own.