Thankfully, many of the things we love have not changed, and the additions are good ones.
When Alfa Romeo announced they were making changes to the Stelvio for 2020, I was surprised. Why? This car is beautiful. Modern, elegant, delightful to look at, even more beautiful to drive.
But everyone can get better, right? Same with the Stelvio.
Here’s what we love about this fun-to-drive Italian and what’s new that, if you’re in the market for a premium SUV, will make you happy.
What We Already Love – and Hasn’t Changed
Still perfectly balanced and easy to drive, you’d never know you’re driving an SUV: it’s quick, agile and hugs the road, even though it has a higher center of gravity and higher ground clearance than a sedan.
The Stelvio offers a 280 horsepower turbocharged engine in the Q4 model and a truly thrilling 505 horsepower V6 in the Quadrifoglio model. Either model is fine for daily driving, road trips or filling the car with family. Pop the Q4 into Dynamic (sport) mode and it has no problem merging onto the highway and getting up to speed in seconds, even going up a hill. If you really need the extra 225 HP (and have an extra $20K or so to spend), you’ll be glad you moved up to Quadrifoglio-land.
The Stelvio is distinct, beautiful, bad-ass looking. As premium SUVs go, Stelvio zigs when everyone else zags. Its rounded shoulders, low roof and smooth lines counter the trend toward sculpted lines, prominent air vents and lots of angles. Stelvio’s design is elegant and flowy; its distinct front “face” (I see a nose, mouth and eyes) integrates the bumper seamlessly into the hood and side panels. Its wide-set wheels that sit nearly underneath the front and rear bumpers make it feel very muscular. No matter where you are on the road, you know this car can handle it.
What’s New – and What We Think About It
But the big changes for 2020 are on the inside, found in four key areas: The steering wheel, center console, the infotainment system and active driver assistance features.
We test drove the Sport edition, so, red seats, paddle shifters and active damping for when sport mode is too sporty (rear seat passengers will be thankful for this).
1. The steering wheel. I’ll start here because I love and hate this at the same time. I was a HUGE fan of the Alfa Romeo steering wheel from the last design generation because it was thin. My hands could easily wrap around it, it was lovely to hold and it didn’t dominate the space. Clearly, some ham-handed drivers weighed in, so Alfa Romeo made the steering wheel heftier. And, I agree. It feels more substantial. Thumb rests were beefed up and covered in perforated leather at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions, so my hands easily fall to the right place on the steering wheel and my thumbs feel comfortably at home resting here. And, with thicker leather and a flat-bottomed D shape, it looks every bit the Alfa-tool that a steering wheel is.
2. The center console: this is the most obvious and what you’ll see first, While it’s still minimalist-influenced, there are more features to toy with and more design elements that make the center console pop with color and excitement. The infotainment controller has more function, giving you more options at your finger tips. And, there’s a space to hold your key so you don’t have to stick it in a cupholder. The new design kept the retracting cup-holder cover, open USB port and 12-V charge port, both in plain view and easy to reach (for those ham-handed drivers whose fingers won’t fit into a deep cubby to plug in a device).
Inside the center armrest are two new things: A wireless phone charger (this is a $300 option) is neatly tucked into the gap between the console and the arm rest and inside, there are two USB ports: One standard USB-A that we are accustomed to and a USB-C port, which is becoming the new standard.
One caveat: If you like to travel with your dog, you may need to keep him in a crate or somehow restrict motion when leaving him in the car. Every time we left our pup in the car (safely, parked in the shade, windows down, only for a couple of minutes) he hopped into the front seat to watch for us, setting off the car alarm. I tried to find a way to shut it off, but to no avail. Alfa Romeo engineer Steven Richards told us that “The alarm system has an interior protection monitor that utilizes radar/a volumetric sensor to detect movement inside the car,” setting off the alarm.
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3. The infotainment system has been rethought, and in a good way. One of the things I LOVED about the first generation of Alfa Romeo design was the infotainment screen that was integrated into the dashboard. This made it demure, and if you shut it off it virtually disappears. This is a lovely feature. But, now there are more features, more screens, more options and, you can drag and drop to reorder things the way you want to see them. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still available, too, which I was very happy for.
4. More active driver assist features: you know, those lovely things that tell you it’s time to stop for a craft coffee (because you may be sleepy), that you’re drifting out of your lane (and it nudges you back in) or that you’re about to bump the front of the garage wall (because the sensors are sensing it). Add to this adaptive cruise with traffic jam assist (it comes to a full stop when traffic does), traffic sign recognition that lets you know when the speed limit changes and active blindspot monitoring, all wrapped up in a neat little $3,200 package that includes navigation.
What the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Sport Costs
The model we test drove, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio TI Sport, has a base price of $45,800, which is roughly the same as the 2019 model. From there it’s all about what you add to it: All wheel drive is $2,000 more than the rear wheel drive model; the sport package with sport details, paddle shifters, red brake calipers and power seats adds $2,500; active suspension adds $1,350; premium Harman Kardon audio (worth it!) added $900; the panoramic sun roof ads $1,350. With delivery of $1,295, the MSRP on this model is $59,745.
Overall, the changes are a nice complement to the Stelvio. Subtle in style, highly functional and maintaining the Alfa Romeo DNA of minimalist Italian design.
What We Listened to in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Disclosure: Alfa Romeo provided the Stelvio for this test drive. All opinions are my own.