2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale AWD PHEV First Drive: Electric for Errands, Gas for Road Trips, Sport Mode When You Need all the Feels

Getting gas is NOT a luxury. Electric driving is. So is Italian design and a nice edit of luxury features. Hello, Alfa Romeo Tonale plug-in electric hybrid SUV.

Me With The Alfa Romeo Tonale
Me with the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Sporty electric driving, all wrapped up in Italian luxury.

You know you’ve earned the right to own an Italian luxury brand when you’ve learned to say its name. Goo-chi. Ver-SACH-chi. Alfa Rah-MEH-o. And you’ll want to learn to say the name of this new SUV Alfa Romeo Tonale. Toh-NAH-lay. Let it roll through your mouth and off your tongue. Start with a sharp “Toh” and then let the “NAH” linger a moment, before following up with “lay.” Toh-NAH-lay. Just saying its name feels luxurious. 

A brand new plug-in electric hybrid SUV, it is named for the Tonale pass in the Italian Alps where Alfa Romeo’s engineers tested and fine tuned its performance. But it’s not just the latest iteration of luxury, it’s also a departure in many ways for Alfa Romeo. 

Related: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Veloce: The Luxury of Athleticism

The View From The Driver'S Seat

The view from the driver’s seat in the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Plug-in Electric Hybrid, Yes, But Still All Alfa Romeo

Someone must have told the engineers at Alfa Romeo that getting gas is not fun. And that not getting gas is a luxury.

The idea of not needing to get gas is part of the Alfa Romeo Tonale experience; it has an all electric range of about 30 miles, so you can use electric for daily errands and commuting, and rely on gas for longer trips. 

Then, you can choose to save the electric charge, or to let the system optimize performance by using a combination of gas and electric. 

That gas/electric combination gives Tonale more power than any other vehicle in the lineup—other than the Quadrifoglio versions of the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV. Not by a lot— 285HP vs 280 HP—and a huge amount of torque —347 lb.-ft.— for quickly getting up to speed. The first plug-in hybrid electric from Alfa Romeo, you’ll feel its power as you step on the accelerator; the electric motor helps to push the Tonale quickly up to speed.

On the road the Tonale is quiet. Luxuriously quiet. Rolling through town, searching for a parking spot, creeping out of the driveway before dawn, the Tonale is subdued, not loudly announcing itself before it arrives. Exactly what a luxury car should be.

Related: Why I’m So Excited to Drive the Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Electric SUV

The 12&Quot; Driver Information Screen

The 12″ driver information screen. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Perfect Balance is the Magic of Performance

The Tonale features one of my favorite aspects of Alfa Romeo SUVs: Perfect balance. If you know, you know. If you don’t, I’ll tell you: you never feel the weight of this car as you drive because its weight is perfectly distributed between front and rear axles. You’d never know you’re driving an SUV; you can make turns with a single finger. 

This is the essence of performance cars; it’s what makes them agile and able to efficiently manage power and the road. On city streets, it allows you to make a fast u-turn and perfectly pop into a parking space, even from an odd angle. It allows everyone in the car to feel comfortable. And it keeps you from feeling exhausted after time behind the wheel. 

And, it allows the joy of driving rather than the heavy lifting of the weight and heft of an SUV. 

Related: Vintage Heritage Meets Modern Technology: Alfa Romeo’s Newest Model Will Also Lead the Brand into the Electric Car Future

The Front Grille Of The Tonale

The front grille of the Tonale. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Drive Modes to Fit Your Mood—Or Road

To fit your mood and situation, you can pick your drive experience from the 3 drive modes: Dynamic, Normal or Advanced — Alfa Romeo’s signature DNA system.

Normal delivers just that: the normal drive experience you expect from a well balanced, performance-focused SUV. It’s comfortable and not overly anxious or reserved, and it uses both the electric and gas motors for an optimal mix of power and efficiency.

Advanced means efficiency; this mode is for pure electric driving. It’s quiet and peppy and allows for about 30 miles of all electric driving. 

Dynamic is the fun zone: pop it into dynamic and you’ll hear the engine perk up, you’ll see the needle on the tachometer pop and you’ll feel more pull under your seat. More horsepower, from both the electric motor and gas engine, is at your disposal.

If you want to save your battery power, say, on the highway where you know you’ll be engaging the gas engine, or simply for quiet driving in your neighborhood, tap the E-save button. This will preserve the charge, and I noticed, even add to the electric range as the hybrid system regenerates while you drive.

I had the chance to try out all modes as I drove through the Italian countryside and found Dynamic to be satisfyingly fun, but I also really appreciated Advanced mode for its quiet confidence. I like driving on battery power, though. I like the subdued sound, the sonic whir of the motor, the feeling of quiet quickness, which was a bonus in the Italian countryside where you breeze through roundabouts and past sidewalk cafes and strolling locals. It lets you soak it all in without standing apart from the beauty of the landscape. 

Related: 9 Reasons You Should Consider the Alfa Romeo Stelvio for Your Next SUV

The Driver'S Seat In The Alfa Romeo Tonale

The driver’s seat in the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Dynamic Mode, Gear Selector + Paddle Shifters Show This Alfa’s True DNA

Probably the most tell-tale sign that the Tonale is a performance car at its heart are the paddle shifters. A detail that harkens to Alfa Romeo’s Ferrari roots— Alfa’s race-winning engineers came from Ferrari— are the paddle shifters. 

Attached to the steering column rather than the wheel as Ferrari’s engineered them originally, they allow you to shift through the 6 speed transmission. 

Another tell-tale sign is the gear selector. It’s a traditional-looking lever shifter that, unlike other Alfa Romeos, shifts into a distinct position; this also allows you to shift “manually” by pushing the lever to the left and shifting up or down as necessary. 

Related: Paddle Shifters: Fun or Phony?

Me With The Alfa Romeo Tonale

Me with the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Did Someone Say Luxury? 

But of course! In classic Milanese tradition, luxury isn’t just luxury for the sake of luxury; it’s a marriage of function and aesthetics that deliver intuitive effortlessness, grace in motion. 

In the Alfa Romeo Tonale this is first seen in the gentle curves of this SUV’s silhouette. Its lines are gently rounded and its roofline slopes toward the liftgate. On its front face the Tonale features the new headlight signature of Alfa Romeo, a scalloped strand of LED lights. The triangle grille is framed to stand apart from the rest of the front face, and there are air intakes that flank the lower grille. Overall, there is more definition that signals the evolution of Alfa Romeo’s design language. The light signature of the front repeats on the tail gate with new scalloped tail lights that are connected by a light bar and an elegant, Porsche-like script ‘Tonale’ signature under the Alfa Romeo badge. 

Inside, you’ll find an edit of features designed to deliver what you need and not what you don’t: leather heated and vented seats in the top end Veloce model and sport cloth in the entry level Sprint model and mid level Ti model, which offers the option of upgrading to leather. 

Luxuries include a wireless phone charger, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 10” touch screen multimedia system and “Hey Alfa” voice assistance; just say “Hey Alfa” and the assistant is at your service. Then, there’s Amazon Alexa that will not only assist with things like playlists or turning on the lights in your house, but you can also allow Amazon packages to be delivered to your car— an Amazon locker on wheels. 

In the rear seat passengers have ample space, air vents and two USB ports—one C and one standard type. While this is a compact SUV, there’s plenty of room for passengers and fur babies.

The Front End Of The Tonale

The front end of the Tonale. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What The Alfa Romeo Tonale Costs

This is nice news: the price range is rather small and most premium features are standard, including wireless Apple CarPlay and the plug-in electric hybrid power train. Here’s what else is standard, and what each trim costs:

  • Alfa Romeo offers a lot of features standard:
    • 4-cylinder turbo plug-in hybrid electric system
    • 285 horsepower and 347 lb.-ft of toruqe
    • all wheel drive
    • LED headlights
    • ambient lighting
    • smart key entry and push button start
    • wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
    • dual USB/USB-C ports
    • 12” driver information screen
    • 10” multimedia touch screen system
    • Alfa Romeo’s customizable UConnect system
    • voice activated assistance
    • driver assist and safety systems including adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, speed assist, blind spot monitor, rear cross path detection, forward collision warning, automatic emergency baking with pedestrian detection, driver attention assist and rear seat reminder
  • The entry level Sprint edition starts at $42,995
  • The Ti edition, which adds fancier wheels, rear seat USB ports and the option of more driver assist features, premium interior and premium sound, starts at $44,995
  • The Veloce edition, which adds even fancier wheels, adaptive suspension and standard leather seating, starts at $47,495
Doesn'T The Tonale Look Cute In This Quaint Italian Village?

Doesn’t the Tonale look cute in this quaint Italian village? Photo: Scotty Reiss

Built with Women In Mind, But Does It Appeal?

Women love SUVs, so the Tonale already gets my attention. And, I’m excited for the PHEV powertrain— in fact, there is not a non-PHEV option — which I love even more. This means you can drive on electric all week for regular routines and errands. Then, you can rely on gas on the weekends when your journeys take you further.

I also generally love how Alfa Romeo edits its interiors; everything is conveniently placed where you need it. Though, as a compact SUV, there’s not a clever place to put a handbag; I put mine on the rear seat or on the front seat. The rear seat it is easy to reach from the front seat, so that worked as long as I didn’t have rear seat passengers.

And, I applaud the panoramic sunroof option and the leather upholstery, which are both standard. 

What would put this car over the top for me would be lighter interior colors, something I hope will be offered in future models. Even with a panoramic sunroof illuminating the cabin, I need more light and fewer surfaces that heat up. A pale gold Umbrian Sunset, a shimmery blonde Positano Pearl or a soft gray Adriatic Mist would set a lovely tone for the day.

The Silhouttte Of The Tonale Shows Its Classic Suv Proportions

The silhouttte of the Tonale shows its classic SUV proportions. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Continuing the Alfa Romeo Tradition 

Five years ago I fell in love with the Alfa Romeo Giulia, the first sedan from the Italian automaker to be sold in North America. Its elegant proportions, nicely edited interior and beautiful wheels set it apart (and, I’m not a fan of wheels, but these are special). 

Then, I was excited to hear that Alfa Romeo was introducing an SUV, the Stelvio, to offer everything we love in an SUV: higher ground clearance, flexible seating and all wheel drive. 

The Tonale adds to the heritage by preserving and enhancing performance with a plug-in hybrid electric SUV. And, Alfa continues its cache of elegant, effortless luxury in a lovely, well-appointed, fun to drive SUV.

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The Rear End Of The Alfa Romeo Tonale

The rear end of the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Disclosure: I was a guest of Alfa Romeo for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss