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MOTORING ‘Whichever engine


you choose, there’s no doubt that the Stelvio will offer traditional Alfa performance’


Alfa’s in 64 years


first soft-roader


The latest offering from iconic Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo is an SUV called the Stelvio. A quick search of the information superhighway shows it could be named after a cheese, a village, a national park or a mountain pass. But for aficionados, none of that will matter. It’s an Alfa! We sent motoring writer Nick Jones to see how one of the best-loved sporting marques has handled its first steps into a modern phenomenon of sports utility vehicles.


Only aficionados will know that iconic sporting brand Alfa Romeo has history in off-road vehicle manufacture. In 1951 it created the 1900M


‘Matta’ – a Jeep lookalike – for the Italian military, from which came a civilian version produced from 1952 to 1954. More recently, Alfa’s parent


company Fiat, which also owns Ferrari, bought the part of Chrysler it didn’t already own and with it, full ownership of the Jeep brand. But the arrival of the Stelvio –


which was named after the mountain pass, apparently – is Alfa’s first official foray into modern SUVs. The question is, does the Stelvio


continue Alfa’s reputation for form over function or can it challenge more established players in a highly competitive sector? My test car was the five-door


family model fitted with a 2.0-litre petrol engine developing 276bhp and a decent slug of torque. Sporty? Hell yes. Despite the size


and comfort of the car, the 0- 60mph dash can be achieved in 6.5


68 business network June 2018


seconds on the way to a top speed in excess of 140mph. There is a slightly less powerful


180bhp version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine, which delivers the 0- 60mph sprint in about eight seconds and a top speed of 133mph. There are also two diesel


versions. The entry level is a 2.2- litre, 180bhp unit offered as standard in rear wheel drive format but upgradable to all-wheel-drive (AWD) for a few extra euros. An upgraded 210bhp diesel


comes with AWD as standard. All power units are matched to


an eight-speed automatic gearbox. For would-be owners wanting to


go bonkers, there is a 503bhp Quadrifoglio version with a 2.9-litre twin-turbo petrol engine and performance figures in supercar territory. Whichever engine you choose,


there’s no doubt that the Stelvio will offer traditional Alfa performance. In fact, Alfa claims the Stelvio is as much fun to drive as the Giulia saloon on which it is based.


But packing sports car


performance into an SUV does require compromise and in the Stelvio’s case this comes in the form of a firm ride. Although this means you feel a


few more imperfections when town driving, it’s perfectly acceptable on the open road where it feels nimble, with minimal pitch and roll when pressed through the bendy bits. Questionable build-quality has


long been a bugbear of the Alfa brand. People buy them for the romance of owning a car with such a fantastic heritage and, consequently, have been a little over-forgiving of their ‘foibles’ in the past. But Alfa has made massive improvements in build-quality in


recent times so that should be less of an issue with the Stelvio. Alfa has been careful, however,


not to kill off its traditional Italian flair for design. Externally, the Stelvio is bigger in


the flesh than its pictures suggest and it’s strange to see the Alfa badge gazing out of a black mesh grille between squinting headlights. But it looks good.


FACTFILE


MODEL Alfa Romeo Stelvio


PRICE OTR £33,990 - £69,500


PERFORMANCE Top Speed: 133 – 149mph 0-60 mph: 5.5 - 8 seconds


CO2 EMISSIONS 124 - 210g/km


COMBINED MPG 31.4 – 60.1mpg


In fact, it looks good from any


angle, and that includes from the driving seat, where the instrument binnacle and dash layout are pleasing to the eye and the large infotainment screen is easy to use. In this sector of the market, the


Stelvio will be competing with the likes of the Mercedes GLC, Audi’s Q5, the BMW X3, Jaguar’s F-Pace, Volvo’s XC60 and the seven-seat Land Rover Discovery Sport. Can it rise to the challenge? Well,


for a start it has the Alfa badge, Alfa performance, Alfa design and Alfa pricing. If Alfa has finally shed its poor build quality and reliability issues then, yes, it can and will compete.


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