2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio first drive review: the SUV we've been waiting for


The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio needed style, personality, and drivability to help the fledgling brand not only survive, but thrive. The only question we had: Could all those things be too much?

Let's ignore that the Stelvio has the body of a crossover SUV—it's not one. It's the same skeleton as the Giulia sedan; check the tale of the tape. Sure, the Stelvio is 8.9 inches tall and has 8.1 inches of ground clearance, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that the Stelvio is only 2 inches longer despite having the same space between the wheels as the Giulia. That's important.

The similarities with the Giulia makesthe Stelvio very easy to place on the road. It also makes it a relative iron maiden in the back seats—like the Giulia. The Alfa is down over 4 inches on the next closest competitor, and its cargo hold is smaller than the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

MUST READ: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio priced from $42,990

But that's where the similarities start. (Inhale) The Stelvio and Giulia share a front and rear suspension arrangement, powertrains, brakes, steering ratios, and a carbon-fiber driveshaft and aluminum body panels that contribute to identical and perfect 50/50-weight distribution, and the dash, steering wheel, seats, and other interior bits are virtually unchanged, too. (Exhale.)

That means the Stelvio is excellent to drive, much like the Giulia. The base Stelvio and Ti use 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engines with 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet. These tiny powerplants are more powerful than the base engines its rivals use. And while we continue to salivate over the Quadrifoglio's 2.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 and its 505 horsepower—coming early next year—it's no reason to ignore the base engine.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

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2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Enlarge Photo
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Enlarge Photo
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Enlarge Photo

The charming 2.0-liter scoots the Stelvio to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds—faster than the 4-cylinders from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi—and on to a slightly unnecessary top speed of 144 miles per hour.

In real-world conditions, its power is abundant and torque easy to access. There's a real willingness to rev, giving the Stelvio a sporty character under hard acceleration. The twin-scroll turbocharger doesn't hesitate, despite the engine's impressive power figures, and in more relaxed driving the throttle is precise and easy to modulate.

But we want more.

This isn't an iconic Alfa Romeo V-6, but that doesn't mean its singing voice should be so quiet. Alfa Romeo needs to grind up Andrea Bocelli and sprinkle him in the exhaust system. By our eardrums, there's not enough volume or character in the 2.0-liter's sound.


 
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