Alfa's been slow cooking its entrance back into the United States, and now it's cranked up the heat with the launch of the 2018 Stelvio.
Of course, everyone knows you need an SUV, no matter the segment, because all the cool kids are doing it and Americans demand it. Now, Alfa's joining the club.
In our first drive of the 2018 Stelvio, we noted the passion it brings to the mid-size crossover segment. However, there's much more to the Stelvio than just passion. Here are a handful of things you might find interesting about the new Italian SUV:
Opt for the Ti Sport package and you'll find aggressively bolstered seats that are extremely supportive. It's like you're receiving a bear hug every time you slide in.
Column-mounted paddle shifters
This is simply the way it should be in every car. No matter the steering angle you'll always know where the paddles are because they never move. They’re huge, made of metal, and are delightful to operate.
The rear exhausts
Sure, those chrome exhaust finishers aren't the actual tailpipes, but they are huge and really tie the lower rear end together.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Wheel-mounted start button
Like the column-mounted paddles, this is the way it should be. Using it feels remarkably natural, and it's satisfying. Not only that, it just looks cool. It's the kind of stuff you typically find in supercars and hypercars, not SUVs.
As far as actually being in the driver's seat and driving, the Stelvio offers a virtually perfect position. You might not think this is a thing, but it is. From good visibility to terrific support in all the right places, it's a feat not all vehicles can achieve.
Flat out the Stelvio is possibly the most agile SUV on the market. It's able to hold its own with the Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan on the twisties, and it puts BMW's latest efforts with the X3 to shame.
We've been a fan of ZF’s 8-speed automatic transmission, and in the Stelvio it shifts fast and hard in Dynamic mode, giving the vehicle an acceleration character that feels far more sporting than the average SUV. In normal mode it behaves without fuss with smooth shifts.
With a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque under the hood, the Stevlio certainly isn't lacking power. Fact is, it's actually the most powerful base engine in its class. As base engines go, this smooth, punchy four-banger is stellar.
Priced in the low $40,000-bracket, the Stelvio feels like a steal, with plenty of standard equipment ranging from real leather to remote start and a carbon fiber driveshaft. We recommend the Ti Sport which starts close to $46,000.
Standard all-wheel drive
Free peace of mind for northern drivers no matter the Stelvio you choose. While some competitors make you pay extra for all-wheel drive, it's non-negotiable with the Stelvio.
DNA drive mode selector
Most vehicles offer some sort of powertrain mode selector at this point, but the Stelvio's does something notable: It stays in the same mode even after you turn the car off. This might seem like a small thing, but if you have a preference, changing into a particular driving mode each and every time you start the car can simply become an annoyance.