The good news is that the Stelvio turns in faster and more aggressively than most sports sedans. It's a telepathic steering system with plenty of feedback and a willingness to progressively build weight as the steering angle increases.
At the same time, that silly-fast steering ratio isn't great for commuting. At freeway speeds, the Stelvio requires near constant, very tiny corrections. While my freeway time was limited to a few 15-mile jaunts up and down Nashville's Interstate 65, the regular adjustments quickly grew tiring, even in Natural or Advanced Efficiency, where the system is in its “comfort” setting. If you're planning on purchasing a Stelvio, make sure your first test drive includes some time on the freeway, because buyer's remorse is a real possibility with this steering rack.
The same is true of the brake pedal. The brake-by-wire pedal has a sensational feel under high- and medium-speed braking, like you'll experience on a fun, winding road. But around town, it's next to impossible to bring the Stelvio to a smooth stop. And that gets more tiring faster than the steering system.
But then, you'll quickly forget about these issues when you toss the Stelvio into a bend. My test car—a Ti Sport—didn't have the active suspension, which arrives later this model year, but it didn't need it. The outright handling limits are remarkably high and approachable for a crossover SUV, thanks to the perfect weight distribution, while the little amounts of roll, squat, and dive there are arrive predictably. But the Stelvio doesn't feel as uncompromising as the Jaguar F-Pace.
Alfa Romeo's decision to only offer up to 20-inch wheels and 45-series tires—while Jag goes with 22s and 40-series rubber—has a huge impact on the ride. Alfa Romeo built a dynamically capable car, sure, but its ride is smooth, quiet, and relaxed in everyday commuting.
Prices for the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio start at $42,990, including a mandatory $995 destination charge. You don't want that one—it's fine, but you want to spend the $2,000 for the Ti trim and its standard heated seats, heated steering wheel, and an 8.8-inch infotainment system. Tack on the $2,500 Sport Package, because it gives you the best paddle shifters in the world, an active limited-slip differential, aggressively bolstered front seats, a sporty steering wheel, and a more aggressive suspension tune. We're not done: You'll then want to downgrade from the Sport's standard 20-inch wheels to the no-cost 19s, because they're made in Alfa Romeo's iconic five-hole design, and that's the only wheel design the company should offer. All done, you're out the door for around $48,000.
The Stelvio is agile and fun, but its brake pedal and steering are so biased towards driving performance, its backseat is so small, and its cargo hold so average that Alfa Romeo should be genuinely concerned about the Stelvio's appeal. We say: New flair, don't care.
Enthusiasts have been begging for crossover SUVs that aren't boring, and Alfa Romeo has delivered without reaching the absurd prices Porsche's Macan demands. The Stelvio is the crossover SUV for customers that don't want a crossover SUV. If you find yourself in that category, get to your local dealer.
Alfa Romeo provided travel and accommodations to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this first drive review.