2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio first drive

June 22, 2017

Alfa Romeo may be on the comeback trail, but so far it’s been missing part of the map.

Alfa relaunched here in 2015 with the fantastic 4C sports car. Next came the Giulia sports sedan.

See what’s missing? If you said crossover SUV, give yourself a gold star and stop emailing them. The Alfa SUV is here, and we’re ready for a first drive.

Its design is very closely related to the Giulia sedan. The grille sits big and tall, but lower grilles and wide headlights give it some oomph in its stance. The rear end is just as grabby, though the sleek taper really cuts into usable cargo room.

The Stelvio’s cabin is arranged like the one in the Giulia. There's plenty of room up front with the sport seats doing their best attempt at a friendly bear hug, but rear seat passengers will negotiate with those in the front seat for leg room.

The Stelvio does fine for weekend sprints to remote places whether it’s a Tennessee mountain home, or a quicker run to the premium outlets of your choice. There's 18.5 cubic feet for stuff behind the second row, fold that down for a total of 56.5 cubic feet of space.

READ: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio review

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

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Inside you'll find a business-like cabin with either real wood or aluminum trim, soft-touch materials, but there's an over-arching feeling of cheapness making it not feel screwed together as well a the Germans.

The infotainment system is like a bad interpretation of BMW's iDrive with a hint of Audi's MMI system. It takes a minimum of three to four steps to switch between your radio presets. The rotary controller feels a little cheap.

Base Stelvios sprint with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 delivering 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. It’s more powerful than the base BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, and Jaguar F-Pace, but all those SUVs have high-end powertrains already on the street. A Stelvio Quadrifoglio with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 is coming, with 505 horsepower. An 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard.

Base Stelvios claw to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The Quadrifoglio should drop that to under 4.0 seconds.

Matching up with rivals the Stelvio has EPA fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. In our first stint behind the wheel we observed just over 18 MPG in mixed driving according to the on-board trip computer.

Driving the Stelvio is an experience BMW wishes it still delivered. There's passion here, from the lighting quick steering ratio of 11.8:1 to the DNA driving mode selector that changes everything from throttle response to suspension firmness. But it's the electronic braking setup that really is the fly in the gelato. While terrific when driven with passion on the back roads, in city stop-and-go driving it's hard to modulate smoothly.

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2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Enlarge Photo

On the features list, Stelvio is available with blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warnings, active lane control, and even an infrared heated windshield.

Priced from just under $43,000 the Stelvio comes fairly well equipped with a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 18-inch aluminum wheels, a carbon-fiber driveshaft, leather seats, and remote start. Options range from larger wheels, to an 8.8-inch infotainment screen to a sport package.

So what's the bottom line? The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio finally taps into driving passion with a body style that makes sense for America.

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