Getting into Alfa Romeo’s new Stelvio required a bit of patience, as every journalist at the 2017 Texas Truck Rodeo wanted a turn. It got to the point where every time I saw the Stelvio it was filled with journalists riding in the back as a way to get first dibs when it parked. The only way I got a chance to drive it was because I waited outside in the sun during lunch to ensure I would be first in line. For the sake of the aviator-shaped tan lines on my face, I’m glad to say that it was worth the wait to drive Alfa Romeo’s first SUV.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is as entertaining to drive as it is to look at while swiping through Instagram filters. It got its name from the Stelvio Pass in Italy, a road that is burned into the fantasies of many driving enthusiasts as one of the most beautiful and challenging ribbons of tarmac on this planet. Here, then, is the overview.
INTERIOR: The model I drove had black leather interior, which was nice and had the Alfa crest imprinted in the headrest. Even after it was sitting in the hot sun for an hour I wasn’t burning up when I sat inside waiting for the A/C to start cooling. But I immediately asked if there were other interior color options available. Why? Because black interiors are boring, especially in vehicles not meant to be.
Thankfully, standard leather seats can also be optioned in red or chocolate. Premium sport leather seats also come in black, red, or chocolate in the Ti Sport trim level. The top-of-the-line spec, Ti Lusso, offers a fourth color option which is called Crema, which is Italian for, uh, ‘cream’. Crema is a beautiful light brown color that I can’t wait to see in person once these start rolling into mall parking lots.
The Stelvio was built to compete against other small luxury SUVs (think the Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan), so a customer receives a lot of creature comforts in the interior. Those creature comforts include – but are not limited to – heated seats and steering wheel, adjustable lumbar support, 8.8 inches of touchscreen navigation, an easy-to-use infotainment center and dual-pane sunroof.
EXTERIOR: If you are a fan of the Alfa Romeo Giulia then you’ll enjoy staring at the Stelvio. Not only do they share the same platform – they also boast similar facial features in the front. The front fascia is composed of narrow, confident headlamps with Alfa’s iconic grille, giving the Stelvio an Italian flare that distinguishes it from its domestic cousins. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is built in Cassino, Italy, so it’s an Italian import, which means you can say you drive an imported Italian vehicle at social events. (Use this power wisely.)
You can choose a Stelvio from twelve different exterior colors, and you can even choose the color of the brake calibers with the options of red, black or yellow. A wide variety of colors, inside and out, allows you to create a vehicle that’s unique to you, the owner.
SPECS AND PERFORMANCE: Powering the Stelvio is an all-aluminum 2.0-liter turbo four, putting out 280 horsepower through an 8-speed automatic. Put your foot down and the Stelvio will respond with a smile-inducing kick and charges you forward all the way to its top speed of 144 mph.
When I drove the Giuila Quadrifoglio earlier this year I wrote that the steering on the Giuila was ‘surgical’, implying that the steering was light and precise like the hand of a skilled surgeon. It’s a similar case with the Stelvio. Driving it on Texas Hill Country roads was a pleasure cruise; I enjoyed the feel of the wheel as I went along the ups and downs of the two-lane blacktop. The Stelvio’s paddle shifters were exactly where I needed them to be – regardless of hand position – thanks to their massive size. And the Stelvio’s all-wheel-drive kept me glued to the road.
The starting MSRP for the Stelvio Ti is $43,995.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I like the Stelvio, in much the same way as I enjoyed the Durango SRT. I know they are on opposite ends of the SUV spectrum, but in the end, both vehicles have similar ambitions: to stand out and put smiles on faces. The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio delivers style without coming across as pretentious. It’s quick without feeling like you’re double-dog-daring the law of physics, and it handles very well. It’s difficult here in America to not think of style, passion, and showing off when talking about Italian vehicles. Given that this is Alfa Romeo’s first attempt at an SUV it has all of those attributes. With more than a passing nod to design, an inborn passion for handling and showing off because hey… it’s an Alfa, and was voted the SUV of Texas at the Truck Rodeo this year. In short, it passed.