For fans of the Italian carmaker who might have scoffed at the idea that an SUV could wear an Alfa badge, the styling and the numbers for the top-spec Stelvio Quadrifoglio (QV), on show in LA, may just sway their opinion.
Alfa is favouring performance over all else with the Stelvio, and the new model has Germany’s ‘big three’ in its sights. In this case, that’s the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, all of which offer performance versions.
With the Stelvio, Alfa insists it has nailed the authentic Alfa Romeo spirit, with distinctly Italian styling, state-of-the-art engines, good weight distribution, some clever technical solutions, and an outstanding power-to-weight ratio leading to compelling on-road performance.
"Stelvio is uniquely engineered to challenge two-door sports cars on the track, without sacrificing any of the characteristics you would expect from a premium SUV, resulting in the perfect mix of high performance, capability and Italian design," boasts Reid Bigland, the head of Alfa Romeo.
No suggestion from anyone at Alfa that the Stelvio is a worthy off roader. It is a sports car masquerading as an SUV.
It's the second of a new line-up of vehicles (after the 2015 Giulia sedan) built off a new global Alfa architecture. The use of aluminium in the front and rear vehicle frames, front shock towers, brakes, suspension components, doors and guards has brought down vehicle weight.
The most powerful production Alfa yet, the 375kW 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo petrol-engined Stelvio QV accelerates from standstill to 100km/h in close to 4.0 seconds but also gets the characteristic ingredients that have long attracted adherents to the brand with varying levels of commitment and enthusiasm during good times and bad.
Italians always take pride in their engines and the all-aluminium bi-turbo V6 engine stacks up as rather special, with a flat torque curve offering 600Nm between 2500 to 5500rpm.
The 206kW 2.0-litre direct-injection 16-valve turbo four-cylinder petrol engine powering the Stelvio and Stelvio Ti models also has an impressive torque spread, with 415Nm available between 2250-4500rpm, with surprisingly good fuel economy.
Both engines are hooked up to a paddle-shifting eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
FACA won't confirm as much but there is also a strong possibility of a 2.0-litre turbo diesel being part of the Stelvio stable in Australia.
The range-topping Stelvio Quadrifoglio is set apart from its more affordable base and Ti variants with exclusive high-performance and functional exterior design elements, plus performance suspension, brakes and wheels.
Its cabin has leather and Alcantara front seats, featuring 12-way power and adjustable thigh support, a Quadrifoglio-exclusive leather-wrapped steering wheel with accent stitching and performance contours; leather-wrapped instrument panel with accent stitching; and carbonfibre interior trim.
All Stelvios have a drive model selector called Alfa DNA with three unique driver selectable modes (Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency) which can be used to fine tune the driving experience by adjusting throttle response, boost pressure, and suspension settings in Stelvio and Stelvio Ti.
The Quadrifoglio adds a fourth mode - Race, which activates the over-boost function, opens the two-mode exhaust system, turns off the stability control and delivers sharper brake and steering feel with more aggressive engine, transmission and throttle tip-in calibrations.
The Quadrifoglio also has a torque vectoring differential to optimise traction, Quadrifoglio-tuned adaptive suspension, a unique instrument cluster and a cylinder-deactivation system, which allows the engine to run on three of its six cylinders.
Standard on the Quadrifoglio too is a four-channel chassis damping system instantly adapts to driving conditions and can be adjusted by the driver via the Alfa DNA selector. This technology gives the choice of softer shock absorbers for a more comfortable drive, or a firmer setting, for sports driving.
Standard too on the all Stelvio models up to the Quadrifoglio, is the Q4 all-wheel-drive system which gives all-season grip and manages drive distribution in real time. The system's default is to employ 100 per cent rear drive, but transferring up to 60 per cent to the front axle when needed.
The Stelvio's dynamics are controlled by its Chassis Domain Control system which coordinates all of the vehicle's available active systems (stability control, torque vectoring differential and Alfa Active suspension system), using predictive-type software to find the right balance of natural and safe motoring.
The Stelvio also has an integrated braking system replacing a traditional system of electronic stability control and brake booster for even more immediate stopping response.
The entry-level Stelvio gets paddle shifters and a full-colour 7.0-inch thin film transistor (TFT) cluster display straddled by two large white-on-black face analogue gauges.
A rotary dial controls the high-resolution infotainment system with real-time vehicle performance pages and telemetry, plus navigation that recognises handwritten gestures on the top of the rotary pad, for easy interaction with the 3-D Navigation system.
All Stelvio models will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Even the base car has a carbonfibre driveshaft, dual exhaust, standard 18-inch aluminium wheels (with optional 19s and 20s), leather seating, reversing camera with rear sensors, power tailgate, and a flat-bottom steering wheel with push button start.
The Stelvio Ti adds even more luxury, including standard 19-inch wheels, genuine wood interior accents and an 8.8-inch widescreen infotainment display.
All models have eight airbags - driver and front-passenger, driver and front-passenger seat-mounted side, front and rear side curtain bags, and driver and front-passenger knee bags.
Driver-assist safety and security features include a full-speed forward collision warning system which provides autonomous braking and, should a frontal collision seem imminent, slows or brings the Stelvio to a complete stop. It also has adaptive cruise control, which maintain distance from the vehicle ahead and, under certain traffic conditions, can bring the Stelvio to a halt without driver intervention. Lane departure warning is also standard.
To help rear visibility both on the road and in parking situations, Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection and front- and rear-park assist sensors are available.
Options for the Stelvio Quadrifoglio include lightweight carbonfibre-shell Sparco racing seats, Brembo carbon-ceramic material brakes, and a rear mechanical limited-slip diff.
The flair for fashion that seems part of the Italian character presents in the palette of 13 exterior colours; and an almost limitless interior colour and trim choices. And seven wheel choices, ranging from 18 inches to 21 inches.
Australian pricing and specifications are yet to be revealed. Based on the competition, low 60s to mid 90s price-wise for the various Stelvio models seems likely.
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