Small luxury crossovers are a hot commodity. So it’s no surprise that Alfa Romeo’s third re-entry into the U.S. market is the Stelvio, a five-passenger, all-wheel drive SUV, with sweet curves and an agile drive character befitting its name. And while there are certainly a slew of worthy and attractive competitors in this segment, driving an Alfa Romeo feels a little more exotic and inimitable.
Stelvio Pass in the Alps of northern Italy is considered one of the best drives in Europe. Saddled with that namesake, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio has a lot to live up to, and does so with few exceptions. It is available in three models — base, Ti Sport (tested here), and Quadrifoglio, which was named the fastest SUV in the world with lap time at Nurburgring Nordschleife that bested not only the SUV class, but supercars like BMW M4, Lamborghini Gallardo and Ford GT. The Ti Sport tested here might not have quite the blistering performance of the 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio, but its 280-horsepower four-cylinder engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, certainly doesn’t disappoint.
The small, luxury crossover segment has exploded over the past few years, and while Stelvio’s arrival on the scene may have been a late, it’s certainly worth the wait. Its drive character bests rivals like BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, and Infiniti QX30, with a zero to 60 time of just 5.4 seconds, and precise, centered steering feel. It soars around corners, clinging firmly to the pavement and returning little to no extraneous feedback into the cabin. The eight-speed automatic transmission thrums seamlessly through the gears upon acceleration, resulting in a ride that is sufficiently sporty but also exceedingly comfortable.
I had but a few niggling complaints about the Stelvio. It comes with a slew of driver-assistance and safety features, but it takes some tinkering, button-pushing, or a trip to the owner’s manual figure out how to engage or disengage things like lane-keep assist. And, while we all know the importance of signaling before changing lanes, if you dare not to, Stelvio’s blaring alert will make you regret your forgetfulness. Similarly, be sure to fasten your seatbelt immediately after turning the car on, or preferably before pressing the start button, lest you be scolded by a clanging bell.
The Stelvio Ti I tested here came equipped with an 8.8-inch display for the back-up camera, audio controls, and navigation. Unfortunately, it isn’t a touch screen, and the screen quality is not the greatest. And the dial-operation to change radio stations is a bit cumbersome. On the plus side, there are four USB ports — two in front and two in back — for everyone to charge their devices.
While the exterior design shines, the interior is a bit staid and monochromatic. Optional aluminum interior trim that comes with the AWD Package dresses up the interior a bit, but others, like Audi, beat Stelvio for interior style.
However, taken as a whole, the Stelvio is an exceptional crossover. The optional Vulcano Black Metallic paint is sharp and accentuates Stelvio’s outstanding style. With zero to 60 times of 5.4 seconds and superior handling, it embodies Alfa Romeo’s spirit of “la meccanica delle emozioni” (the mechanics of emotion).
Price: $43,995 (base); $54,090 (as tested)
Fuel economy: 22/28/24 (city/highway/combined)