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Alfa Romeo has exhibited spectacular form in recent years and is aiming to keep this trend going into 2019.
The charismatic Italian car firm hit the ball out of the park with the stunning Giulia in 2016; absolutely nailing it after a decade’s absence from the executive sedan segment. So can they follow up that success with their first attempt into the SUV market with the Stelvio?
This Ti variant is powered by a 206kW (276bhp) 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder motor and is the range-topping Stelvio engine until the flagship 503bhp Quadrifoglio version arrives on New Zealand shores.
All Stelvios are equipped with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and while all the engine’s 400Nm of torque is channelled to the rear wheels by default, up to 50 percent can be sent to the front wheels if conditions dictate.
Specification highlights include elegantly shaped leather sports seats that are both heated and electrically adjustable up front, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, 20-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors at both ends, reversing camera, 10-speaker sound system, heated steering wheel, optional Panoramic sunroof ($3,500), enormous Ferrari-esque aluminium shift paddles and sat-nav, plus a power tailgate.
Alfa Romeo’s DNA drive selector features on all Stelvios – ‘D’ for Dynamic, ‘N’ for Natural and ‘A’ for Advanced Efficiency. Unlike its rivals sporting modes, Alfa’s switchable DNA feature in the Stelvio Ti is unique in that you can select Dynamic mode (which sharpens up the throttle response, steering and gear changes) but can also press the damper button to soften off the damping at the same time – improving compliancy over Canterbury’s rutted roads. You can have your cake and eat it with this car and it’s a refreshing feature.
There’s an almighty wallop of low-down torque available from just 2250rpm, which makes swift progress on open roads a breeze. The eight-speed automatic gearbox fires through ratios with ruthless efficiency, too – the gear changes are 98 percent dual-clutch gearbox quick and yet considerably smoother.
The beautifully sculpted aluminium shift paddles combined with the starter button on the steering wheel give strong hints to Alfa Romeo’s family relationship with Ferrari and naturally heightens the sensation of the driving experience. Given that this car accelerates from 0-100kmh in 5.7 seconds and can return 7.0L/100km on a combined run, there’s a strong argument this Ti variant is the jewel of the Stelvio range.
It’s talented in the handling department – not just for an SUV, but in general. Body roll is extremely well contained for a car with this amount of ride height and hints at the 50/50 weight distribution. The chassis is reactive, steering quick (the rack is inherited from the Giulia), the brakes are strong and have no qualms reigning in the 1660kg aluminium-clipped kerb weight.
Inside, there’s generous occupant and luggage space, cabin materials that feel premium and a decent driving position with well-placed controls. Cabin ambience exudes Italian flamboyance – especially when dressed in red leather. It all adds up to a rather special feeling when going about your commute.
Compared to its rivals the Stelvio is both unusually engaging to drive and attractive; something not normally associated with mid-size SUVs. Very few brands can nail their first attempt at an SUV, but Alfa Romeo is one of them.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti 2.0 AWD
Price: $99,990 + on-road costs
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 206kW (276bhp) at 5250rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2250rpm
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Kerb weight: 1660kg
0-100kmh: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 230kmh
Fuel economy (combined): 7.0L/100km
CO2 rating: 161g/km