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ALFA'S FIRST SUV DESERVES THE 'STELVIO' NAME
Named after one of the most exciting of all Alpine passes, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio was launched in its ultimate Quadrifolglio form at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week
Probably too beautiful to be readily labelled as Alfa's first SUV the Stelvio is the first new derivative to be spawned from the stunning Giulia platform and the company says it is set to become the benchmark for the segment.
From its centred 'heart' through the shrink-wrapped curvature of its body and wheelarches, this car cannot be anything but an Alfa Romeo and the company says it embodies the five irrefutable tenets that makes the brand one of the world's most desirable: distinctly Italian styling; innovative, state-of-the-art engines; impeccable weight distribution; unique technical solutions; and an outstanding power-to-weight ratio.
One of the primary objectives of the design of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio was to achieve maximum driving pleasure. Key contributors to this is perfect weight distribution between the two axles and an optimum power-to-weight ratio. The first of these required astute management of weights and materials, which was achieved by tweaking the layout of Alfa Romeo's new SUV and locating all the heaviest components as centrally as possible.
The ideal power-to-weight ratio, meanwhile, was achieved by using ultra-lightweight materials such as carbon fibre for the driveshaft and aluminium for the engine, suspensions, brakes, doors, wheel-arches, bonnet and liftgate. The reduced weight does not affect the car's excellent torsional rigidity, which guarantees durability, low noise levels and first-class handling even under extreme stresses.
Developed in Modena, the Stelvio is being manufactured in the recently overhauled Cassino plant on a production line that also builds the new Giulia sedan.
The new SUV is named after the 2758 metre Stelvio pass, the highest mountain pass in Italy, which in 20 mesmerising kilometres has 75 breathtaking bends, stunning views and a descent that can test a car's brakes and chassis to the limit.
The Stelvio's proportions have been crafted to express strength, dynamism and compactness, and the side profile reinforces this. Within a length of 468 cm, height of 165 cm and width of 216 cm, the car is pert and pleasingly curvaceous with an outline that sweeps and flares from front to rear, coursing over the rear-set cabin with a shallow raked hatchline, with the serif of a subtle spoiler to finish things off.
The Quadrifoglio version of the unveiled in Los Angeles featured a body-coloured side-skirt with a carbon insert to accentuate the car's sporting character.
The Stelvio's SUV's clean, uncluttered, interior is totally driver-oriented with the grouping of all the controls on the small sporting steering wheel, designed to suit all driving styles.
'Lesser' Stelvios will be powered by four-cylinder turbocharged diesel and petrol engines while the Stelvio Quadrifoglio mounts the same power plant that has already impressed in the Giulia which means the car is also been imbued with its technology and performance.
The 377kW 2.9-litre V6 BiTurbo petrol engine draws inspiration from Ferrari technologies and know-how and is crafted totally from aluminium to reduce the weight of the vehicle, especially over the front axle.
The BiTurbo unit powers the Stelvio from 0-100 kmh in 3.9 seconds and on a top speed of 285 kmh. It drives through an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission specifically calibrated to make gear changes in just 150 milliseconds in Race mode is used. It also features a lock-up clutch to give the driver a powerful feeling of in-gear acceleration once the gear is engaged.
Depending on the mode you set with the AlfaTM DNA Pro selector, what's more, the auto box optimises fluidity, comfort and ease of driving in all environments, including around town, and further improves fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Steering-column-mounted, aluminium paddle shifters also feature as standard.
As well as the V6 twin-turbo unit, Alfa Romeo has confirmed that the other engines in the Stelvio range will include an all-aluminum, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder 16 valve direct-injection turbo engine delivering 209 kW and 415 Nm of torque, allowing it to achieve a top speed of 232 kmh.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is also equipped with the new Alfa DNA Pro selector, which modifies the car's dynamic response according to which mode the driver selects: Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency (energy-saving mode) and Race.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio also uses the company's Q4 AWD technology, designed to manage drive distribution in real time, so as to deliver crisp performance, efficiency and safety.
The Q4 system uses an active transfer case and front differential designed specifically for Alfa Romeo, executing quick-fire management of high torque levels, in a compact, lightweight set-up. It makes use of advanced active clutch technology to deliver an outstandingly dynamic drive, combined with good fuel economy.
The Q4 system continuously monitors numerous parameters to optimise torque distribution between the two axles according to what the car is doing and how much grip there is beneath the wheels. The technology can predict imminent loss of grip by processing the data it receives from the lateral and longitudinal acceleration, steering-wheel angle and yaw sensors.
In normal conditions, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio with Q4 system acts like a rear-drive vehicle, with 100 per cent of the torque sent to the rear axle. As the wheels approach their grip limit, the system transfers up to 50 per cent of the torque to the front axle via a dedicated transfer case.
Working with Q4 all-wheel drive for the first time, Alfa's Torque Vectoring technology makes best use of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's drive distribution and accentuates its sporting character. The two clutches in the rear diff make it possible to control torque delivery to each rear wheel separately. Power is thus transferred to the ground more effectively, even when you drive the car to its limits, making the Stelvio safe and fun to drive at all times, without recourse to intrusive inputs from the stability control system.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio has front double wishbones with a specifically contrived steering axis to eliminate bump-steer and quick, precise responses to steering input.
At the rear, the Stelvio uses a patented four-and-a-half link system which delivers a refined combination of performance, driving communication and comfort. Electronically controlled dampers adapt to driving conditions instantly by instant, for performance-biased or comfort-oriented handling to suit.
Alfa Romeo's Integrated Brake System (IBS) is taken from the new Giulia model and combines stability control with a traditional servo brake to facilitate instantant braking responses and short stopping distances, while significantly contributing to weight optimisation. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio's braking system comprises aluminium components and carbon-ceramic discs.
The Alfa's Chassis Domain Control (CDC) system acts as the "brain" of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, coordinating all the car's electronic systems. It manages the operation of the various tech systems - such as the new Alfa DNA Pro selector, the Q4 all-wheel drive, the Alfa Torque Vectoring, the active suspension and the ESC - and optimises performance and driving pleasure. The CDC adapts the chassis geometry in real time, adjusting the mapping of the Alfa DNA Pro modes on the basis the acceleration and rotation data detected by the sensors.
As with other models on the Alfa Romeo line-up, the Stelvio fits a host of features developed in collaboration with Magneti Marelli - from lighting devices to powertrain, suspensions and exhaust systems and the new Connect 3D Nav 8.8" Infotainment unit.
The Stelvio is likely to sell very quickly, and it's advised that you should get orders in quickly at your Alfa Romeo dealership if you're to secure a car in New Zealand for late 2017 delivery. Or if you want one at all, truth be known...