By Asian Journal Auto Editor

2018 Alfa-Romeo-Stelvio PIC 1For 2018 Italian auto maker Alfa Romeo introduces the mid-size luxury Stelvio crossover SUV to Canada and the U.S. With the unique styling and soul of the storied Italian performance auto maker, this is a much-anticipated vehicle. The Stelvio rides on the same platform as the superb Alfa Romeo Giulia sports car with a slight increase in length and height. The Stelvio is a pretty, refined looking SUV. There is a unique front-end, the distinctive heart shape Alfa Romeo grille, and the dignified lines that show this is pedigree SUV.  It does battle with a slew of premium mid-size luxury SUV’s from the likes of the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Under the hood of the Stelvio is the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the Giuli, developing an impressive 280 hp and 306 lb-ft. Transmission is via the Giuli’s 8-speed automatic gearbox with All-Wheel Drive, called Q4 as standard. The Stelvio range has three models and starts with the base Stelvio at $53,395 which arrives with 18-inch aluminum wheels.  The Ti model is priced at $54,995, comes very well equipped with 19-inch wheels and extras such as a wood interior accents and an 8.4-inch display screen. Options include a Harman / Kardon premium audio system, a dual pane sunroof, and a sport package featuring sport seats with power adjustable seat bolsters, 20-inch aluminum wheels and more. Among the safety features available are: Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection and front and rear park assist sensors.

2018-alfa-romeo-stelvio-ti-sport PIC 2The apex predator in the Stelvio lineup is the high – performance Stelvio Quadrifoglio, slated to hit the North American market later this year with a phenomenal 505 horsepower and is touted as the world’s fastest production SUV, according to Alfa Romeo. Interior wise, the Stelvio features a simple, tasteful and elegant cabin.  It is a little starker than the German competition from the likes of BMW, Mercedes, or Audi for example, but exudes a kind of sensual no-nonsense raciness rather than outright uber-luxury. There is a cool thin-rimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel with an integrated starter button, plenty of metal trim, good looking dials and a neat, simple to use and navigation system. The infotainment screen is well designed and there are decent enough ergonomics. The seats take some adjustment to fit right, a common trait with Italian vehicles, but visibility is good all-around with fine driver and occupant room. Cargo capacity is also competent with 1,677 litres behind the front seat and 525 litres behind the second row. The Stelvio has a tow rating of 1,361 kg (3,000 lb).

On the road, the Stelvio’s strong point is its smooth, refined power delivery from the four cylinder engine –a typical Alfa free-revving unit with plenty of power at both low and mid ranges, with an impressive 306 lb-ft of torque, there is no shortage of acceleration. The eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters offers fast, determined, shifts. There are three drive modes (Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency) for driver preference and road conditions selected via a dial on the centre console. Handling is excellent, with the Stelvio offering stable, sure on road dynamics. Taking the steering from the Giuli, agility and cornering is wonderful. The Stelvio, feels light agile and very tossable. The bigger wheels offer a slightly harsher ride, but otherwise the Stelvio rides compliantly. The Q4 All Wheel Drive system operates on demand and transfers up to 60 per cent of the torque to the front wheels as required.  Alfa Romeo lists a 0-100 km/h time of about 5.5 seconds, which is verging in the sport sedan territory for this mid-size crossover SUV. Fuel consumption is rates at: (Premium) 10.8/8.3L/100 km city/highway.

To sum up, the performance orientated Stelvio is exactly what one expect from Alfa Romeo, an automaker that has built its reputation on high-performance sports cars and auto racing. Don’t expect the clinical precision of its competitors. The Stelvio has real personality, soul and passion. You won’t see many around, so it will be rare. Highly recommended. Wonderful!

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio:  $52,995; Stelvio Ti, $54,995. As tested $67,502 including $1,795 destination charge.