What matters most to you in a performance car? Zero to 100 km/h? Top speed? Handling? The ideal mix of everything? Most will give the nod to the latter, wanting a perfect combination of acceleration,…

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Road Test

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio might look somewhat understated, but once behind the wheel it’s anything but.

What matters most to you in a performance car? Zero to 100 km/h? Top speed? Handling? The ideal mix of everything?

Most will give the nod to the latter, wanting a perfect combination of acceleration, ultimate speed and road-holding, and to be fair this is probably best with respect to road cars and performance SUVs. Still, achieving a high mark in every category requires compromise all-round, yet

when an SUV is as good as Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio it’s not exactly like you’re going to feel let down.

In fact, it’s tied for fastest off the line in its compact luxury SUV class (with Mercedes-AMG’s GLC 63 S), comes close to tying for the segment’s top track speed (BMW’s X3 M Competition beats it by 1.6 km/h), and holds more track lap records than any SUV currently made. About the only thing it can’t do is beat a Jeep Wrangler up Cadillac Hill.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Few SUVs are as fast for any amount of money, but the Stelvio Quadrifoglio starts under $100k.

That Alfa Romeo is infused with more racing pedigree than most of its competitors doesn’t hurt matters either, the brand even fielding a Formula One team, which can’t be said for all of its key competitors except Mercedes-AMG—Aston Martin’s larger and much pricier DBX isn’t a direct competitor.

That hardly matters, however, as the DBX only bests the Stelvio Quadrifoglio in terminal velocity, managing 291 km/h (181 mph) compared to 283 (176), the one parameter most of us will never attempt to verify. The little Italian is dominant from standstill to 100 km/h, leaving the Brit behind like it’s standing still, the two brands’ official 0-100 km/h times claimed to be 3.8 seconds to 4.5. That’s not even remotely close.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The golf course might look tempting, but the Stelvio Quad has the power to lure you back to pavement quickly.

No doubt Aston will follow up this first foray into family hauling with a more formidable version of the DBX, just like Porsche provides its Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid and Bentley defies physics with the Bentayga Speed, but for the time being we can’t deny the numbers, and the Stelvio Quad even beats these bad boys off the line. To be very clear, it’s not the quickest SUV of all. That honour is bestowed upon Lamborghini’s Urus, capable of whisking past the 100 km/h mark in just 3.4 seconds, while independent testers are even claiming faster sprint times.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Some nice detailing on the lower front fascia helps to visual set this all-powerful Stelvio apart from its peers.

Such is true for all of the above and the bevy of ultra-fast SUVs not yet mentioned, such as the Dodge Durango SRT (4.6s to 100km/h and a 250km/h/155mph top speed), the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 (4.5 and 250/155), the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge (4.5 and 250/155), the Porsche Macan Turbo (4.5 and 269/167), the Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition (4.5 and 273/170), the Range Rover Sport SVR (4.5s and 291/181 respectively), the Jaguar F-Pace SVR (4.3 and 250/155), the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S (3.9 and 280/174), the BMW X5 M Competition (3.9 and 285/177), the Maserati Levante Trofeo (3.9 and 301/187), the Audi RS Q8 (3.9 and 306/190), the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT (3.7 and 209/130), the Tesla Model Y Performance (3.7 and 217/135), the Durango SRT Hellcat (3.7 and 289/180), the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (3.7 and 289/180), and the Tesla Model X Performance (2.8 and 262/163). The BMW X3 M Competition gets to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, by the way, while the Bentayga Speed and Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid need a respective 4.0 seconds and 3.8 seconds to complete the same feat.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The hood features these gorgeous louvres to each side.

I won’t pretend that jamming my right foot down on the Quad’s pedal when first away from stoplights wasn’t fun, especially when factoring the sensational audio track that accompanied the G-forces slapping my backside into the ideally shaped leather- and Alcantara-covered driver’s sport seat, but for me a vehicle’s performance matters more through the curves than merely in a straight line.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
These stunning cloverleaf-style wheels and 20-inch P Zero rubber make for a gripping on-road experience.

Believe me, I tried to go slow. I really did. I somewhat succeeded in maintaining the posted limit around town and on rural freeways, where I know evil radar gun-toting fun-suckers lay in waiting, but failed miserably when past my city’s suburbanites and within its wilder valley region, where perfectly paved patches of ultimately straight tarmac stretch diagonally across farmland to join tiny communities with circuitous secondary backroads and faster-paced connecting highways. This is where the Stelvio Quadrifoglio was born to rule, and where I became enamoured with its shockingly quick capabilities.

Rotate the Quad’s DNA drive mode selector to the “d” position for a sportier Dynamic range, or twist it one position farther for “RACE” mode, resulting in even greater intensity (just why Alfa uses both lowercase and uppercase designations for this dial is anyone’s guess, but it disturbs my inner need for grammatic equilibrium), and get ready for outrageous speed and one of the most delectable crackling and popping exhaust systems anywhere.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
These might be the best sounding tailpipe quartet in SUV existence.

Alfa shoes the Stelvio Quad in 255/45R20 front and 285/40R20 rear Pirelli P Zero performance tires that can hang onto most any type of manmade road surface, these combining ideally with a wonderfully sorted chassis that defies the SUV’s top-heavy profile. Don’t get me wrong, as its roofline is relatively low as far as sport utilities go, but it’s no sport wagon either.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
If Ferrari made an SUV (and they don’t yet), this is what you might expect the interior to look like.

The driving position is excellent, combining a partially squared-off leather-clad sport steering wheel that’s just large enough to feel substantive without being cumbersome, with thumb spats ideally formed and a long set of alloy paddles just behind, fitted to the steering column rather than the wheel, so they’re always where you expect them to be. That column’s tilt and reach are ample too, the latter joining good seat adjustability for fitting my long-legged, short-torso body, resulting in optimal control and good comfort overall.

No wonder Alfa’s bevy of professional drivers had no problem besting track lap times across the world, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio leading all SUVs at Silverstone (2:31.6), Donington Park (1:21.1), and the Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch (55.9), although in fairness I need to make sure you know that its record-setting 7:51.7-minute lap around the Nürburgring Nordschleife was broken after only a few months by the previously mentioned GLC 63 S, the Merc managing just 7.49.369 minutes.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s interior will impress.

Both are quicker around the 20.832-km mountainside track than the next-best Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, mind you, which managed a respectable 7:59.7 minutes just the same, or for that matter a Range Rover Sport SVR that could only lap the course in 8:14 minutes. Until one of the aforementioned VW-underpinned super-SUVs (Urus, RS Q8, Bentayga Speed, or Cayenne S E-Hybrid) choose to take on the wee compacts, they’ll remain the undisputed kings of the “Green Hell”.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
This classic mostly analogue gauge cluster harkens back to classic Alfa Romeo designs.

Back to being unreasonably fair, Lamborghini’s Urus took the Stelvio Q’s title away at one of my personal favourite race tracks, Laguna Seca. The 641-hp raging bull pulled off a 1:40.9-minute single lap compared to the Stelvio’s 1:43.5-minute stint, which is impressive until we start comparing bang for the buck.

Yes, the 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio starts at only $98,995, compared to $285,000 for Lambo’s SUV. The hyper-fast Merc-AMG GLC will set you back $94,900, incidentally, while a W12-infused Bentayga will cost you even more than the Urus. A happy medium might be the super-quick Audi at $126,500, but that’s still a lot of extra coin for slower straight-line speed and a bit more at the top end. Of course, there’s a lot more to any of these SUVs than pure performance, but this said the top-tier Stelvio will hardly have you feeling like you’re living in the slums.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The new infotainment display makes a big difference in every respect.

No matter which premium branded super SUV you choose, its interior comes complete with all the contrast-stitched hides, plush faux suede, brushed and polished aluminum, and high-gloss carbon-fibre weave you can handle, not to mention premium soft-touch composites where the above materials can’t be added, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio no exception. Anyone joining you in the passenger’s seat will be impressed, with its interior design and beautifully crafted build quality.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Glossy carbon-fibre trim joins loads of aluminum, leather and Alcantara psuede for a truly luxe experience.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to experience a much-improved infotainment display in this test model, compared to one used in a four-cylinder Stelvio driven previously. It’s more intuitive graphically, making it easier to use, while it’s also more customizable due to a drag and drop tile/widget layout. It can do anything its rivals can, as well as compile performance stats via a number of “pages” displaying boost, torque, lateral Gs, and more.

While I’ve really liked some of the fully digital displays offered by Alfa’s competitors, I can’t say I was disappointed to see a set of analogue dials housed within sporty circular shrouds, not unlike the beautiful dual-gauge clusters found in the marque’s collectable classics. The speedometer and tachometer flanked a large high-definition multi-information display at centre, filled with loads of useful info, so it was as modern as it needed to be, but that nod to the past is always appreciated in a brand with as much rich history as Alfa Romeo.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The driver’s seat is superb in every respect, and the driver’s position excellent.

As impressive as the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s beautifully finished interior and insane performance is, I’d be remiss for not mentioning anything about its practical attributes. This is an SUV after all, and thus it comes with a comfortable, accommodating second row featuring three seatbelts abreast, plus window seat warmers with three temperature settings, dual USB-A charging ports on the backside of the front console, excellent rear ventilation found just above, plus overall rear finishings as well executed as those up front. Likewise, the cargo compartment is as nicely finished as its compact luxury SUV segment gets, plus it’s large enough for most peoples’ needs and made even bigger via ultra-useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats. Alfa even includes an intelligently engineered aluminum track system for tying down your belongings, which is a good thing when considering the lateral Gs those items may be forced to deal with.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Rear seat roominess is generous, the features impressive, finishing very good, and comfort above par.

Although we’re well into the 2021 model year, there’s a pretty good chance that 2020 models may be available and this SUV hasn’t changed at all in its top-line Quadrifoglio trim, which means you can save about $2,800 right off the top, due to the latest version going up in price by that amount since last year. Alfa Romeo is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on either model year, while CarCostCanada can provide additional info about any available manufacturer rebates, as well as dealer invoice pricing to help you pay the lowest possible price when negotiating. Find out how their system works, and also be sure to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store in order to have such critical information on your phone when you need it most.

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The practical Stelvio provides 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks for optimal cargo flexibility.

As I went over in detail earlier, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is up against plenty of high-performance competitors, but only Lamborghini’s Urus completely outguns it. Mercedes’ quickest GLC is a better match and should be considered, but its twin-turbo V8 won’t provide the higher-pitched aural edginess as Alfa’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, which will be less appealing to some (including yours truly). There’s also the standard features and options issue, with the Stelvio Quadrifoglio mostly loaded except for about $4k worth of extras, compared to the AMG GLC 63 S that starts a bit lower, but can be configured with more than $26k of options that mostly come standard from Alfa. All of a sudden the Stelvio Quadrifoglio looks like a really good deal, even though once you’ve driven it you probably won’t care what it costs.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

I’ve been an Alfa Romeo fan for as long as I can remember, which made me especially excited to get behind the wheel of a modern-day example. Bright “Alfa Rosso” red livery aside, the Stelvio supplied…

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD Road Test

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio, shown here in Ti Sport AWD trim, is one distinctive looking compact luxury SUV. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve been an Alfa Romeo fan for as long as I can remember, which made me especially excited to get behind the wheel of a modern-day example. Bright “Alfa Rosso” red livery aside, the Stelvio supplied wasn’t anything I would have expected to ever wear the blue-encircled red cross on a white field and green serpent badge before, but luxury marque boardroom bottom lines have been causing crossover SUVs to show up in what we middle-aged car enthusiasts might consider to be the most unlikely places these days. 

This in mind, the last Alfa Romeo I’d driven before this new Stelvio was an almost equally bright red 1991 164 S sport sedan, a car that I borrowed from a pre-owned retailer friend back in the day just so I could appreciate how a front-wheel drive Alfa might feel. It was actually one of the better stock front-drivers I’d experienced up to that point, but it was a completely different experience than the ’86 GTV6 I’d tested prior to that, or any number of mid-to-late ‘60s and early-to-mid ‘70s four-cylinder powered rear-drive 105/115 series GTV coupes, “Duetto” and Spider Veloce roadsters, and last but hardly least, another friend’s ruddy quick 1750-infused ‘67 Giulia Super sedan we lovingly dubbed “The Fridge” due to its boxy shape and stealth white paint. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio isn’t quite as unique looking from the rear, but such is the case for most SUVs. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Fondly remembering some of these now classic Alfa models, I perused the online classifieds to see if any of my favourite Italian flames might now be available and how unaffordable they’d become, only to have my initial expectations of potential fulfillment quashed with 1750 and 2000 GT Veloce coupes going for considerably more than new 4Cs, between $60k and $80k, not to mention a dreamy 1961 Giulietta Sprint Speciale with an even loftier $155,000 asking price. Of course, classic Alfas have been sold for millions, especially those with racing pedigree, which is far from the case for most competitive premium brands these days. 

 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
LEDs adorn the Stelvio’s headlamp clusters. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The only Lexus model to regularly fetch six-figure sums is the LFA supercar, a worthy contender that may indeed be worth significantly more one day, but such speculation is hardly bankable. Acura’s NSX enjoys more history and a current six-digit price, yet the Japanese brand has never achieved anything in the sevens, which brings us to Infiniti that is in fact using its design team to conceptualize what its brand may have appeared like if it actually existed back in the glory days ¬of motor racing—and don’t get me wrong, I can’t help but love the Prototype 9 and more recent Prototype 10. 

Infiniti shouldn’t feel bad for its lack of history, especially considering that mighty BMW wasn’t even part of that era. While Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (A.L.F.A.) was tearing up the Targa Florio in 1911, ahead of Nicola Romeo & Co taking the reins to win the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925, the German upstart was fixing its blue and white roundel radiator cap ornament to rebranded Austin 7s and dubbing them Dixi. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The iconic Alfa Romeo badge definitely enhances the Ti Sport’s standard 20-inch alloys. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, Mercedes-Benz has a glorious motorsport past and present, as do many of today’s luxury brands from Audi and Porsche to Bentley and Ferrari, but Alfa Romeo is nevertheless rare in today’s somewhat homogenized automotive world. It’s managed to retain a semi-exotic aura despite now competing directly with the more common premium carmakers just noted, which makes the need for superior style, luxury and performance of greater import than average. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio’s blackened roof shows off its large panoramic glass sunroof. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To this end it also makes sense for the new Stelvio to be one of the compact luxury SUV segment’s priciest entries, its $53,345 base MSRP greater than all conventionally-powered competitors except for the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Velar. The Velar is quite a bit larger, mind you, bordering on mid-size like its Jaguar F-Pace cousin, so its $10k higher base price could be seen as reasonable against bigger two-row rivals like the Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (previously called M/ML-Class), Lincoln Nautilus (née MKX) and Cadillac XT5 (see all 2019 Stelvio pricing at CarCostCanada, as well as important rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

Instead, the Stelvio has been designed to fit snuggly into the compact luxury SUV sweet spot held by such perennial best-sellers as Audi’s Q5 and Acura’s RDX. Actually, at 4,687 millimetres (184.5 inches) long with a 2,818 mm (110.9 in) wheelbase, 1,903 mm (74.9 in) wide (excluding its mirrors), 1,648 mm (64.9 in) tall, and weighing in at 1,660 kilograms (3,660 lbs) in base form, the Stelvio is slightly longer and wider than the Q5 with an almost identical wheelbase, height and curb weight. Interestingly, the new RDX has grown considerably to end up quite a bit longer than either competitor with a notably shorter wheelbase, but to be fair it targets a less affluent buyer despite impressive luxury and performance. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
LED taillights come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Prestige has much to do with this, and helps the Stelvio command its higher price. The Stelvio AWD base MSRP noted a moment ago is merely the starting point in a range that ventures well into Range Rover and Porsche SUV territory, with the Italian model’s lineup also including the $55,345 Stelvio Ti AWD, $55,845 Sport AWD, as-tested $58,245 Ti Sport AWD, $58,595 Ti Lusso AWD, $95,000 Quadrifoglio AWD. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio features an impressively finished interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Quadrifoglio is Alfa-speak for an M- or AMG-like performance upgrade. The four-leaf clover has long been the sign of special performance models destined for a lucky few, and the Stelvio Quadrifoglio takes SUV performance to unprecedented levels. As you may have surmised by the other trim-line names, AWD is standard and Sport makes reference to performance improvements, albeit not with respect to the standard powertrain. 

Quadrifoglio aside, the Stelvio’s sole engine is a 280 horsepower 2.0-litre direct-injected and twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder with 306 lb-ft of torque, while the world’s second-quickest SUV stuffs a 2.9-litre V6 between its front fender wells that’s good for 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio dash even includes Alfa’s classic double-bubble instrument hoods. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To put this into perspective, the fastest Macan Turbo is only capable of achieving 100km/h in 4.4 seconds yet it’ll cost you more at $99,000 plus options, whereas the Cayenne Turbo can match the Quadrifoglio’s blistering pace when upgraded with its Sport Chrono Package, yet it does so from the seat of a larger, more substantive machine that starts at a near-exotic $140,980 so equipped. VW products in mind, the ultra-fast Alfa even beats Bentley’s quickest 600 horsepower Bentayga to 100km/h, maintaining the brand’s semi-exotic status due to the necessity of performance comparisons against ultra-rich hardware like the $232,000 Lamborghini Urus that’s now the only SUV capable of quicker acceleration off the line thanks to the same naught to 100km/h feat managed in just 3.6 seconds. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
Fans of the Italian brand will be glad they maintained these sporty analogue gauges. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

While being propelled from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds sounds both exciting and daunting from the heights of a compact SUV, I found the base engine wonderfully engaging when the desire for straight-line performance got the better of me, while it proved a pleasant everyday driver as well. 

To be clear, the performance edge added by the upgrade to Sport AWD includes a set of steering column-mounted paddles plus tweaks the suspension with a firmer setting via lowered springs and uprated dampers. Furthermore, Ti trim allows the ability to add a $1,500 Performance Package including a limited slip rear differential and an active and continuous suspension and shock absorber control system that reduces body lean, pitch and dive oscillations no matter the conditions. The system constantly interacts with the standard Chassis Domain Controller (CDC) as well as standard DNA Pro drive modes before calibrating its findings dependent on the selected setting. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
These are some awesome paddle shifters, fixed to the steering column and made from aluminum, just like Ferrari. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

DNA Pro can be controlled via a rotating dial next to the electronic shifter atop the lower centre console. The dial points to separate settings that read “d”, “n” and “a”, a witty collective play on acronyms that combines the abbreviation for all living organisms’ source code with the usual driving modes. While I would’ve loved if these letters represented Italian language references, DNT (dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumour) doesn’t have the same ring to it as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), so therefore the letter “d” stands for dynamic instead of dinamico, “n” for natural rather than naturale, and “a” for all weather in lieu of tutto il tempo. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The centre stack includes a nice simple layout, minimalist in design and execution. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Before I get ahead of myself (or lose myself in silliness), you start the Stelvio by pressing a button on the steering wheel, a process that I never really got used to throughout my test week due to such buttons normally being somewhere on the dash or centre console. My inability to quickly find it had more to do with habit than location, being that I don’t get enough seat time in Ferraris anymore, which use the same layout. Once up and running I found the Stelvio’s four-cylinder much quieter than any of the aforementioned Alfas driven previously, whether idling or tooling around town at low revs in default Natural mode, and while such aural pleasantries are now muted so are expletives uttered from would-be backyard mechanics attempting to optimize the twin cam timing via strobe on sidedraft Weber and points equipped engines. In other words, modern-day electronics have made our vehicles a lot more reliable.  

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The navigation system’s mapping uses most of the display’s 8.8 inches of area. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

In truth, there was no way to look under the hood of my particular tester at all. When I attempted to do so for photo purposes the hood release lever wasn’t working. I pulled it and nothing happened, all before it fell off in my hands. How quickly I was transported back to the roadside mechanical nightmares of my youth and requirement for such expletives just noted, and how perturbed that this Alfa Romeo became the first vehicle in nearly 20 years of reviewing new cars to experience such a problem. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The backup camera image is clear, but it doesn’t use much screen space and is therefore extremely small. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Fortunately the Stelvio redeemed itself when it came time to drive, as its initially docile sounding four-cylinder came alive like an Alfa Romeo should when Dynamic sport mode was activated. It launches from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds and really feels like the sub-six-second car it is, while its standard eight-speed automatic shifts with immediacy and precision via the console shifter or those steering column-mounted paddle shifters noted earlier. The former is finished in what looks and feels like a satin-silver alloy, while the latter are made from hefty chunks of smooth billet aluminum. They’re nice and long and, being fixed to the column, don’t rotate with the steering wheel, so you’ll always know which one to use for upshifts and which for downshifts. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
A nice and tidy assortment of controls makes the Stelvio look and work ideally. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Aiding its quick response to throttle input and helping reduce overall mass to benefit in all other ways is a lightweight carbon fibre driveshaft, while the Stelvio’s rigid high-strength steel constructed body shell is unburdened further via aluminum front and rear vehicle frames, aluminum front shock towers, brakes, suspension components, doors, fenders, roof and hood, plus a composite rear cross member continues to lighten the load. All of this, along with my tester’s 20-inch alloys on 255/45 Continental CrossContact LX Sport all-season tires that come standard with its near top-line Ti Sport trim, plus Alfa’s fully independent aluminum-intensive double wishbone front suspension with semi-virtual steering axis, and unique patented “Alfa Link” design rear setup with vertical rods, made for one of the best handlers in the class and a mighty comfortable one too. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The DNA of performance driving? Alfa would like you to think so. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Much of my Stelvio tester’s comfort quotient was derived from the fabulous “Performance Sport” leather-upholstered seats that come standard with its upgrade to Ti Sport AWD trim, the driver’s form-fitting and superbly supportive, especially when it came to holding backside in place during fast-paced lateral manoeuvres. These seats include side bolster bladders to hug one’s torso more snuggly, plus extendable lower front cushions to cup under the knees, the former powered and the latter manually operated. While ideal for my smallish five-foot-eight frame, I picked up a close friend who is thicker around the middle and he complained they were too tight, even when we widened the bladders as far as they would go. This is definitely something to consider when purchasing, with the base seats potentially better for larger folk. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
These leather-upholstered sport seats are wonderfully comfortable and ultra-adjustable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Seating in mind, with the driver’s seat positioned for my height I sat behind and found it very comfortable and quite roomy with approximately eight to 10 inches ahead of my knees, plus more than enough room for my feet even when stretching out my legs, while there was also about three and a half inches above my head, and four to five inches beside my hips and shoulders. Alfa provides a flip-down armrest at centre, complete with dual cupholders. They even provided a slot between the two cupholders for holding a smartphone, very intelligent. There are two large vents on the backside of the front console for feeding air to each rear passenger, plus a duo of USB charging ports under these, while rear outboard seat heaters are available as well. The rear passenger compartment is very well finished too, and the panoramic glass sunroof overhead provides an open, airy ambiance. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
Here’s a look at the dual-pane panoramic sunroof from below. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The rear liftgate is powered if you opt for the $500 Convenience package, and stops at pre-programmed heights, this one preset quite low so I kept bumping my head on it. Yes, I could’ve set it to lift higher, but to its credit I was easily able to push it higher manually. The retractable cargo cover is well made and fits nice and tight within its extended position, while the carpeting and finishing of the cargo area is quite good too. Alfa included a rail system in back, also part of the Convenience package, complete with movable hooks for clamping down gear, while the load floor in between can be lifted and removed, exposing a styrofoam compartment underneath. Levers for automatically lowering the 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks are provided to each side, the centre position needing to be folded manually from a pull-tab on top. I like the flexibility of the cargo area, the centre pass-through ideal for longer items like skis, and while a smidge smaller than the aforementioned Audi Q5 at 525 litres (18.5 cu ft) behind its rear seats and 1,600 litres (56.5 cu ft) when they’re fully flat, it should suffice for most peoples’ needs. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The rear seating area is roomy and very comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not going to try to directly compare the Stelvio to the Q5 when it comes to the quality of materials, fit, finish and design, but only because they’re so different stylistically. Both are excellent, broken hood latch aside. The Stelvio gets the usual cloth roof pillars, an upscale premium soft-touch dash top and door uppers front to rear, as well as some other nice padded and stitched leather and leatherette on most other waist-height-and-above surfaces, but unlike some in the class its quest to pamper gets marred by hard plastic on the insides of the centre console, plus some sections of the upper door panels and the entirety of the lower door panels. Then again the Stelvio improves on some of its rivals with a glove box lid covered in a premium pliable synthetic, plus it adds more soft stuff to the top sides of the centre console and all of the instrument panel down to its midpoint, while the Ti Sport’s standard aluminum inlays look and feel like the genuine metal they’re touted to be—you can get yours with hardwood if more your style. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio offers up a sizeable cargo area, but watch your head on the programmable optionally powered liftgate. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, most of the switchgear was up to snuff thanks to reasonably high-quality, dense composites and nice, tight fitment, although some of the rotating knobs felt a tad sloppy, but only because they can be pushed forward, backward, side to side and turned. 

In a market that’s starting to lean toward standard digital gauge clusters, the Stelvio’s primary instruments are mostly analogue, which I must admit is fine with me, especially when they’re done so nicely and conjure up such wonderful thoughts of past Alfa classics. A large colour multi-information display sits between traditional tachometer and speedometer dials, filled with useful functionality yet most of its panels are black and white monochromatic. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
A cargo rail system is available for tying down gear, while handy 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks allow stowage of long items like skis. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Over on the centre stack is an 8.8-inch widescreen infotainment display that looks plenty large and modern enough, but it wasn’t particularly inspiring when it comes to graphics. Certainly the navigation mapping was colourful and crystal clear, not to mention very accurate, and its interface clean, uncluttered and nicely laid out with black backgrounds and fittingly red highlights, but the reverse camera is tiny compared to most on today’s market, coming nowhere near to filling the screen space provided, and therefore making it less than ideal for negotiating complicated parking stalls, especially at night. On the positive, the optional Harman/Kardon audio system was superb. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
This is what you’ll find below the cargo floor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Features in mind, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard for 2019, while those heated rear seats are standalone options, as is an upgraded alarm. My Ti Sport tester and the top-line Quadrifoglio can be had with a carbon fibre package this year too, while an available Nero Edizione (Black Edition) adds darker wheels and blackened exterior accents, including the badges, to all trim lines. 

Incidentally, that aforementioned Convenience package also includes a cargo net and a 115-volt household style power outlet, while a $1,000 Driver Assistance Static package adds auto-dimming side mirrors and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Those wanting yet more advanced driver assistance can opt for a $1,500 Driver Assistance Dynamic Plus package boasting automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, and solar control windshield glass. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
These helpful levers let you drop the rear seatbacks automatically while loading from behind. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As for standard equipment, the base model includes 18-inch alloys, HID headlights with LED DRLs, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, leather seat upholstery, eight-speaker audio, and the previously noted TFT driver information display, selectable drive modes, and reverse camera. 

Above that, Ti trim ups wheel size to 19 inches while adding aforementioned navigation to the larger 8.8-inch infotainment display, and also includes the genuine hardwood inlays noted earlier, while Lusso trim is all about heaping on the luxury. 

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The Stelvio is an absolute blast to drive, but it’s wonderfully practical too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Regular readers will know I don’t often comment on styling unless a vehicle’s beauty takes me off guard or the opposite occurs, but this is an Alfa Romeo and, partially because of my long love affair with the brand and partly due to being the first I’ve ever reviewed, I feel compelled to say a few words. First, few brands stand out with such distinctive front end styling, its classic V-shaped centre grille plunging deeply past the front bumper like nothing else on the road. A sharp looking set of available LED headlamps bookend each side and big sporty black mesh vents fill in the lower front fascia, while those aforementioned alloy wheels looked particularly attractive in their split five-spoke design, and sportier than the base rims. I love that Alfa adorns each hub with its iconic badge, these placed at each end of the SUV as well, while the LED taillights are nearly as interesting as the headlamps up front, and dual chrome exhaust-tipped lower rear valance nearly as alluring as the front apron. I must say the Stelvio lives up to styling expectations no matter the trim. 

I only wish I saw more of them on the road. Even my exotic sports car and premium SUV filled neighbourhood left me wanting, the Stelvio seemingly as rare as rare can be, while hardly exclusive and therefore comparatively boring Q5s, RDXs, X3s, GLCs and NXs roam rampant. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are very good luxury SUVs worthy of your attention, but the Stelvio delivers a higher level of styling and driving passion that truly deserves more love. That it also provides all the practicality this segment demands is reason enough to seriously consider it. I can’t promise you Lexus levels of reliability, but one quick stint behind the wheel and you won’t care.

With Alfa Romeo’s curvaceous 4C sports coupe set to herald the marque’s triumphant return to North American shores when   it goes on sale here for the 2015 model year, the big question…

Alfa Romeo appoints four Canadian dealers

With Alfa Romeo's curvaceous 4C sports coupe set to herald the marque's triumphant return to North American shores when it goes on sale here for the 2015 model year, the big question was "Where will they be sold?" Alfa Romeo is owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which also owns Maserati, and conflicting rumours hinted that the 4C might be sold either through select Fiat dealers, or through Maserati dealers.

Now Fiat Chrysler has answered the dealership question, appointing 86 Alfa Romeo dealer franchises across North America and promising more to come by the end of the year. Most of the franchises appear to be Fiat dealers, although there are a few Maserati dealers sprinkled into the mix as well.

Canada gets four Alfa Romeo dealerships initially, with one in Toronto, one in Vancouver, and two in Quebec. The remaining 82 dealerships are spread across the U.S. Only 33 states will get franchises initially, with the highest concentrations in California, Texas and Florida. Read Full Story
Fiat-Chrysler’s Automobiles’ recently announced five-year strategic plan has its share of winners and losers – the to-be-discontinued 2014 Maserati Alfieri Coupe Concept (Photo: Maserati)…

Alfa Romeo and Maserati plan multiple new models

Fiat-Chrysler's Automobiles' recently announced five-year strategic plan has its share of winners and losers - the to-be-discontinued Dodge Grand Caravan and Avenger being two examples of the latter - but for fans of Italian sports cars it looks like a bonanza.

The bonanza stems from aggressive development plans for the company's Alfa Romeo and Maserati marques. Between them, the two Italian sports car builders have been given the go-ahead to develop something like 14 new vehicles. To get the development rolling at Alfa Romeo, FCA has set aside 5 billion Euros - nearly $7 billion US - to fund a skunk works staffed by 200 of the brightest engineers from throughout the various FCA companies, with that number growing to 600 by next year.

The skunk works has been given significant autonomy and a mission statement to develop up to eight new models worthy of the Alfa Romeo name. Key attributes demanded of the new models include advanced powertrains, perfect 50/50 weight balance, Read Full Story
For North American fans of Italian sports cars, the opening of the New York International Auto Show in mid-April promises to   be the biggest event in 20 years. Why’s that? Because Alfa Romeo…

Alfa Romeo 4C to debut at New York auto show

For North American fans of Italian sports cars, the opening of the New York International Auto Show in mid-April promises to be the biggest event in 20 years. Why's that? Because Alfa Romeo has chosen New York for the North American debut of its striking 4C sports coupe, marking the official return of the marque to these shores after several years of rumour and speculation, and a full 20 years since it pulled out of North America.

According to industry sources, the initial plan is to sell the exotic mid-engined sports coupe at a few select dealerships that already handle Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' upmarket Maserati brand. Over the longer term, however, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has suggested that the Alfa Romeo 4C won't be the lone Alfa Romeo, with other models under consideration for import and "better performing" Fiat dealers being allowed to participate in Alfa Romeo sales.

Future models will likely include the 4C Spider, which is expected to go into production Read Full Story