Crossover & Midsize

Want A Handling Crossover? Get A Stelvio Before Alfa Is Axed

With Alfa’s rocky sales history and the pending merger between parent company Fiat-Chrysler and PSA Group Alfa is on thin ice. After three attempts to jumpstart the brand in the US Alfa has fallen flat. Now Fiat-Chrysler chief Michael Manley says it’s cutting back on future plans for developing new models. The Stelvio was supposed to kick up sales because it’s an SUV. Let’s see what it got right, and didn’t.

Alfa has a reputation to uphold, even when applied to SUVs. Its sporting image and rep for handling on twisty roads dictate it takes these as some of the most important characteristics. As a crossover, it borrows the Alfa Giulia platform which is also quick-handling, sporty vehicle-this one a sports sedan.

The turbo four-cylinder engine brings spirited power. The Ti package with the performance package adds to the already great-looking Stelvio. With it you get all-wheel drive with 20-inch wheels, adaptive suspension and mechanical limited-slip differential, heated front seats and steering wheel, aluminum door sill protectors, and front and rear parking sensors. 

Stelvio options are split between performance and premium

2020 Alfa Stelvio | FCA

Notice that the options are split between performance and premium? It provides exceptional handling-especially for an SUV while isolating the bumps and harshness one normally finds with vehicles set up for twisties. In fact, the Stelvio holds the crossover lap record at the Nürburgring. The Dynamic mode setting offers the best handling, firming up the suspension and steering resistance.

While its highest quality is the handling and feel, don’t expect the top-ranking economy. The average 28 mpg isn’t bad but is topped by competitors like the BMW X3 and Lexus RX. At least Alfa takes advantage of aluminum. Both the front suspension A-arms, rear multilink, and body structure utilize the lighter alloy.

280 hp and all-wheel-drive standard

2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport in Verde Visconti

Backing the 280 hp turbo four is an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is standard equipment on all Stelvio. 

Inside carbon-fiber trim or wood inlays, leather, and slick aluminum accents sparkle the dash, console, and door panels. The hidden cargo area behind the back seat slightly intrudes on interior volume slightly. 

The 8.8-inch infotainment system includes a touchscreen with an additional rotary controller located on the console if you prefer that. In different reviews, it is criticized for the slow response and sometimes glitchy functions. Especially for nav, your smartphone integration is a better choice. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

Not much of the available safety tech is standard on Stelvio

2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in Rosso Competizione at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas

While a host of high-tech safety and driver assists are available, they don’t come as standard equipment. If you want these, and you probably will, you’ll need to step up. Included as options are lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist; and adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode. Automated emergency braking is standard.

The base Stelvio starts at $41,345 but the interior tends to look like one from a much cheaper vehicle. The Ti package puts the Stelvio just over $45,000 but comes with a host of features including a leather interior that makes it worth the few grand extra.

Let’s face it, Alfa is on the bubble and could get axed

Alfa is on the bubble with so many brands that will be comprising the merger of Fiat-Chrysler and PSA Group. As much as has been said about there not being a lot of brands killed off one can’t help think Alfa could be the exception. With total global sales of under 100,000 a year, it may not be worth the associated costs of development, marketing, and service. 

If you’d like to experience an SUV that has handling attributes not found in any other crossover you might want to take a hard look at the Stelvio before it becomes orphaned.