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Alfa Romeo Stelvio - The Sporting SUV
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
The market grows ever more crowded with SUVs as manufacturers clamour for a piece of the action. Will the car-buying public ever tire of them?

I doubt it, but as I spend much of my time putting different models through their paces, I can confirm that some are definitely better than others.

Aiming for a slice of the premium mid-size SUV market is Alfa Romeo, who’s new Stelvio must compete with the German triumvirate, namely the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. Home grown competition comes from Jaguar Land Rover in the form of the F-PACE and Discovery Sport and last, but by no means least is the Volvo XC60.

In terms of showroom appeal, Alfa’s first foray into the world of SUVs looks to be off to a good start. The name itself has huge amount of appeal, especially to those with a keen interest in cars. However, visually the Stelvio stands out from the crowd with stylish good looks echoing the new Giulia saloon.

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On test here is a mid-range Stelvio Super, priced at £38,490 before raiding the options list. And you will want to as there are some missing items in the standard spec. I’d have the Cold Weather pack (£550) for heated seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery (£850) and the Driver Assistance Package Plus (£700).

There are four engines to choose from. Petrol power comes from either a 2.0-litre turbo or 2.9-litre 503bhp V6.

Most buyers will likely choose diesel power and the familiar 2.2-litre motor comes in two power outputs, the most powerful of which is on test here (210bhp).

Acceleration is brisk to say the least. The 0-62mph sprint can be accomplished in a mere 6.6 seconds and once underway the engine pulls strongly for fast real-world driving.

The engine is refined too, only getting a little coarse when fully extended, something that is not required with peak torque of 470Nm arriving at just 1,750 rpm.

Aiding swift progress is the standard fit ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s a smooth operator and can deliver quick changes when required.

I would add the optional aluminium gearshift paddles (£275). Not only do they look great, they are a pleasure to use. Surely they should be standard?

The mainstream Stelvio models are rear-wheel drive, with the option of Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel drive system. The latter has a rear wheel bias and when slippage is detected, up to 50% of the power can be directed to the front wheels.

My test car’s AWD system was most welcome, as winter had well and truly arrived. The system coped with the challenging conditions, just...

We’ve already established that the Stelvio is not short of power, but of great interest to the enthusiast driver is how the car handles. Extensive use of aluminium ensures that the Stelvio is a lightweight and weight distribution is a perfect 50:50.

Find a challenging road, select your gears with the aluminium paddles and prepare to be amazed!

The Stelvio feels light on its feet and changes direction sweetly.

Thanks to the high-geared steering, little steering input is required.

Body roll is well contained and on damp road the AWD system keeps you safely pointing in the right direction.

Low speed ride is definitely on the firm side, but this pays dividends when exiting the confines of the city. I would be careful with alloy wheel selection and stick with the standard 18” offerings.

The Jaguar F-PACE runs the Stelvio closest for driving appeal, but ultimately can’t muster up a sufficient arsenal of weapons to compete.

All the Stelvio’s get up and go is not at the expense of economy. Alfa Romeo quotes 58.9mpg for the 210hp diesel engine and I was pleasantly surprised to attain 40+mpg driving briskly at all times where conditions allowed.

CO2 emissions are a lowly 127g/km, a boon to the company car driver.

Along with the smart exterior, the Stelvio boasts a spacious, modern cabin. There’s plenty of space for four large adults to spread and a capacious 525-litre boot.

Fit and finish is fine without being outstanding. It’s here that the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 play their trump card, with outstanding materials and design.

In order to make the best of the interior, I would pick a light colour and add a little metal or wood to the dash.

The 8.8” touchscreen works well and includes satellite navigation on all but the entry level model. This is TomTom based and is easy to use, but the rotary controller is made from rather poor quality plastic.

The Stelvio is a great first effort from Alfa Romeo in the burgeoning SUV market.

Infused with the marque’s sporting DNA, for the keen driver looking for a family SUV there is much fun to be had and it could well be the default choice.

However, life is never so straightforward and I can see why many family’s heads will be turned by the array of talented rivals. Classy interiors, prestige badge, German engineering....

However, if you are reading this column I suspect you are a car enthusiast, so rush down to your nearest Alfa Romeo dealer and take test drive. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Fast Facts (as tested)

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4 AWD Super
Price: £38,490 (£45,610 with options)
2143cc diesel engine (210hp)
8-speed automatic gearbox
All-wheel drive
0-62mph in 6.6 seconds
Top speed 134mph
Combined economy 58.9mpg
Emissions 127g/km Co2
Options fitted
Leather upholstery - £850
Gear shift paddles - £275
Metallic Montecarlo Blue paint - £770
19” 10-spoke alloy wheels - £850
Compact spare - £275
Cold Weather Pack - £550
Driver Assist Package Plus - £700
Power front seats - £750
Convenience Pack - £525
Power fold mirrors - £275

Alfa Romeo Stelvio - The Sporting SUV, 11th February 2018, 9:14 AM