A ROSE AMONGST THE THORNS

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If you have noticed as of recent, Alfa Romeo is on a bit of a comeback. Starting with the 4C, a brilliant two-door sports car, all they way to the sensational Giulia, which has been the talk of 2017, causing the likes of the German rivals to sit up straight and actually look over their shoulder. With this sort of aggressive comeback it was only natural for the Frosinone based company to announce a SUV. So on the 16th of November 2016 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Stelvio was born to the world.

THE COMPETITION IS STIFF

The usual suspects have been at this for years. When you say SUV, you immediately think of the likes of BMWs, Range Rovers, Mercedes-Benz, Porsches and many more. These brands, without fault, have been at this for years and know a thing or two when it comes to making a sort of vehicle like this. So when Alfa Romeo said they would make one, all eyes were on them. Not only was this a big deal, but this was the first time since the company was created in 1910, over 107 years ago, that they would make an SUV.

STELVIO PASS, ITALY’S HIGHEST MOUNTAIN PASS

Now if you know Alfas of the past, you will be familiar with the exotic names such as Spider, Competizione, Brera, Disco Volante, Montreal…the list goes on. So when it came to their first SUV, they decided to name it after Italy’s highest mountain pass rightly named Stelvio.

LOOKS AND FEELS LIKE A MILLION BUCKS

Following a history of gorgeous names, drop dead looks followed. Looking similar to its sedan equivalent the Giulia, (pictured above), the Stelvio takes a lot of its cues from it. The traditional and signature centre grill is distinct and clear as day with any Alfa, as well as the distinct headlights which follow a very long an pretty narrow formation paired with a eyebrow of LED daytime running lights on both sides.

The Stelvio doesn’t look like every other SUV. It has, dare I say it, typical Alfa looks. The body is curvy, tapered in the right places and the proportions just suit it right. I best describe it in Alfa Rosso, its colour name, as a woman in a red dress that walks into a bar that everyone will always look at it simply because it’s a bombshell. Now the looks aren’t covering up the faults like Alfa’s of past, no. Try this on for size, the Stelvio weighs 1,660kg with all fluids. This makes it 145kg less than an equivalent BMW X3 and 185kg less than the 4 cylinder Porsche Macan.

ALL TORQUE, ALL ACTION.

The model on test was the base 2 litre petrol engine, and like my sub-heading, this is no slouch of a motor. On tap you have more power than a Golf 7.5 GTi. Yip, you read that right. 206kW and 400Nm is all yours in the Stelvio paired to a beautiful and smooth 8-Speed ZF gearbox. This means 0-100 is done in 5.7 seconds before running out of steam at 230 km/h. Trust me, in a car this light with a turbo engine, the performance was plenty in traffic and highway cruising. Consumption is rated at 7 litres per hundred km, to which I realistically achieved between 8-10.

Q4…

All Alfa Romeo Stelvio models will have Q4. This is the name give to their new All-Wheel Drive System. Most of your drive will be rear driven, and up to 50 percent of the power will be sent to the front in low grip conditions for optimal all-wheel drive. This is standard, however a rear-wheel drive version is expected to be coming later.

GOOD LOOKS, GOOD POWER, SO WHAT ABOUT INTERIOR?

The interior is clean, finished well and premium. You could almost say it has German-like qualities. The instrument panels are sporty and the pairing of the infotainment screen merges the two so well. The steering is sporty and thin, finished with brushed aluminium and Ferrari-like paddle shifters. Putting the gear selector in manual and selecting sport mode, the batman paddles, as I like to call them, really have a supercar-like feeling, the shifts are instantaneous and the 2 litre turbo engine that loves to be revved goes well together like McDonalds and fries or stars and stripes.

The rest of the car is finished in plush leather, aluminium trim finishes and good quality plastics. The biggest surprise was boot size, the Stelvio does look small from the outside but at 525 litres, the Stelvio is bigger than the Porsche Macan but can’t quite match the BMW X3 boot.

RIDE & DRIVE

The Stelvio drives really well, very similar to that of its Sedan sibling. The ride is both nimble and agile. A fair point to mention for this is the telepathic steering. The turn in and response is so quick and sensitive you almost at times forget that you are in an SUV. Personally it’s superb, but for the everyday human it can be off-putting. It creates an over confidence when turning and at speed physics and understeer can be a real thing and catch you of guard. If there was a way to tone it down, that would be welcome. With great suspension and ride height, the rest of your commute will be enjoyable. The smooth and progressive nature of the cars handling will be soaked up in traffic, but with a sedan like sporty nature, this urban SUV feels good.

VERDICT

I am not going to lie to you, after my time with the Stelvio I was left impressed. Sure there were some tiny niggles, but I had to remind myself that this was Alfa’s first attempt ever at making an SUV. From the get go, it ticked all the right boxes, had all the right features, gimmicks and luxury and for once, a SUV looked damn good and not boxy. With prices starting from R810 000 all the way to R946 000 for the First Edition, it does put up a good fight with it’s rivals. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is sold with a 3-year/100 000km warranty and a 6-year/100 000km maintenance plan as standard. Our pick is the 2 litre turbo petrol, and if this base model is that good, we can’t wait to see what the Quadrifoglio will be like. That is Alfas flagship model featuring a 2.9 litre twin turbo V6 with 375kW and 600Nm of torque.

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