Alfa Romeo Stelvio steers luxury SUV path
Alfa Romeo’s worst-kept secret was finally unveiled at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show when the Italian marque introduced its Stelvio SUV.
The newcomer is closely related to the mid-sized Giulia sedan, and is intent on contesting the luxury SUV segment with a package that promises to mix space and style with a strong emphasis on dynamics and emotive appeal.
The Quadrifoglio version shown in LA will be the range-topper, and gets the same drivetrain as the equally sporty Giulia QV, including the 2,9-litre turbocharged V6 developed with the help of Ferrari, and rated at 375 kW.
In the Stelvio, the engine is linked to an eight-speed auto gearbox with shift paddles, and Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel drive. Torque vectoring is also standard, further enhancing traction and control.
Other technical highlights already familiar from the Giulia QV include carbon ceramic brakes and Alfa’s integrated braking system, which benefits braking response and shortens braking distances.
The QV will be the flagship of a Stelvio range that will include a range of more pragmatic engines, including a 2,2-litre turbodiesel and a 2,0-litre turbo petrol. Both engines are available in various states of tune in the Giulia, but it’s not clear which versions will be offered in the Stelvio.
Given the still growing global demand for SUVs, Alfa is hoping that the Stelvio will be responsible for a significant increase in volume. That it chose Los Angeles as the venue for its global reveal suggests that it is targeting US customers for at least a part of that volume.
It’s also clear that the Stelvio has some tough, well-established rivals in the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and, a little higher up the ladder, the Porsche Macan and Jaguar’s F-Pace. Alfa is hoping that its new SUV’s mix of dynamics, technology and luxury will be a strong enough drawcard, but it will need to ensure that enough of the QV version’s appeal filters through to the more accessible models in the range – and that the pricing is keen, too.
Right-hand drive versions are due to go on sale in the UK in September next year, which indicates that South African customers may have to wait until 2018 – especially since the Giulia sedan has yet to reach our shores.
As for the name – Stelvio is italy’s highest mountain pass, peaking at 2 758 metres, and encompassing 75 corners in just 20 km. Alfa will hope that its new SUV will take the brand to new heights, but the road to the summit is likely to be as treacherous as the pass itself …