Alfa Romeo Stelvio – Alfa’s first SUV debuts with 375kW Quadrifoglio

evo speaks to Alfa global chief Reid Bigland about the company’s future

This is Alfa Romeo’s first ever SUV – the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. And not risking doing things by half in one of the world’s biggest SUV markets, the Stelvio is making its Los Angeles auto show debut in full 375kW Quadrifoglio specification.

With America likely to be a key market for the Stelvio, it’s probably the firm’s most important car in decades. But it’s important for evo too. Manufacturers such as Porsche and BMW have already demonstrated it’s possible to build an SUV that appeals to driving enthusiasts, but Alfa Romeo has much more work to do to convince us. In its last two launches – the 4C sports car and Giulia sedan – only the latter has hit the mark. Forget the heresy of Alfa Romeo building an SUV; we need more convincing it can build a competitive product.

Like the cloverleaf-badged sedan the Stelvio gets a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 powerplant – designed and constructed with input from Ferrari – developing 375kW. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio can reach 0-100km/h in 3.9sec and go onto a top speed of 285km/h.

Transmitting that power to the road is a standard eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, like that in the Giulia, though the Stelvio also comes with Q4 all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. In normal conditions the Stelvio sends 100 per cent of its power to the rear wheels, with two clutches in the rear differential to meter out power as required to either wheel. Up to 50 per cent of the engine’s torque can be sent to the front wheels when necessary.

Other engine choices are likely to echo the Giulia. A 206kW, 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol has been confirmed, also equipped with an eight-speed ZF auto. Alfa claim it will be able to reach 100km/h in 5.4sec. A variant of the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel is highly likely to be available in the future, too.

The Stelvio uses double-wishbone suspension up front and Alfa’s own interpretation of a multi-link axle astern, described as a four-and-a-half link system. Damping is electronically controlled, while braking for the Quadrifoglio model uses carbon-ceramic discs.

Alfa’s DNA Pro system also makes a reappearance, altering the characteristics of the car’s dynamics and its powertrain. In Race mode (Dynamic, Natural and Advanced efficiency modes can also be selected) the ESC system is relaxed, gearchange times cut (to 150 milliseconds) and the steering, dampers and throttle response all adopt a more focused feel.

You’ll note we’ve not yet mentioned the Stelvio’s styling. It will undoubtedly take a little getting used-to, though it’s also a more successful attempt than Porsche’s first Cayenne. And like the Porsche, we’ll be prepared to overlook slightly awkward looks if the Stelvio ends up driving as well as the Giulia.

Alfa Romeo on target for eight-model range

evo spoke to global head of Alfa Romeo and Maserati, Reid Bigland, at the LA auto show. While Bigland won’t commit to details of any models beyond the newly-launched Stelvio, he has an open mind on some tricky subjects facing manufacturers over the last few years – particularly those focused on driving pleasure, like Alfa Romeo.

One of those is autonomous technology. “It’s a matter of when, not if” says Bigland, but for Alfa that when will be considerably later than for most other manufacturers. Bigland sees Alfa as being somewhat insulated from the march towards autonomous cars, mainly because its customers tend to be driving enthusiasts. The same, incidentally, applies to Ferrari and Maserati. Any autonomous tech will likely be implemented at a fairly basic level, such as traffic jam assistance and lane-keeping.

Another matter of contention is the market for SUVs, like the Stelvio. If the market continues to show a trend towards such products, Bigland says, then Alfa Romeo will need to ‘pay heed’, and both smaller and larger SUVs are possible, either side of the mid-size Stelvio.

And Alfa’s plan to launch eight new models by 2022? That’s still “roughly” on track, according to Bigland. The Giulia and Stelvio leave six left, which are expected to include a Giulietta replacement, a larger Mercedes E-Class/BMW 5-Series rival, and those smaller and larger SUVs, among others.

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