A few years ago Alfa Romeo delighted the American automotive enthusiast with their return; it did not take long for Alfa to announce the Stelvio, their SUV would soon be on its way to America. With that, a prototype was on display at a local dealership, and I eagerly stopped by for a walk around. Well designed, in the Alfa style with a bit of the American SUV hulk to it. Since then, I added it to my list of cars that I wanted to try out. Just recently a Russo red Stelvio came for a week of testing.
Earlier in the summer, I had the opportunity to spend time in the Alfa sport sedan, the Giulia, which was a blast to drive, elegantly designed, a little light in some areas, it won my heart over with its style and pure fun to drive experience. Thus a comparison from one model to another within the specialty Italian brand was where I started.
Alfa is the sporty, upscale line from our friends at Fiat (now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and has long had the image of sportiness as well as elegance in style. Though none of them have had a great reputation for reliability, I had no problems with either of the Alfas during my time behind the wheel
Fit and Finish
One of the things that has been a complaint is about fit and finish, not being to the expected level. While that is what I saw in that prototype Stelvio three years ago, that is not the case today. Not in this Stelvio, like the Giulia, these are tight, well thought out, wonderfully designed cars, well thought out and nicely put together.
The downside of the Stelvio, where the Giulia was peppy and delightful behind the wheel, the Stelvio was a bit sleepy, it seemed to be stumbling over itself. I found this interesting because they are powered by the same engine and transmission, and the Giulia was perky and ready to jump into action. I blamed it on the eco auto start-stop that fuel efficiency add-on that plagues many of the new cars. Or it could have been the engine required premium fuel, and it had regular in the tank. Though once woken up, it carved its way through twisty back roads and up hills with ease.
Design – Exterior
Design is hard to call on most SUV’s, either they are large and bulky or slim and stubby, defeating the purpose of the utility vehicle. In Stelvio’s case, it is more bulky in a squat bean-like way. The exterior color comes into play on the look of this vehicle. The only one I have seen that I did not find attractive was in white. Ours had the $2,200 Russo (Red) Competizione tri-coat exterior paint, which made this SUV look outstanding. Especially with the $850 Nero Edizione Sport (Black Edition) option that added lots of dark trim, like exhaust tips and mirror caps, and 20-inch Miron black sport aluminum wheels.
Doors were large with wide openings which made it easier for people with mobility issues to get in and out of the Stelvio. Egress was an issue we had with the Giulia, with its sportier sedan styling and doors. Rear cargo door was large and with the automatic open-close, very easy to use and load things in and out of the spacious rear cargo area.
Design – Interior
The interior is where Alfa excels, the inside is quite pleasing to the eye, with their attention to detail, use of materials. Simple clean, but still exciting and overall timeless in the look. Classic, elegant and stylishly Italian. Flowing lines and nice use of materials throughout the vehicle. Not a lot of different materials or color changes, the billeted aluminum, leather, and use of good grades of plastic, all worked together to give a nice feel. The gauge cluster and center video display all were easy to read and understand. Power outlets, USB outlets were simple and easy to find in the front and rear seats and even a 12v power outlet in the way back if needed.
Our 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio showed up with a base price of $44,745 including a long list of standard equipment and safety features. One that stood out for me is the power-folding mirrors (not everyone offers those,) a big plus when parking on public streets in town. Some that are so classic Alfa, like the steering wheel located pushbutton start, fancy F1 racecar fashion, Alfa’s DNA Drive Mode System, Hill Descent Control, and carbon-fiber driveshaft. For winter there is remote start, heated front window washer nozzles, and heated side mirrors. Inside you will find both Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto and their 8.8=inch display screen. Dual rear USB ports for device charging. Dark gray oak wood interior trim and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Optional Equipment on our Stelvio included: $2200 Tri-coat exterior paint, the TI Sport AWD Package for $2800, Nero Edizione Sport (black Edition) for $850. Convenience package at $350, which includes a power-lift tailgate and cargo adjustable rail system. Today’s much-desired Driver Assistance package for $650 that includes blind-spot and rear cross-path detection. Driver Assistance Dynamic Plus Package for $1500 providing full-speed forward warning plus, adaptive cruise control with Stop and go. The Ti Sport Performance Package for $1350 which is the active suspension and a limited-slip differential for the rear axle. The dual-pane Sunroof $1350, headlamp washers $250, heated rear Seat that includes 8-way power-adjustable driver and front passenger seat at $350. AM/FM/HD radio with navigation for $950. Harman Kardon Premium Auto $900. A compact Spare Tire, $450. Leather upper door and accent stitching and Gloss Yello Brake Calipers with Black Script for $1100. Add on the $1295 destination charge, brings the full price to $61,090.
Warranty coverage is labeled basic, and the Powertrain Warranty, all for 4-year| 50K miles. Roadside assistance during that time comes with restrictions. The parts contained in the Stelvio is 55% Italian, including the engine, 13% French, and the transmission is German. Final vehicle assembly is in Cassino Italy. Port of Entry is Baltimore Maryland, USA.
What I liked and Not So Much
Not-So-Much – The first thing that I always react to is the driver’s seat. The one in this Stelvio was not at all comfortable, pinching me in the bum. Though the sport seats are tight and have a manual thigh extension, (a nice touch that I like a lot), I found myself shifting my frame to find a more comfortable seating position. The seats also have lumbar and other adjustments, that I could not use to improve the seat comfort for my backside and lower back. While I did not experience the rear seat, I heard from European friends that they found the rear seat in this model to be uncomfortable for long trips.
Liked – There is enough space inside and not too much. I was able to get things in the cargo area without having to put down the rear seats. While I was not a fan of the driver’s seat, I liked that when I turned the Stelvio off, the seat moved back, helping to get out, and not so much that I was too far away from the pedals and steering wheel.
Not-So-Much – MPG’s seemed about where they are for most mid-sized SUV’s. I was hoping for better fuel efficiency, though I was not doing a lot of highway driving on this test vehicle.
Would I buy this car?
Probably not! Did I like this car? Absolutely: I liked the design and overall feel of the vehicle, if the seats were more comfortable, then I would rethink that decision. And those seats may have been because of the TI Sport Trim Package, and they were similar to the seats in the Giulia, which I would buy in an Italian minute.
The Stelvio has been one of those cars on my must-try list, and so glad I had the opportunity to take it out for a week. I appreciate that FCA and Alfa Romeo USA, as well as North Americican Vehicle Services NAVs, offered me the chance to experience this 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio TI Sport AWD.
Word and Images by William West Hopper
No compensation was provided for this one-week vehicle review; other than the use of the vehicle with a full tank of fuel.