There are many luxury SUVs on the market but none stand out quite like the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio. However, Italian cars have a stereotype of being unreliable lemons. While that may be true for cars made in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, does that stereotype still hold true today? Or is this Alfa Romeo just as reliable, and as good, as its German rivals?
Engine – Like almost all other luxury SUVs, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. There is an option twin-turbocharged V6 with over 500 hp which is derived from a Ferrari V8 but most trim levels of the Stelvio have the 2.0L engine. It produces a healthy 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque (209 kW & 415 Nm). Alfa Romeo claims a 0-60 mph (96 km/h) time of 5.5 seconds. This engine has a hint of turbo lag but it has a broad power band and it pulls without any fuss.
However, this is not a very exciting engine. For a start, it doesn’t sound like how one would expect an Italian car to sound. It almost sounds like a diesel at idle. Additionally, the redline is at 5,500 rpms. Any lower and it would actually be a diesel engine. Granted, turbocharged engines generally don’t need to rev high like naturally aspirated engines.
Fuel Economy – For an SUV that weighs 1,817 kg (4,007 lbs) with an engine that is more powerful than the base engine in the German rivals, the fuel economy of this 2023 Stelvio is not too bad. It is officially rated at 10.8 L/100km (21.8 MPG) in a city and 8.3 L/100km (28.3 MPG) on a highway. With mostly city driving, I averaged 10.3 L/100km (22.8 MPG) during my time with the SUV.
The engine has three different drive modes which have the acronym of DNA. Dynamic is the sportiest setting, Natural is the default setting for everyday driving, and Advanced Efficiency is for the best fuel economy. Not only does this last mode soften the throttle response but at highway speeds, it will “shift” the transmission into neutral so that there is no engine braking whenever you lift your foot off the throttle pedal. This coasting feature is becoming more common in other brands as well and it allows the car to travel a little bit further while using less fuel. As soon as you touch the throttle or brake pedals, the transmission immediately gets put back into gear so that you remain in complete control.
Transmission – The Stelvio comes equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission that is made by ZF. This is a very smooth shifting transmission in the default Natural drive mode. In Dynamic, the shifts are quick and responsive.
The shifts can be controlled by the beautiful paddle shifters that are mounted on the column. These paddles have a beautiful design and have a satisfying click as you pull on them. Unfortunately it’s hard to see them from the driver’s seat because they are the same diameter as the steering wheel. Additionally, they force you to reach around them in order to use the indicator or wiper stalks. But these are minor inconveniences.
Braking – Though the four-piston Brembo front calipers and discs may look small in the 21” wheels, they are far from inadequate. These front brakes provide the bulk of the stopping force for the Stelvio and they do a great job of bringing the body to a stop. Additionally, the brake pedal is firm which gives you confidence whenever you apply your foot on it. Some may find the brake pedal a bit on the sensitive side so it may take you a while longer to get used to it.
Handling – The 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio has a rear-wheel-drive platform. The driving dynamics around corners is the absolute best characteristic of this vehicle. The steering is incredibly precise and fast reacting. Every little movement of the steering wheel immediately translates into movement of the front wheels. The steering weight and effort is a perfect blend between ease of maneuverability at slow speeds and a good amount of feedback at higher speeds on twisty roads.
However, this fast steering response may be a bit too fast for some. If you’re not gentle with the inputs, the car can feel jittery and unsettled at highway speeds. This in turn can cause some to feel a bit nauseous. I’ll admit it, I felt a bit sick when I first drove this car on a highway. But after a while of getting used to the quick steering, the Alfa began to feel a bit more settled at higher speeds. You just have to be gentle.
Ride Comfort – For such a sporty SUV, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio has a comfortable ride. It’s not as comfortable as the ride of the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 but you can comfortably take this Alfa over poorly maintained city streets and not feel as though your bones are being pulverized.
Additionally, the seats provide excellent support. The side bolsters are large, and though some may find them a bit too big, they hugged my body very well.
Interior Space – The 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is not the biggest luxury compact SUV on the market but there is ample room for taller adults in the front seats. With the driver’s seat in the lowest position, headroom is adequate and legroom is plentiful. Visibility in the front and side is good but limited out the back due to the sloping roofline and small back window.
It’s the back seats where you’ll notice the lack of cabin space when compared to the BMW X3 or Mercedes GLC. behind my 6’4” driving position my knees are right up against the back of the front seat. I wouldn’t say that they feel squished but the back of the front seat is hard plastic instead of soft leather so after long periods of being in those back seats, there could be some bruising on my knees. Headroom is also tight with my hair brushing against the headliner. The back seats are also quite flat and do not support you in any way around twisty corners.
The trunk is also on the small side when compared to the German rivals. There are 524 L (18.5 cu-ft) of space behind the rear seats. However, with the rear seats folded, the Stelvio has the same amount of space as its rivals at 1,600 L (56.5 cu-ft).
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – As I mentioned earlier, the engine of the Stelvio doesn’t sound as exciting as one would expect from an Italian car. But at least the engine’s noises are well isolated from the cabin under normal driving conditions. Wind noise is also well subdued and there is some road noise intruding from the tires on highways but it’s not any worse than in the BMW X3. There were no squeaks or rattles of trim pieces so it felt like a solid built vehicle.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is quite a bit more expensive than its German or Japanese, or even American luxury crossover rivals. The 2023 Stelvio Sprint starts at $60,190 CAD / $48,170 USD, RWD (including destination) while this new Estrema trim starts at $71,490 CAD / $60,920 USD (including destination).
Gadgets – But at least for the money, the Stelvio has nearly every feature that other luxury crossover SUVs have. Some of these include heated seats in all four corners, leather almost everywhere in the cabin, dual zone automatic climate control, a built-in satellite navigation system, front & rear parking sensors, power liftgate, a panoramic sunroof, a wireless phone charging pad and real carbon fiber trim. Perhaps the only things that are missing are a rear camera mirror for better rear visibility, ventilated front seats, and a head-up display.
The infotainment system is displayed on an 8.8” touchscreen that can also be controlled by the rotary knob on the center console. It also allows for Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity. For the most part, this infotainment is fairly easy to navigate around and it allows for some degree of customizability. However, it is a bit laggy when selecting items or scrolling through the widgets. It will test your patience.
Interior Design – If there’s one thing that the Italians are good at, it’s styling. The interior of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is as stylish as a Versace handbag. It looks sporty yet premium. The large bolsters on the front seats hold you in tight around corners but they still provide an ample amount of comfort on long trips. The back seats are flat but at least still comfortable to sit. The steering wheel is perfectly contoured to my hands and the start/stop button on the steering wheel adds to the sporty theme. Plus, the carbon fiber trim is gorgeous but not overdone like some other vehicles.
Exterior Design – The exterior of the Stelvio is just as stylish as the interior. The SUV looks fast even when it’s standing still. The 21” 5-hole wheels, which almost look like a biohazard symbol, look great from every angle. The brakes do look a bit small but as mentioned earlier, they stop the car with ferocity. The trademark Alfa Romeo grille has a hint of carbon fiber in it and it is proudly displayed without the license plate getting in the way. All in all, a great looking SUV but I’d rather have it in Alfa Rosso or Misano Blue. The Vulcano black hides too many of the styling lines and it’s always going to look dirty after a day or two.
Safety – The 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio comes equipped with many of the safety and driver aids that are available in other luxury SUVs. These include automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot sensors with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, and the aforementioned front & rear parking sensors.
Warranty – Italian cars have a stereotype of not being reliable vehicles. In the past, this was true. But technology and automotive engineering has improved greatly since the time of the original Alfa Romeo Spider. As such, this Alfa Romeo Stelvio should last just as long as the German rivals. This car also comes equipped with the same warranty as the German rivals; 4 years / 80,000 km (4 years / 50,000 miles). For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here.
Conclusion – So should you take the risk and buy this gorgeous Italian crossover SUV or play it safe and stick to the Germans? If you’re on a bit of a tighter budget and you need something more spacious, the BMW X3 or Mercedes GLC (or even the Genesis GV70) are great vehicles to look at. However, If you have a smaller family or it’s just you and the wife and you want something that is engaging to drive but can still carry a decent amount of cargo, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the right car for you. It’s like nothing else on the road today.
Thank you to Alfa Romeo Canada for providing the vehicle. www.AlfaRomeo.ca