Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio SUV is one of few that can claim to have put the Sports into Sports Utility Vehicle.
Taking its name from the legendary Stelvio Pass linking Italy to Switzerland with 48 hairpins in quick succession, it leaves you in little doubt as to how Alfa’s latest creation is intended to perform.
And perform it does, remarkably managing to deliver the versatility of an SUV while delivering the performance and agility of a sports saloon.
Similar in size to Jaguar’s F-Pace, BMW’s X3 and Audi’s Q5, the Italian beats them hands-down on style, flair and visual appeal.
Buyers can choose from 200hp or 280hp turbo petrol, or either 190hp or 210hp turbo diesel. Those with a less restricted budget can choose their Stelvio in Quadrifoglio spec with 510hp 2.9-litre V6 twin turbo petrol power.
We tried the 210hp diesel in Milano Edizione specification. It wears a £44,000 starting price, and rises to £46,760 as tested, mostly as a result of the Trofeo White tri-coat paint which adds £1,950 to the price. Alfa Red is a no-cost finish, and the range starts from £36,000.
With sharp driving dynamics, practicality and a premium image, it takes just 30 seconds behind the wheel to appreciate the responsive, quick steering. And backing it up is plenty of grip, and not as much body roll as you would expect.
So where in the FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) Group has it comes from? It is based exclusively on Alfa Romeo’s Giulia saloon, and is not shared elsewhere with the group’s other brands.
An eight-speed ZF auto-box glides through the ratios on 470Nm of torque, which shoves the 210hp Stelvio to 60mph in just 6.6 seconds. It is keen for a four-pot diesel, though an amusing DNA driving mode selector can temper its ability when you choose N and eco-friendlier A modes.
A 1,660kg kerb weight helps its agility, and does not impact on towing ability.
Q4 all-wheel drive system sends 100 per cent of torque to the rear axle under normal conditions, with a 50 per cent shift to the front axle when slippage is detected.
The Stelvio, though, is far from perfect. A wet day revealed a lack of rain deflection off the front windscreen – everything moved by the wipers was washed on to the driver’s door window, instead of being channelled over the roof.
Chunky windscreen pillars would not look out of place at the Coliseum, and you cannot release the rear seat backrests unless you go into the load area and pull levers. Once dropped, there is a slightly inclined floor area without a step.
But such foibles will be acceptable to many, because it is an Alfa Romeo. And this is all about driving.
However, as a first attempt at producing an SUV, we have to say Alfa Romeo has done a good job.
After a week behind the wheel, we would happily take the Alfa’s balanced, but almost edgy ride compared, for example, to a Discovery’s magic carpet waft. It is so much more engaging behind the wheel, without having to fight the extremes of physics.
NEED TO KNOW
Model: Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 Turbo Diesel AWD Milano Edizione
Price: £44,035 (£46,760 as tested)
Engine: 2.2-litre turbo diesel, 210hp @ 3,750rpm, 470Nm @ 1,750rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance: 6.6sec 0-62mph, 134mph, 58.9mpg combined, 127g/km CO2 emissions
Towing capacity: 2,300kgs