Pseudo SUV Or Raucous Wagon
We don’t know what it is, but it sure is fun. Slide into the driver’s seat of the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio and that seat tells you something—don’t move, we got ya. Emulating a racing car’s accommodations, that’s your first hint of the spirit of this Italian SUV. You probably were tipped off at the sight of the red Brembo brakes or aggressively styled 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires. As soon as you punch the start button on the steering wheel, the throaty rumble of the exhaust reinforces that image.
Which leads us to define this vehicle as a sport luxury utility vehicle as opposed to a luxury sport utility vehicle. It’s a fairly small crowd in this group—exclusive because of their price and availability. It includes the Porsche Macan or Cayenne, Jaguar F-Pace or electric I-Pace, Range Rover Velar, Maserati Levante, Audi E-Tron or Tesla Model X. You could even throw in some of BMW’s X-series, Mercedes’ AMG-spec SUVs or oddities like the Lamborghini Urus. The electrics in this group obviously deliver the best environmental performance while the gas or diesel-powered models tend to trade off “green” performance for their on-road grunt.
The new electric sport luxury SUVs are in a class to themselves and deserve a look, but the others are conspicuously grouped on the low end of the fuel economy spectrum. If you’ve accepted that trade-off, settle in and enjoy a really fun type of car does deliver more than just speed and handling.
Behind the Wheel
The rumble and stance are not for show. The Stelvio delivers responsive power throughout the gears of its eight-speed transmission. For fun, you can blip the dangerous looking steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters that appear to have come out of a medieval knight’s armor collection.
Handling is effortless, delightful to ease around the toughest curves. The throaty 505-horsepower 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 delivers every ounce of power you need, whether climbing a grade or passing those more pedestrian wagons.
This $85,000+ European (made in Italy with an Italian engine and German transmission) SUV boasts a combined mpg of 19, while claiming 23 on the highway. And the highway is all you should consider with this AWD. Like most in its category, while capable of leaving the pavement, that’s not where it is likely to be most comfortable.
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This is one of a series of short drives from Western Automotive Journalists’ recent Media Day program held in Carmel Valley, California.
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