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Perceptions are a tricky thing - if I broke a slab of chocolate up and divided it amongst 10 people, each person tasted and finished their cube and then I asked for a sentence to describe their taste experience and a score out of 10, you know descriptions and scores will vary. 

 

I feel Alfa Romeo has an unfair disadvantage in South Africa - being Italian, people think its passionate origins make their cars temperamental. People, we’re in 2018! If you made a product that wasn’t reliable, you’d soon have no customers and with it, no business. Alfa Romeo makes well-made cars that excite the senses. This is my experience and therefore, my perception of the brand. 

 

With that elephant out the room, now I can tell you more about Alfa’s first and outstanding SUV: their Stelvio. Named after the highest mountain pass in Italy, a maze-like road surface that has 48 hairpins in quick succession, stretching 20 km that joins Italy to Switzerland. The Stelvio pass is widely seen as one of the most beautiful and engaging roads on the planet.

So, it’s Italian, which means it must be sexy. It is. Just look at it. It’s more individualistic than its predictable German rivals. Being named after an adrenaline-filled mountain pass alludes to a thrilling drive. I’m happy to confirm that the Stelvio is very dynamic to drive thanks to a state-of-the-art suspension, a very well-balanced body shell that is a whole person lighter than its lightest rival, and the promise of the most direct steering ratio in its segment. 

 

The Stelvio is an SUV - Sports Utility Vehicle. Sport - tick that box! Over and above its dynamic drive, the local lineup includes a powerful 2.0-L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that dishes up 206kW/400Nm. It’ll hit 100km/h from standstill in just 5.7 seconds, and you’ll top out 230km/h. That’s quick. 

 

But, if you’re a speed freak - hold out for the ridiculously potent Q.V model that happens to be the fastest SUV in its class. Lift the hood of this beast, and you’ll find a 2.9-L V6 bi-turbo petrol engine the throbs out 380kW/600Nm. That sees you hitting 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 283km/h. Phew!

 

With all this adrenalin flowing, safety is paramount. The Stelvio features a full array of cutting-edge technical solutions such as the world-class Integrated Brake System (IBS), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian recognition and a full carbon fiber driveshaft. The active safety systems on the Stelvio contribute to intuitive driving with a range of input levels to prevent risks and avoid hazards.

The function hasn’t been compromised for form. The boot features a power tailgate system and boasts 525 litres of capacity, with the versatility of transforming the rear seats into additional luggage space.

Being a medium-sized SUV, the Stelvio comfortably seats five in a beautifully appointed cabin that is driver-centric. Scanning the interior, one can pinpoint design elements that have been inspired for some of its competitors – the automatic gear shifter is fashionably similar to the one found in a BMW; the instrument dials found behind the wheel look borrowed from an Audi. A shortfall in an otherwise very good interior product is a low-res reverse camera on the infotainment screen.

In conclusion, the Stelvio is arguably the most rewarding driver's car, even more so than the dynamic Jaguar F-Pace, within a very competitive segment. There are more practical options, better-priced options and more comfy ones, too. But holistically, the Stelvio is a great blend of attributes. It is a car that will most be appreciated by two people – ones who enjoy being unique and those who love driving a thrilling car. If you have both attributes, buy it!

Plus +

Good looking.

Well-made.

Fast.

Great handling car.

Minus –

Only powerful petrol engines are available – no 2.2 diesel as in Europe.

In Super trim a black interior can look bland.

Low-res reverse camera.

 

The competition

BMW X3 and X4, Mercedes-Benz GLC and GLC Coupe, Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, Lexus NX and Volvo XC60.  

 

Pricing 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Super - R810 000

Alfa Romeo First Edition - R946 000

Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio Verde - TBC

 

Service and warranty

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio comes standard with a Premium Maintenance Plan offering complete peace of mind for up to six years or 100 000 km.

 

My choice

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Super - R810 000

www.alfaromeo.co.za

 

 

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