New Stelvio SUV the key to Alfa's renaissance
HAVING finally brought to market a sports saloon to challenge the BMW 3 Series/Audi A4/Mercedes C-Class trio, Alfa Romeo has given us some more information about the SUV that will form the next chapter in its renaissance, writes William Scholes.
Named Stelvio, after the mountain pass in Italy famed for its series of hairpin bends and sheer drops, the SUV will be sized and priced to go up against the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
It is unclear when it will reach the brand's Northern Ireland showroom - towards the end of this year seems to be the best bet - but the addition of an SUV to the line-up should undoubtedly give Alfa Romeo a much-needed presence in a part of the market that accounts for more than a quarter of all new car sales.
Much of the Stelvio's oily parts and basic interior design are shared with the Guilia saloon.
Three trim levels - Stelvio, Super and Tecnica - will be sold in the UK and under the bonnet there will be a choice of either a 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol turbo (0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, top speed 145mph) or a 2.2-litre diesel with 207bhp (6.6 seconds, 133mph).
Both come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a four-wheel-drive system which is rear-biased.
A high-performance version, dubbed Quadrifoglio Verde, will arrive after the core models.
The entry Stelvio model comes as standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, Alfa Connect infotainment system with an 8.8-inch screen, a 'D.N.A.' rotary selector to switch between different driving modes, eight-speaker audio system, black fabric seats, lane departure warning, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency brake and pedestrian detection, parking sensors, cruise control and an electric tailgate.
The Super version gets 18-inch alloy wheels, something called 'techno-leather' trim on the seats and a range of different interior trim colour options.
Punters can also specify a 'luxury pack' - with electrically-adjustable and heated seats wrapped in full grain leather - or a 'sports pack', which comes with a heated sports steering wheel, racing-style leather seats and steel pedals.
The Tecnica model is available only with the diesel engine and is aimed at business users, with satnav, xenon headlamps and electric folding mirrors among the kit on board.
The Stelvio's specification includes a carbon fibre driveshaft and aluminium engines, suspension and body panels.
Alfa says the car's chassis has been designed from the ground-up to deliver a sporting driving experience, pointing to "the most direct steering ratio in its segment delivering a natural, instinctive feel", 50/50 weight distribution and how, in "normal grip conditions", it acts "like a rear-wheel-drive vehicle".
Whether or not it can make a dent on its rivals in such a highly competitive sector does, of course, remain to be seen; but an Alfa Romeo SUV, with its promise of sharp styling and driving in the body style that customers can't get enough of at the moment - could well be the most of-its-time new car launch of 2017.