The Sensible SUV? | Alfa Romeo Stelvio Veloce
I recently spent some time looking over the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Veloce in detail and came to the conclusion that it has to be the sensible SUV choice.
We probably all know by now that there are some odd things occurring with respect to consumer demand in the car industry. We seem to be in this strange predicament where all anyone wants is an SUV? I suppose though, that is simply the way things have been going for some time now, and we just have to deal with it. Unfortunately, some of the SUV's out on the roads are at best, ugly. Most sadly will never even be used for their intended purpose. Every now and then though, something arises that I actually think seems like a good prospect. Cue the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
All Marketing, No Thought?
Well you see, that's the thing. Alfa have put some serious thought into how the Stelvio is going to be engineered, sold and marketed. So if you're asking that question, in short, you're wrong. This is no marketing ploy, for it is a wonderfully engineered piece of Italian automotive genius.
Based on the truly fantastic Alfa Romeo Guilia platform, something we have come to know and love, the Stelvio sees a few minor modifications for it's application. These being things such as slight elevation over the Guilia for the increased ride height and ground clearance required and even additional torsional rigidity to help deal with the increased mass, and higher centre of gravity. In addition, it comes with a 50mm and 30mm wider track on the front and rear respectively. The Stelvio also shares the rather impressive engine line-up from the Guilia, all featuring aluminium blocks.
A Masterclass in Engineering
Ok, so yes, we have briefly touched on this already. I'm hoping by now it's clear though that Alfa have put a lot of effort into thinking about the rather questionable physics that occur when you raise a car's centre of mass higher off the ground. To help deal with this, they have incorporated double wishbone suspension on the front end which helps to keep the car composed and controlled when it's being flung about (and trust me, this car is made for that driving style). To me it's very cool to think the latest Alfa SUV has a double wishbone suspension setup up front! It has a multi-link setup on the rear, but of course it is built to a price point, and arguably the front end is dealing with the bulk of the difficulty here anyway.
Not only is the suspension well engineered, but clearly a lot time has been spent trying to make weight savings too. In addition to the aforementioned aluminium blocks on the Stelvio's engine line-up, there is an abundance of aluminium in the body panels and even a carbon fibre propshaft - truly amazing. All this means that the Stelvio Veloce as pictured above weighs in at around 1,660kg, and that's in a 50/50 weight distribution F/R too. If you've been paying attention to recent automotive news, you may have noted the new G80 BMW M3 weighs over 1,800kg. So yeah, the Stelvio is a cool 140kg lighter than the latest M3, not something you'd expect from it's size and road presence.
Engine and Drivetrain
There are a whole host of petrol and diesel engines available in the Stelvio, providing varying levels of output. The Veloce model is effectively second only to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, and as such features the brilliant 2.0L 4 cylinder turbo unit putting out 280hp and 296ft-lbs of torque. Coupled to the legendary ZF 8 speed automatic transmission, this allows for a 0-60 sprint of 5.7s and a top speed of 143mph.
That power can be distributed by either the rear wheels only, or through Alfa Romeo's Q4 AWD system - this is a predominantly rear wheel drive setup, but it is capable of sending up to 50% of that power through the front wheels where needed.
Italian Design Ideology
Spending any time around the Alfa Romeo Stelvio will allow you to appreciate just how different the Italian design ideology is to that of the German rivals. I can't help but think there is an immense effort to make the car feel special in every aspect, something that seems to be lacking from some of the newer German cars. On the inside, this car is dressed in beautiful red, perforated leather seats that are soft, supportive and comfortable. The way the bolsters hug your rib cage makes you feel like you're in something quite special, yet they are superbly comfortable and uncompromised. The steering wheel again has some very nice perforated leather around the touch points, and the narrow rim is another reminder that the Italians do some things better. Of course being a Veloce model, we have the fantastic aluminium, column-mounted paddle shifters to keep that driving experience nice and engaging. I can confirm it is a very premium actuation on these too. With very few "cheaper" plastics around, and virtually every surface wrapped in a high-grade leather material, it certainly feels like the money is well spent on the interior.
Moving to the outside, Alfa's attention to detail shows no signs of stopping. One thing that has always stood out to me, is their desire to make a big deal out of brake calipers and wheel arrangements. On the Stelvio Veloce pictured, we have a set of 20" alloys in a dark grey, contrasting against the red fixed calipers bearing the "Alfa Romeo" signature. The front end has a reasonably aggressive look to it overall, with some subtle front splitter type parts jutting out of the front bumper. The narrow headlights and modest, triangulated grille just scream Alfa to me, and that's what I love about this thing. There's a nice crease that runs from the front wheel arch all the way to the rear of the car, wrapping around the tailgate above the lights. At the rear, we find some nice, black tailpipes, with the roof sloping back to a reserved spoiler type piece, closing out the roofline. That being said, I do have a couple of gripes with the rear end of the Stelvio - it's a little on the bulbous side to me, so perhaps it could do with that roof sloping down a bit more for my taste. Sadly, the "real" exhaust pipes can also be quite clearly seen hiding inside those black "for-show" tailpipes too. Overall though, it's a very good looking car.
Well, what do we think then? Although I have my reservations about manufacturers building more and more of these SUV's, it is clearly where the consumer demand is at the current point in time. If people could take a look in Alfa's book and make a note of how it's done, maybe we would have some more brilliant cars like the Stelvio on the road. At £51,500 as pictured, it is by no means cheap, but compared to it's competitors I'd say it's right on the money. In terms of practicality you're going to have no issues fitting an absolute tonne of luggage and the likes in the boot. The rear of the car will happily accommodate 2 adults too without compromise, so longer distances in the Stelvio could be really rather enjoyable. The 4 cylinder turbo engine isn't too bad on fuel either.
If I was in the market for an SUV, I honestly feel like putting my money in a Stelvio would be a really wise decision.
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