An Alfa SUV?

An Alfa SUV?


For a lot of people the idea of Alfa Romeo making a SUV is sacrilegious. One thing that they maybe do not realise is that the company made anything it could in the post war period to keep itself afloat. This meant doing things like making Renault Dauphines under licence and even building the four wheel drive Matta 4×4 for the Italian army. At least when Alfa Romeo made a 4×4 it still had a DOHC engine!

There is an old saying that history repeats itself. As Alfa Romeo fights for growth and commercial success in the 21st century it is again having to do something left of field to drive itself forward. That vehicle is the Stelvio.

The fact is that the SUV type of car is what people want to buy. It is predicted that between 2007 and 2020 there will have been a 300% sales growth in this market segment. This is what Stelvio wants a piece of. Alfa Romeo were so nearly there with this type of car before. In 2003 they showed a prototype of a SUV called the Kamal. If there had been the commitment from the company at that time they could have been in the market before anyone else with a mid size SUV.

Alfa Romeo has approached the Stelvio with the same conviction to lightweight engineering as the Giulia. It is based on the Giorgio platform just like the Giulia. As I approached the car for my test drive I had a lot of thoughts going through my head about things like raised ride heights and roll centres, but as I enjoyed myself on a few country roads I started to realise that the Stelvio drives like a slightly taller Giulia. It still has the precise, accurate steering that makes the Giulia feel sharp and responsive. Whenever you start to push you can feel the active four wheel drive system shuffling torque around to keep cornering composed. The suspension feels stiffer than the Giulia. I would suggest this is a consequence of giving the taller Stelvio the cornering delicacy of its saloon cousin. However, this does not affect ride comfort and if anything it allows the Stelvio to take big crests more quickly than the Giulia. Alfa Romeo have once again proven that they have rediscovered their mojo for making drivers cars.

At first glance you might think that the interior is lifted straight from the Giulia (which is no bad thing) However, when you really study it you start to take in all the subtle differences. Alfa Romeo have made a really comfortable cabin that is a pleasure to sit in.

I suppose the question is would I drive one? If I needed that level of practicality the short answer would be yes. Much like the Giulia, Stelvio has thrown a very serious gauntlet down to the established competition. The Quadrifoglio is the fastest SUV around the Nurburgring. As I have said in previous pieces, commercial success will allow Alfa Romeo to build the cars we want to see them making.

Have a test drive in Donnelly’s. You will be impressed.

Alastair McIlroy