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ALFA ROMEO STELVIO VELOCE Q4

There might be a seemingly endless array of mid-size luxury SUVs out there these days, but the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is one that clearly stands out from the pack.

If you’re after a mid-size luxury SUV these days, your options are almost endless, yet many are a little much ado about nothing. Big screens, leather-lined interiors, and a driving experience that’s generally just fine, those who want to have their cake and eat it too may find that most of these offerings might pack the right features, but a delectable driving experience is the missing piece of the puzzle.

That is, unless you turn your attention to the passion and flair of the Italians, and the one luxury SUV that actually stands out – the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Veloce. From its name alone – taken in honour of the legendary Stelvio Pass, one of the world’s greatest driving roads – it’s easy to see that this SUV is plainly about how it drives, and the rest can all come second.

Freshly facelifted with new lighting designs being the most noticeable update, the Stelvio is one of the most distinctive SUVs on the road, with the inimitable Alfa Romeo grille shape and phone-dial alloy wheels making it a clear standout in a sea of sameness. The premium Etna Red finish is probably the pick of the palette, but my tester’s Alfa Red colour still looks like just about any red will do on an Italian car. There’s no denying that this is an SUV that genuinely does look sporty.

LOOKING FOR LUXURY

Of course, most premium SUV buyers are after some luxury on the inside to match the exterior bling, and this is where the Stelvio is a bit more of a mixed bag. For as much as I love mechanical dials, it was about time the Stelvio adopted a digital instrument cluster, which its most recent update brings in the form of a 12.3” display with the option of either retro or sporty graphics.

What’s still quite outdated, though, is the infotainment system. Housed in an 8.8” display and controlled via a rotary dial or by the touchscreen, the graphics are a bit dated, the display is grainy compared with the slick gauge cluster, and trying to programme an address into the TomTom sat nav system is a real test of one’s patience. Mind you, the 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is a great addition.

Right on the money is the cabin’s layout from the driver’s perspective. The sporty seats are particularly supportive thanks to the adjustable side bolsters, the steering wheel is the right size in all dimensions, and the driving position is bang on the mark. Again, it feels like a car built solely with spirited driving in mind, which also can’t be said for many SUVs of this ilk. Forget a lofty driving position with a seat you’ll be thrown around in on a backroad – this feels thoroughly like a driver’s car from inside the cabin.

On a more practical note, interior space is good, with plenty of room to stretch out in the front. There’s enough room in the back as well. Although it’s not the roomiest rear pew in the class, it does feel as supportive as the front seats.

PERFORMANCE SURPRISE

On paper, the Stelvio’s spec sheet doesn’t immediately make it look like much of a stand-out. The Veloce is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine producing 206 kW at 5,250 rpm and 400 Nm at 2,250 rpm, backed by a ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission and Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel drive system. 

However, look again, and you’ll notice that the Veloce will get you from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds, putting it firmly in hot hatch territory. Indeed, the way the Stelvio Veloce performs is anything but ordinary, living up to the looks and the badge as it’s a genuinely engaging car to drive.

Although peak torque may not be delivered as low-down as in many modern turbo engines, the Stelvio’s mid-range pull is undeniably strong, with it scampering forward with the sort of ferocity that puts a grin on your face, particularly when you consider the responsiveness of the ZF transmission as you pull back on the big paddle shifters, their crisp metallic click accompanying the crisp gear changes perfectly.

LAST WORD

When you consider what most SUVs are like these days, it’s easy to see why so many enthusiasts are cynical about their market dominance. However, the Stelvio is the clear antidote to being stuck with a boring SUV, as it is everything but that.

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO VELOCEENGINEPOWER 
(kW @ r/min)
TORQUE 
(Nm @ r/min)
TOP SPEED
(km/h)
0-100 KM/H
(seconds)
FUEL 
(l/100 km)
PRICE
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T Veloce Q4In-line 4-cyl; 1,995 cc turbo206 @ 5,250400 @ 2,2502305.75.7R1,205,500
Lexus NX 350h F SportIn-line 4-cyl; 2,494 cc hybrid179 @ 6000239+e @ 4,300-4,5002007.75.0R1,200,800
Mercedes-Benz GLC220d 4Matic AvantgardeIn-line 4-cyl; 1,993 cc turbodiesel162 @ 3,600440+200 @ 1,800-2,8002198.05.2R1,227,271
BMW X4 xDrive20d M SportIn-line 4-cyl; 1,995 cc turbodiesel140 @ 4,000400 @ 1,750-2,5002138.05.6R1,227,894

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © ALFA ROMEO SOUTH AFRICA

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