2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 AWD First Drive: Getting the Basics Right


They named this car the Stelvio. The Stelvio Pass on the Italian/Swiss border is one of Europe's highest and most visually memorable mountain roads. In winter it's slippery; at any time, it's a cascade of hairpin corners. It's a good name for an AWD vehicle with sporty pretensions. Except if you ever drive the Stelvio, you'll likely be stuck behind a crawling tourist bus. But let's not allow dull reality to obscure Alfa Romeo's extravagant sense of romance.

We won't make a fuss that Alfa Romeo has just started with SUVs. Launching SUVs is just what you do if you're a premium sports company that wants to stay in business. (Anyhow, trivia fans, it isn't quite Alfa's first utility vehicle. There was a Willys-Jeep-like scout car known as the Matta in the early 1950s.)

More interesting is that Alfa Romeo has just started making good cars of any kind. Before World War II Alfa was the pinnacle of both racing and luxury, the equivalent of today's Ferrari and Rolls-Royce combined. But it was a long slide down, and since the 1990s its cars have been ridiculously patchy. You really don't need to feel deprived that it has absented itself from the U.S. during those years.

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