The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio performance crossover follows the 4C and 4C Spider two-seat sports kart and the Giulia midsize sedan in the Italian brand's return to the U.S. after a nearly 25-year absence. Based on the overwhelming popularity of crossovers, the Stelvio is crucial to the brand's success.
- Stelvio is based off the Giulia midsize sedan, sharing the same aluminum 2-liter direct injection four-cylinder turbo engine churning out 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. Same eight-speed automatic transmission, same chassis, same suspension, same interior. Different body: Stelvio is 2 inches longer, 9 inches taller, and 2 inches higher off the ground. Stelvio can be equipped to tow up to 3,000 pounds. Stelvio comes standard with all-wheel drive, with a rear-wheel-drive bias, so 100 percent of torque can automatically shift to the rear wheels at highway cruising speeds when it's most efficient, for instance. It gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg combined, 2 mpg less than Giulia. On the other hand, for racing, four wheels planted on takeoff give it more grip, less slip. The Ti trim hits 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, with a top speed of 144 mph. Stelvio costs about $2,000 more than Giulia.
- Stelvio is named for the famed Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps on the northern border. The highest paved mountain pass in Italy includes 48 hairpin turns at an elevation of 9,000 feet, enabling Alfa to call Stelvio an "SUV for the S-curves." Mechanically, it has perfect 50/50 weight distribution, which is always good for balance on the track and mountain passes. Alfa also claims the "the most direct steering ratio in its segment," meaning that every degree turn of the steering wheel is matched by a degree turn of the wheels, at a ratio of 12 to 1. So a full turn of the steering wheel (360 degrees) results in a 30-degree turn of the wheels. Bottom line? More precise, direct steering.
- The premium midsize crossover segment accounts for 25 percent of all premium vehicle sales, the most in the segment by a lot, according to Alfa Romeo. All premium marques have a performance crossover option, it seems, so Alfa has work to do to establish it from the competition. Competitors are the Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLC, but the vehicle most closely aligned with what Alfa is trying to do is the Jaguar F-Pace. Within a year of its release, the F-Pace became the best-selling Jaguar, and it is the hottest vehicle in the U.S., meaning it spends the least amount of time on dealer lots of any vehicle. Sedans aren't selling. The Stelvio must.
- It is a performance crossover with no pretense to off-road capability, aside from a hill descent button and an available towing package with a capacity of 3,000 pounds. The dashboard is spartan, the controls are simple, the design emphasis is on drivability and nothing more. This is sweet relief from Land Rover, Porsche and the German makes.
- The Stelvio Quadrifoglio, with a 505-horsepower 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6, is due in the first quarter of 2018. The Stelvio in Sport, Ti or Lusso trim levels hits dealers in the last week of June.
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