Stelvio

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2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Test Drive Review

The Stelvio is an upscale SUV with the heart of a sports car, and it’s one year removed from new tech that makes it easier to live with.

7.7 /10
Overall Score

Though they are called “Sport Utility Vehicles,” some SUVs are more “sport” and some are a little more “utility.” There are big, hulking options like the utilitarian Ford Expedition. And then there are agile, fun-to-drive options such as the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia. It’s an athletic compact luxury utility vehicle, that definitely puts the emphasis on “sport.” It competes against other performance SUVs like the BMW X3 M, Porsche Macan GTS, Audi SQ5, and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio arrived for the 2018 model year as Alfa Romeo’s first production SUV. We say “production” SUV because the Italian automaker produced a military SUV called the Matta from 1951 to 1954, as well as the Kamal crossover concept for the 2003 Geneva motor show. Following the 2018 introduction, the Stelvio received standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for the 2019 model year, and the infotainment system was updated in 2020. For the 2021 model year, the changes are minimal and limited to renaming the trim lineup.

Look and Feel

9/ 10

The Stelvio wears its intentions on its sleeve. From the flowing fenders to the raked rear window, to the integrated exhaust outlets, the Stelvio has many visual cues to show it's a drivers’ SUV. That trend extends to the cabin, which has a cockpit that feels more like that of a sports car than an SUV. Despite being loaded with modern features, the dials and controls in the center console have a bit more of a performance coupe feel.

Trims for the 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio are Sprint, Ti, Ti Sport, and Quadrifoglio. Standard equipment on the entry-level Sprint includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, and 10-way power-adjustable front seats. It also comes standard with an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Moving up to The Stelvio Ti trim adds 19-inch aluminum wheels, an upgraded aerodynamic body kit, a dual-pane sunroof, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and genuine dark gray oak interior accents. The Ti Sport adds 20-inch aluminum wheels, dark window surrounds and roof rails and a sport rear differential with integrated dark exhaust tips. It also adds a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, a sport steering wheel, and 14-way front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters to keep you firmly planted in hard cornering.

The range-topping Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio features a number of performance upgrades, including a more powerful engine. It also gets unique exterior touches, the upgraded seats from the Ti Sport, and special leather-and-Alcantara 14-way seats with the adjustable side bolsters.

Performance

10/ 10

The Stelvio is named for the Stelvio Pass, the highest mountainous road in Italy. With dozens of hairpin turns and switchbacks, it’s one of the most iconic driver’s roads in Italy, and thankfully, this agile SUV lives up to the name. No matter which trim you select, the Stelvio provides nimble, athletic handling, and can make any commute a fun drive. And yet this dynamic handling doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality, as you might find in some performance SUVs. The ride is smooth and refined when you’re not pushing it.

Most trims come equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. You also get an eight-speed automatic transmission with standard rear-wheel drive (RWD) or available all-wheel drive (AWD). The Stelvio also features the DNA drive-mode system with Dynamic, Natural, and All-Weather drive modes.

Quadrifoglio means “four-leaf clover,” and is a historic symbol for Alfa Romeo’s performance and racing vehicles. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio lives up to this performance heritage with a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6. It makes 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, routed to AWD through the same eight-speed automatic transmission as other Stelvio models. The Quadrifoglio features a performance torque-vectoring rear differential, performance-tuned suspension, and Brembo performance brakes. These systems all conspire to make the Stelvio Quadrifoglio an incredible corner-carving beast that will give the best high-performance sedans a run for their money.

If you want some of the cornering prowess of the Quadrifoglio but without the added power or price (more on that later), check out the Ti Sport. It adds a sport-tuned suspension and a rear limited-slip differential.

Form and Function

7/ 10

The Stelvio provides up to 56.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. With the rear seats in use, it offers up to 18.5 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s on par with the Mercedes-Benz GLC, which provides the same total cargo space, and 19.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats. If you need more cargo space, check out the BMW X3, which has 62.7 cubic feet of total cargo space and an impressive 28.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats. A hands-free power liftgate is optional on the Stelvio.

The Stelvio has accommodating front seats. They are supportive and provide solid headroom and legroom. Though they can handle a long road trip, they are more ideal as comfortable seats for the commute or hard driving. The rear seats provide enough room for adults in most situations, though they might not be very comfortable over a long trip. Yes, there are more comfortable compact luxury SUVs, but better to look at the Stelvio as an affordable alternative to the Alfa Romeo Giulia sport sedan.

Tech Level

8/ 10

In 2020, the infotainment system was updated, replacing the frustrating one that came on 2018 and 2019 models. Though the 2020 update included improved menu navigation, the big upgrade was the addition of an actual touchscreen. You can still use the rotary dial in the center console—a la BMW iDrive—but also like iDrive, Alfa responded to the criticism and now provides two avenues for operating the infotainment system.

The Stelvio comes standard with satellite radio, eight speakers, five USB ports, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Buyers can also opt for wireless device charging, Alfa Romeo’s “3-D navigation system,” and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium stereo system.

Safety

6/ 10

Standard driver assistance features are limited to forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and rear parking sensors. Buyers can select available safety features such as adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and driver drowsiness monitoring. These are all great features to offer, but a number of rivals provide more than a few of these features as standard equipment. With the Stelvio, you’ve got to pay extra for peace of mind.

Cost-Effectiveness

6/ 10

The RWD four-cylinder Alfa Romeo Stelvio returns an estimated 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. EPA fuel economy estimates for the AWD version are almost as good at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. The high-powered Quadrifoglio returns 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. All versions require premium fuel.

Base MSRP for the 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is $42,350 for the Sprint RWD trim. AWD is a $2,000 option for the Sprint. The Ti trim starts at $47,600 and the Ti Sport starts at $50,800.

Options can include wheels that cost up to $1,500, special paint that costs up to $2,200, and Sparco leather/Alcantara race seats that will fetch another $3,500.

The high-performance Quadrifoglio starts at $81,250. Compare that to the BMW X3 M, which starts at $69,900, or the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63, which starts at $74,950. Neither rival is as powerful as the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. With full options, a Stelvio Quadrifoglio can cost more than $90,000.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is backed by a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.

Updated by George Kennedy

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