Inside story

This stylish SUV is offered in several trim levels that all scream sportiness and flamboyance. The interior is loaded with lush materials including full-grain leather, real wood and fabrics.  The practical layout of the car means the driver is central to everything. This is underlined by the diagonal tunnel, the slightly undulating dashboard and the small leather-wrapped steering wheel that adapts effectively to all driving styles.

The lofty driving position offers a greater sense of control, reinforced by the large windows and wraparound seats for a cossetted driving experience. The commanding seating position that comes with SUVs is desirable although rear visibility is hampered by the C-pillars. But that’s where the rearview camera display comes into its own.

Further back, the 525-litre square-shaped boot with a wide opening features a powered tailgate (as standard) that can be configured with no fewer than eight different setup levels for optimal boot access. With the 40//20/40 split rear seats upright, tall passengers are well accommodated without rubbing shoulders with one other. We also appreciated the flock-lined storage bins, ambient lighting, black headlining and illuminated door sills. Plus there’s plenty of storage under the front centre armrest, incorporating a wireless phone charger if specified.

Comfort and convenience features on our Sprint include keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, two front and two rear USB ports, power-folding wing mirrors, auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, sports leather gear stick and heated steering wheel. Aluminium shift paddles on the steering column coordinate with the aluminium interior finishing and metal pedals to complete the look. The heated leather seats with 6-way power adjustment also come with a 4-way lumbar adjustment.

Infotainment and connectivity

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All versions of the Stelvio come with the 8.8-inch Alfa Connect – developed by Marelli – with navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The touchscreen provides a selection of interactive widgets and a horizontal scroll layout. New performance pages allow drivers to track key performance metrics while digital HVAC and other controls enhance functionality. Drivers and passengers can customize the homepage by selecting their tailored layout. Reconfigurable widgets provide access to key functions such as radio, media, smartphone, navigation, climate control and more.

In the audio department, the set-up incorporates eight speakers (four woofers and four tweeters) as standard across the range. Ten speakers (four woofers, four tweeters, a mid-range and a subwoofer in the boot), and a 14 speaker Harman Kardon system (four woofers, four tweeters, five mid-range and a subwoofer) are also optionally available.

On the connectivity front, the Stelvio provides a Wi-Fi Hotspot, Mobile App with Remote Operations, SOS Call (Private) and Roadside Assistance, Vehicle Finder, and Stolen Vehicle Locator and Assistance.

Driver assistance

In the ADAS department, the Stelvio is equipped with a suite of active safety systems and semi-autonomous driving functions, including an integrated brake system, autonomous emergency brake system with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Stelvio is the world’s first car in its segment to offer the new electromechanical system that combines stability control with a traditional servo brake. With its combination of electronics and mechanics, this system not only reduces weight, enhances driving feel and eliminates pedal vibration, but also provides instant brake response, providing a much shorter braking distance.

The Marelli-developed light clusters are equipped with halogen lamps or Xenon technology with 25W or 35W modules, the latter of which is equipped with AFS (Adaptive Front-lighting System) to redirect the light beam while cornering and improve visibility.

The Stelvio was recently awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating with a score of 97 per cent for the protection of adult occupants. The cockpit of the first SUV in Alfa Romeo’s history remained stable in the head-on crash test, and all critical body areas and limbs were also protected for the front passenger in the rigid barrier test.

Tests on the front seats and head restraints proved protection against whiplash injuries in the event of shunting from the rear.

Material matters

The SUV incorporates some lightweight materials, such as carbon fibre for the driveshaft and aluminium for the engines, suspension systems, bonnet, wings, doors and tailgate. Driving comfort has been optimised through the weight distribution between the two axles. Managing the weights and materials, including adjusting the car’s layout by placing the heaviest units in the most central positions, has helped achieve this 50/50 weight distribution. Lightweight materials reduce the SUV’s total weight and provide torsional rigidity, a quiet ride and good handling.

On the road

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit that we took out this week felt easy-going and relaxing along motorways and rooted on twisting back roads. Power is managed by an eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox providing a good response when required. The SUV’s large fuel tank gave a good range and returned an average 30 mpg, a touch short of the carmaker’s 33.2 mpg claim.

Two dials on the transmission tunnel are used to adjust the Alfa DNA selector and the infotainment system. The DNA selector modifies the car’s dynamic behaviour according to the driver’s selection: Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency. It can adjust the settings of the engine, suspension, steering, transmission, rear differential, instrument display, brakes, safety and driver aids, according to the mode selected by the driver. The range and breadth of adjustments vary depending on the engine and trim of the vehicle. Another nice touch is the Italian flag badge at the base of the gear shifter.

On balance, the Stelvio comes with a generous list of standard equipment, clever safety technology and oodles of style. The net result of this fashionable interior, high-end equipment and fancy tech makes it a good place to spend time. Illustrious rival models to the Stelvio include the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace.