Alfa Romeo's new Stelvio is stimulating to drive and has special appeal for drivers in search of a rewarding road experience but that doesn't mean dolce vita is upon us. For daily driving needs, we found this mechanical sibling of the Giulia ripe with annoyances.
The Stelvio excels when driven with gusto; the 280-hp turbocharged engine delivers thrilling acceleration accompanied by a pleasant exhaust snarl. The transmission shifts quickly and smoothly when pressed, But the experience isn't always gelato smooth, especially in low-speed situations where the power delivery is a bit tentative, such as after a cold start.
The Stelvio races to 60 mph from rest in seven seconds. At 24 mpg overall, fuel economy is among the better ones in the class. Whether on a road or a track, the Stelvio proves its mettle with unparalleled athletic chops, making it the perfect dance partner for a winding country road. While the Stelvio's ride might come across as jittery at times, the suspension actually absorbs bumps well. Wind noise isn't as well suppressed as in its peers. The brake pedal is too grabby.
Inside, the Stelvio suffers from the same ergonomic flaws as its sedan sibling. More than mere quirks, there are some true head-shaking frustrations. For instance, you use a rotary knob to interact with the infotainment system. At face value, this is similar to how the Audi or BMW systems work, but the icons aren't clear and the menu structure is convoluted. Radio presets only show up for a couple of seconds after jogging the rotary dial, then disappear. The whole process is cumbersome, too distracting, and quite annoying.
The driver's seat isn't very supportive and is limited in its range of adjustability, compromising driving position. You can't adjust the angle of the bottom cushion, except to raise or lower the seat. The electronic shifter is a nuisance to use, requiring the press of a release button to move from Reverse into Drive. The parking sensors work overtime, often beeping for no reason at all. The driver seat always slides back when opening the door, coming into contact often with the legs of the rear passenger. The lane-departure warning blurts out a startling bark through the speakers. The engine stop/start feature is too abrupt and shakes the car. You get the picture: The Stelvio is a finicky and frustrating companion.
With its typically equipped $50,000 price, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is up against some fierce, well-established competition. It might be a questionable proposition for the uninitiated buyer who has little appreciation for the company's heritage. Further complicating matters is the Stelvio's uncertain reliability. Its parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has a woeful track record.