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Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 Turbo Diesel 210 hp AWD AT8
Verdict:  From Italy, a new sporting SUV to challenge the established players.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 Turbo diesel 210 hp AWD AT8
What is it?
Alfa Romeo joins the fast expanding world of upscale SUVs with the Stelvio, this stylish all-new contender that’s all set for primetime.
    Taking its name from the wholly spectacular 2760 metre mountain pass that climbs high up in the Italian Alps, the Stelvio comes to market as Alfa’s first ever SUV and spirited alternative to the BMW X3s and Audi Q5s of this world.
    Already on sale in Italy, the Stelvio arrives in the UK this autumn based around a core range of 2.0-2.2-litre four cylinder engines (both petrol and diesel) plus standard 8-speed auto box and Q4 all-wheel-drive.
     Serious students will be primed for the Stelvio Quadrifoglio,  the 510 hp super SUV  flagship that has the Porsche Macan turbo very much in its sights. For most UK business users, however, it’s this 2.2 Stelvio diesel that’ll take centre stage.
   Expect three trim levels  – Stelvio, Super and Tecnica – with the latter geared especially towards fleet, corporate and professional buyers.
   Underneath, the Stelvio shares all-new platform, engines and more with the similarly newly fettled Giulia sports saloon: both cars developed in house by a highly focused development team as a new world opens up for the Alfa marque.
     We kick off in Italy, getting first crack at the Stelvio on home turf in the sunny, snowy mountains near the Stelvio pass itself. And they call this work….
What’s hot?
* Some say…an Alfa Romeo should be a cool, seductive Italian car, by definition.
Not every Alfa in recent past has met that criteria but to our mind, the Stelvio makes the grade, especially front on. Visually, the Stelvio carries real impact on the road. Strong, classy, curvaceous, well proportioned: it works.
*  The Stelvio also sports a stylish, well-appointed cabin to match complete with the mandatory high-set seating position and fine all round visibility. Alfa is claiming the longest cabin in the class, plus class-besting headroom.
* Dash presentation is well conceived, with classic twin cowl binnacle and shallow centre screen housing 8.8 inch satnav and infotainment system. The business-orientated Techica edition will have Alfa Connect 3D Navi as standard, plus  Bi-Xenon headlights with AFS and electric folding mirrors.
* Cabin quality is decent overall and the same for seat comfort. Spec levels include electric tailgate, parking sensors and 8-speaker audio, with optional Luxury and Sports packs also on hand to raise the ante.
* Though it rides on the same wheelbase and all-new platform as the Giulia sports saloon, there’s a + 90mm ride height difference and wider tracks. Yet Alfa is claiming the same roll axis as the lower set Giulia, perfect 50/50 weight distribution and, at 1604 kgs, the lightest weight in class.
* Dynamically, it all comes together. The Stelvio proves to be engagingly sharp on the road, steering precisely and resisting body roll in corners to an unexpectedly high degree. It’s stable and cruises well. The normally rear-biased Q4 system can shift up to 50% torque to the front axle, as required to boost all-weather traction.
* The Alfa’s DNA selector gives you the choice of Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency drive modes. Again, this works seamlessly, with Dynamic sharpening up steering and throttle response in a keen, progressive manner.
* Up front, the 210 hp 2.2-litre all aluminum turbodiesel is strong and gusty and the smooth shifting ZF 8-speed auto (complete with steering wheel paddleshifts) is a world away from clunky Italianate boxes of the past.
* Eco numbers look competitive with Alfa is quoting 127 g/km for C02 emissions and 58.9 mpg (Combined) with this engine. A tax friendly lower spec 180 hp Stelvio diesel (which might be RWD only) will follow later.
What’s not?
*  Much to admire about Alfa’s new gen 2.2 turbodiesel as a solid working unit, yet in the Stelvio it’s rather dull and noisy and not as sporting as Alfa makes out. The 2.0 280 ps Stelvio petrol is way more desirable from a pure driving stand point yet is costlier to buy and run, with inferior economy.
* Alfa has done a decent job in crafting the new Stelvio cabin from scratch but some final quality aspects (such as the design/feel/movement of the all important gearshift lever) needs to be improved. Vital for day-to-day customer satisfaction if Alfa’s really to compete head on with BMW/ Audi in the premier league.
* Alfa Romeo’s sometimes patchy dealership experience (in the past) will be in the minds of some, no matter how good the Stelvio is as a product. However another dealer relaunch is promised to co-incide with the frontline Giulia/Stelvio introductions. So reasons to be cheerful…
Business Car Manager verdict:
Alfa Romeo has hit the ground running with the new Stelvio which has style, stance and spec to meet the demands of today’s booming SUV sector and revitalize Alfa’s bottom line at the same time.
   This is an attractive car, no doubt, and while to date, we’ve only driven LHD versions on home turf in Italy, there’s plenty of reasons to suggest the Stelvio will do well in the UK (perhaps even very well) not least as an appealing alternative to the omnipresent German brands. It ticks many of the right boxes and has the right kind of running costs numbers (C02, mpg etc) to appeal to fleet buyers.
   Much depends on final UK pricing, of course (£40-£45K has been suggested as ballpark, with our Italian test car the equivalent of £44,347) and how well the Stelvio stacks up in the everyday world. And we wait to see the real world BIK-style numbers to put the Stelvio into true business context.
    Still, for a first time effort, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is engagingly complete and while it will hardly be short of SUV rivals, it gives Alfa a very real shot of competing in the big time and for space in the UK corporate car park.