By Peter Perrotta
When you walk into a good Italian restaurant, no one needs to tell you where you are.
In fact, if you were blindfolded, you would still be able to have a good sense or where you were. First off, the smells emanating from the kitchen would be a dead giveaway. If that weren’t enough, maybe the Sinatra music playing in the background or the clink, clink of wine glasses would be the clinchers.
Either way, the ambiance of the Italian vibe is usually unmistakable.
Such is the case, as well, when you get your fist look at the 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD compact SUV.
Quite simply, there is something unmistakably Italian about the look, feel and drive of this SUV. It has that Italian panache and flair.
“In a world of bland crossovers, the Stelvio is a spicy Italian meatball in a Ferragamo suit,” write the editors of Car and Driver. That, my friends, is an almost perfect description.
Introduced in 2016, the Stelvio is considered a compact luxury crossover SUV that competes with the likes of the BMW X3 and the Mercedes GLC.
This crossover is produced at Alfa Romeo’s Cassino Plant in Piedimonte, San Germano, Italy. It is currently Alfa Romeo’s best selling model. In 2018, Alfa Romeo sold about 43,000 Stelvios.
It had been quite some time since I had road tested an Alfa Romeo for review purposes. I think the last Alfa Romeo I had driven was the Spider way back in 1994 – the last year that car was produced.
That Spider was a two-seat, front engine, rear drive roadster. Like most Italian cars, that roadster had a lot of flair to it. However, most of what I remember about that one week test drive with the Spider was how difficult it was to steer that small car. It steered like a Mack truck. The car was fun to drive, once you got it up to speed, but if you had to do a lot of twists and turns with it, it wasn’t so much fun.
Well, suffice it to say, a lot has changed at Alfa Romeo since 1994.
My one week test drive behind the wheel of the 2020 Stelvio was thoroughly enjoyable. This Stelvio is slick looking, stylish, comfortable on the inside and fun to drive. It’s steering, by the way, is smooth as silk – I guess the engineers at Alfa Romeo have figured out how to fix that issue.
The Stelvio I drove was rosso – the Italian word for red – with a slick black leather interior and sporty looking 20-inch aluminum, 5-hole wheels. It has an aggressive and sporty exterior stance.
Powering this Stelvio is a a 2.0 liter, four cylinder, turbo-charged engine that puts out an impressive 280 horsepower. The transmission is a smooth eight speed automatic.
The Ti Sport – the model I drove – features a dynamic sport tuned suspension that affords this vehicle an exciting ride. It’s fun to drive, handles well through the tight turns and has enough power to do aggressive lane changes and passing maneuvers.
The base price of the Ti Sport AWD is $45,745. My tester was equipped with a lot of options and option packages, bringing the bottom line sticker price to $61,240 as tested.
Options included: $2,300 for the Rosso Competizone Tri-coat exterior paint; $2,500 for the Ti AWD sport package; $3,250 for Active Driver Assist package; $400 for the security and convenience package; $1,350 for the performance package; $1,350 for a dual pane sunroof; $900 for an upgraded Harmon Kardon audio system; $200 for a wireless charging pad; $700 for the upgraded wheels; $1,100 for leather dash and doors and $200 for red brake calipers.
The EPA fuel consumption ratings for the Stelvio are not all that impressive, but, on the other hand, not terrible. The Stelvio averages 24 miles per gallon – 28 mpg on the highway and 22 around town. The EPA estimates that it will cost, on average, about $2,050 a year in fuel costs for the Stelvio. It uses about 4.2 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
The Stelvio has not been crash test rated the by the government’s 5-star crash test yet.
For positive points, the editor’s at Car and Driver noted of the Stelvio that it had “unmistakably Italian styling, lively handling and gutsy turbo charged engine.” Agreed.
Car and Driver hit the Alfa Romeo for having “a tight cargo area and untested reliability.”
I didn’t find the cargo area to be tight at all. I’m not sure what the editors at Car and Driver were trying to fit back there, but I found there to be ample room.
Reliability has always been an issue with Italian and French cars. However, since most people lease their vehicles these days anyway, I don’t think reliability should be a major concern if you are considering leasing one of these vehicles because the Stelvo will be covered under the 4-year, 50,000 mile warranty offered, if you lease the vehicle for 3 years.
On the other hand, if you are thinking of purchasing the Stelvio and keeping it long term, beyond the basic warranty coverage, you might want to find yourself an able bodied mechanic who can fix and repair Italian cars before purchasing.
Peter Perrotta’s On the Road column appears weekly. If you have an questions or comments he can be reached at email@example.com.