Alfa Romeo may be one of the last automakers to arrive to the SUV party, but it’s not arriving quietly. Bearing the name of a famed alpine pass and packing sporty, longitudinally mounted engines in an aluminum-heavy chassis with a claimed 50/50 weight distribution, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio puts an Italian spin on the combination of sport and utility, with a decided focus on the sport part of the equation.
Like the Giulia with which it shares its “Giorgio” platform, the Stelvio will be offered in three flavors: base, Ti, and Quadrifoglio. In addition to trims, the two platform-mates also share powertrains. Powering the first two is a 2.0-liter turbo four making a considerable 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque that’s capable of a top speed of 144 mph. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio, meanwhile, receives Alfa’s 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6, which is good for 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Alfa says it will hit 60 mph in 3.9 seconds onto a supercar-esque top speed of 177 mph. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters reportedly capable of 100 millisecond shifts in the Quadrifoglio.
Underpinning the Stelvio is a double wishbone suspension up front and a multilink setup with a vertical rod in the back. An adjustable suspension, dubbed Alfa Active, is standard on the Quadrifoglio and optional on the other two variants. The steering rack is described as a “semi-virtual steering axis” that Alfa says “guarantees rapid and accurate steering feel.” In fact, the automaker boasts that the Stelvio offers the most direct steering ratio in the segment — a claim we’re eager to put to the test.
All three variants of the Stelvio come standard with the automaker’s Q4 rear-biased all-wheel drive system, which is capable of sending up to 60 percent of power to the front axle. It can also adjust output to each wheel individually thanks to the linked Chassis Domain Controller (CDC) and the DNA (or DNA Pro, on the Quadrifoglio) drive mode system. The Quadrifoglio also comes with a torque vectoring rear differential.
The CDC is said to coordinate the Stelvio’s active systems — stability control, torque vectoring, and Alfa Active suspension (when equipped) — to optimize performance according to the parameters of the chosen drive mode. Three basic modes are available across the entire lineup: Natural, Dynamic (delivers sharper brake and steering feel with more aggressive engine, transmission, and throttle response), and Advanced Efficiency. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s DNA Pro system receives a fourth mode: Race. This setting starts with Dynamic mode’s improved response and builds on it by activating overboost functionality, opening up the two-mode exhaust, and deactivating stability control.
Additional chassis features on the Stelvio include the Q2 Mechanical Limited Slip Differential and IBS Integrated Braking system. The Q2 differential, which will be part of a Performance Package for which no other details are specified, mechanically balances rear torque. The IBS, which appears to be standard on the Quadrifoglio, replaces ESC system and can vary brake feel in conjunction with the DNA Pro system. And if that’s not enough, Quadrifoglio buyers can fit their Stelvio with carbon-ceramic brakes from Brembo.
These mechanical goodies are controlled by the driver from a stylish, well-appointed cockpit. Leather upholstery, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and rear-view camera are standard on all trims. The gauge cluster features a full-color 7.0-inch display between the two large analog gauges. A 6.5-inch infotainment screen is standard, with an 8.8-inch screen optional. The larger screen also comes with a telemetry mode and a 3D navigation system. Alfa Romeo also offers a 900-watt, 14-speaker audio system from Harman Kardon and a host of active safety technologies. Alfa’s list is comprised of forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and optional front park assist sensors.
Following its debut at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is expected to go on sale in the middle of next year. We enjoyed our time behind the wheel of the Giulia Quadrifoglio and look forward to sampling the Stelvio closer to its launch date. If the Giulia is anything to go by, this Italian will also be fashionably late instead of simply tardy.