The Alfa Romeo Tonale Is the sub-Stelvio CUV Alfa Desperately Needs
Alfa says it's only a concept. Whatever.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale is a concept. It is only a concept. That's Alfa's story at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show and it's sticking to it. Never mind that every panel, crease, glass surface, and even the 21-inch "phone-dial" wheels and tires look production-ready. Okay, the hollow camera "mirrors" and light-pulsing interior panels are pure fancy, and having a rear "bumper" inset from the farthest aft point on the fetching bee-stinger hatch will be bad for the pole crash test. Other than that, the Tonale appears ready to slot under the Stelvio in Alfa's SUV lineup tomorrow.
The brand desperately needs to tap into the wildly expanding compact crossover market, so don't expect the road to production to be particularly long or winding. Speaking of long winding roads, the name Tonale joins Stelvio in referring to a fabulous Italian mountain pass—this one crossing the Rhaetian Alps, connecting Lombardy and Trentino.
What is concept-like is the amount of actual information disclosed about the Tonale, apart from the fact that it's said to feature a plug-in-hybrid drivetrain as suggested by the modified Alfa biscione logo, in which the snake body terminates in an electric plug, with a little lightning bolt in place of the tongue (pressing this icon on the upper rear door frames opens the rear door electrically—a feature we would endorse ditching for production). We're also told the rear axle is electrically powered. Representatives wouldn't even confirm that it rides on FCA's "small-wide" platform—also found under the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade and Compass, although it almost certainly does—let alone talk engines, transmissions, or battery sizes. Similarly, there was no word or mention of the possible larger three-row offering that's been rumored to be in the works for some time.
What Alfa's VP of design, Klaus Busse was eager to talk about was the design, which involved lots of hand sculpting. Penned at Alfa's Centro Stile in Turin, it incorporates loads of Alfa design cues and clearly appears related to the Stelvio without any hint of the same-salume-different-length design aesthetic. The trademark Scudetto grille is there, but this time it's flanked by three-plus-three LED headlights evocative of those on the SZ and Brera. The shoulder line rises and falls, suggesting the equivalent line on the Giulia GT Junior coupe. The three-plus-three lighting signature is echoed at the rear.
Inside, the four-place interior (sure to sprout a fifth seatbelt in production) is designed to suggest muscular tension with the contrast of warm leather and Alcantara against cold aluminum, as well as the aforementioned pulsing ambient lighting. Naturally, gigantic screens inform and entertain the driver and front passenger, and new levels of connectivity are promised, connecting owners with other Alfisti and presenting Alfa merch that can be ordered via the touch screen. The D.N.A. button's Dynamic mode will summon full power from the front engine and rear electric motor, while an "E-mozione" button—get it?—on the touchscreen further tailors throttle settings, braking response, and steering feel.
Watch this space for further information in the months to come, as we expect to see this "concept" on the road sooner rather than later.