Diesel power is essential to the Stelvio. We test the range-topping variant
Weâ€™re testing the Alfa Romeo Stelvio on the very same Italian Alpine pass after which itâ€™s named. Serendipity â€“ or clever (if rather obvious) marketing? Whatever, the tight and twisting route isnâ€™t an SUVâ€™s natural habitat, but this tall, towering model tackles it with verve and style, even in this 2.2-litre diesel guise.
Thatâ€™s partly thanks to the four-cylinder powerplantâ€™s 207bhp of muscle, which propels the car from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds â€“ faster than many a hot hatch. More impressive still is that the Stelvio manages to achieve this while returning 58.9mpg and sub-130g/km CO2 emissions. Thatâ€™s far more efficient than its petrol stablemate, the 276bhp range-topper, yet itâ€™s priced somewhat lower, even in premium Milano Edizione trim.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2D Milano Edizione
Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Torque: 346lb ft
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1659kg
Top speed: 133mph
Economy: 58.9mpg (combined)
CO2, tax band: 127g/km, 27%
The engine reaches its peak with minimum effort, thanks to 346lb/ft of torque from only 1,750rpm and the quick, smooth and effortless standard eight-speed automatic transmission. After 3,750rpm, however, thereâ€™s not much left to give, and the engine becomes harsh and clattery. This is at odds with the impressive peace and quiet experienced to that point, and could probably be solved with the addition of a couple of extra cylinders. Unfortunately, this isnâ€™t an option with the Alfa.
We tested the 2.0-litre petrol Stelvio previously, but it was more fun and drove more keenly than the laid-back diesel despite the modelsâ€™ similar weights. You have to dig deep to reveal the oil-burnerâ€™s well-balanced and rear-led platform. When it comes to being a good SUV, however, the Stelvio ticks all the important boxes. It has a smooth ride â€“ despite its trendy 20-inch alloys â€“ and it remains refined even over large surface imperfections.
The cabin is highly practical; itâ€™s spacious in both front and rear, and the boot is generous at 525 litres. Unlike some of its Italian predecessors, its seats and driving position are fine. Unfortunately, the cabin quality lets it down, as it cannot compete with that of, say, an Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC or Jaguar F-Pace. The quality short-cuts let down those smart looks, while the sat-nav simply feels cheap.
Still, the Stelvioâ€™s price is very good news, with even this top-of-the-line Milano Edizione costing less than Â£44,000. With an impressive level of kit, this compares well by the standards of this sector. The Alfa should definitely be on your shortlist, but do consider the modelâ€™s cheaper petrol alternatives as well. Their keenness is more in keeping with the Alfa spirit.