A touch screen, new switches and advanced driver assistance features remove minor annoyances from luxury-sport SUV
Detroit Free Press
Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio SUV adds more tech and connectivity than a Fortnite convention for 2020, raising its driver assistance and infotainment capabilities to a level worthy of its outstanding power and handling.
The result: A host of small annoyances disappear and it’s easier to appreciate the Italian luxury SUV’s distinctive looks and outstanding performance. Automakers seldom put this much effort into a model that’s been on the road for four years, as the Stelvio has. Fiat Chrysler did, making the 2020 Stelvio much more competitive. The five-seat SUV is in dealerships now.
The Stelvio’s strengths have always been looks, handling and power. Its main drawbacks were entertainment controls, connectivity and driver assistance features, elements that almost certainly contributed to stubbornly low ratings in leading quality studies. The 2020’s upgrades are big steps in the right direction.
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The five-passenger Stelvio is Alfa’s first SUV. The model line starts with a $41,995 280-horsepower model. The base Stelvio competes with SUVs like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX50, Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes GLC. All Stelvios have an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The top of the line Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a rocket with a Ferrari-engineered 505-hp 2.9L V6. It starts at $80,600.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio competes in a new class of super SUVs that includes the BMW X3 M Competition, Jaguar F-Pace SVR, Mercedes AMG GLC S 63 and Porsche Macan GTS.
Don’t knock on that clubhouse door without serious hardware. The Stelvio’s 505 hp puts it in the middle of the pack. The Porsche Macan GTS is the only one in the bunch with less than 500 hp, and it still races from 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
I tested a loaded Stelvio that stickered at $93,340.
Standard equipment on my Stelvio Quadrifoglio:
- Carbon fiber drive shaft
- Torque vectoring differential
- Adaptive suspension
- 8.8-inch touch screen
- 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio
- Leather dash and door uppers
- Aluminum steering column-mounted paddle shifters
- 20-inch summer tires and five-spoke wheels
- Heated steering wheel and front seats
Options on the model I tested:
- Wireless charging
- Colored brake calipers
- Brembo carbon ceramic brakes
- Heated rear seats
Standard and optional safety features
- Blind spot and cross traffic alerts
- Blind spot assist
- Lane keeping alert and assist
- Drowsy driver alert
- Forward collision warning
- Pedestrian and bicycle alert and braking
- Adaptive cruise control
- Highway and traffic jam assist lane and vehicle following
- Automatic high beams
- Traffic sign recognition
- Front and rear parking sensors
Big changes inside
Changing audio sources, using the nav system and accessing smartphone apps were a continual source of annoyance when the Stelvio and Giulia went on sale. The infotainment system used a clunky rotary control in the center console rather than an intuitive touch screen — for no better reason than European FCA executives thought a luxury vehicle had to mimic BMW’s frequently maddening iDrive rotary controller. FCA already had the auto industry’s best infotainment system in Uconnect, available on Dodges and Chryslers costing a fraction as much as a Stelvio, but the German executive making decisions at Alfa opted for the German manufacturer’s approach.
It’s difficult and expensive to change a feature like that, but Alfa bit the bullet, adding a big standard touch screen and — just as important — new electronic guts behind it for the 2020 model year.
It’s a night and day difference in the ease of using CarPlay, Android Auto, music, Waze, Google maps and more. The rotary controller is still in the center console, for those who like it. The system could still use a tuning dial, though.
Alfa also reworked the center console, making the electronic emergency brake easier to find and adding quality materials like a perforated leather shift knob, aluminum bezel and switches that feel more precise. The console also has a nicely placed optional wireless charger.
The interior is noticeably quieter, thanks to added sound insulation in the console, instrument panel and transmission tunnel.
A clever and welcome touch adds sound when you want it: The throaty performance exhaust note is now available in the dynamic driving mode. On previous models, you could only summon it in racing mode, which reprogrammed stability control, throttle and transmission in ways that most drivers would find tiresome driving around town.
The interior is trimmed in leather, aluminum and carbon fiber, with nice detail touches like dual-color stitching.
A little Maserati under the skin
It’s a truism among the most tiresome car fans that driver-assistance features are antithetical to performance vehicles. Happily, Alfa seems to have figured out that nobody really needs to feel at one with their vehicle doing 10 mph at 5 p.m. in rush hour traffic.
A suite of available driver assistance features shared with FCA’s more expensive Maserati brand provides all the safety bells and whistles, plus lane following and adaptive cruise that make long highway drives more pleasant, and the occasional traffic jam bearable.
The Stelvio remains a delight to drive, with effortless acceleration, comfort on the highway and a suspension that keeps the SUV planted and stable in fast maneuvers. The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission remains one of the auto industry’s most valuable players, delivering shifts that are fast, precise and smooth in extreme conditions.
In short, the 2020 Stelvio retains the characteristics that make it an avatar of Italian performance and style, while adding comfort, convenience and assistance features that have eluded the brand until now.
2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio at a glance
Base price: $80,500
As tested: $93,340 (excluding destination charges)
Four-wheel-drive four-door five-passenger SUV
Engine: 2.9L V6
Output: 505 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 443 pound-feet of torque @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA: 17 mpg city/24 highway/19 combined
Wheelbase: 110.9 inches
Length: 185.1 inches
Width: 77 inches
Height: 66.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,313 pounds
Assembled in Cassino, Italy
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