The big Alfa also gets smarter and safer.
The launch of 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio was accompanied by the tagline “Beauty Driven by Technology,” which, up until now, was only partially true. The beauty is there: Based on the sleek and sexy Giulia sedan (developed from scratch in an astonishingly short two and a half years), the Stelvio has always been a sharp-looking SUV.
But while Alfa Romeo may have knocked it out of the park with eye-catching exterior styling and superb driving dynamics, the brand seems to have simply ran out of time when it came to creating an equally robust interior. As a result, the use of low-quality materials and a woefully outdated infotainment system marred an otherwise clean and purposeful design.
So for 2020, Alfa’s mission is reflected in that new motto. An obvious place to start, of course, was bringing the interior appointments of the Stelvio up to par with the rest of the vehicle.
Look At You Now
Most notably, the material quality of the center console is massively improved. The gearshift lever, whose plasticky feel used to be reminiscent of a video game joystick, is now leather-wrapped. Similarly, all three rotary control knobs have lost their toylike wobble and now move with a weighted, satisfying tactility. And in case you ever forget the Stelvio’s country of origin, there’s a discreet badge sporting the colors of the Italian flag at the base of the shifter.
An optional wireless charging pad ($250) is handily located between the console and the armrest, which opens up to reveal a newly enlarged larger storage area. While Audi, BMW, and Mercedes all offer digital instrument clusters in lieu of traditional instruments, the Stelvio proudly bucks tradition here by continuing to feature large and easily readable analog gauges.
Tech You Can Touch
Perhaps the most welcome addition to the Stelvio is a thoroughly modern infotainment system, which includes a standard 8.8-inch touchscreen across the line. The main menu screen can display several tiles at once, or “widgets” in Alfa parlance. These widgets can be reconfigured simply by dragging and dropping them into the desired order. Tap on a widget and that menu goes full screen, with Home and Back soft buttons always visible on the left side. Redundant controls are available for the climate controls and radio, and there’s a new performance page for a quick read of stats like fuel economy, oil pressure and – of course – a drag race timer. All in all, it’s an easy system to decipher, and eons better than the old rotary-only interface.
The rotary dial on the console is still available, and also provides full control of the interface in lieu of using the touchscreen. The dial is now topped with a haptic touch surface, similar to the Mercedes and BMW interface knobs, and whose input movements resemble controlling a trackpad. It’s also capable of multitouch gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom for maps, though this feature won’t immediately be available.
Perhaps the most welcome addition to the Stelvio is a thoroughly modern infotainment system.
Fortunately, Alfa plans on using over-the-air updates to continue adding and refining features after the initial launch of the updated Stelvio (and hopefully throughout the model’s life cycle). Other new connectivity features of the system include a Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as a vehicle finder and roadside assistance. Alfa is offering a 12-month trial on these services. There’s also a phone app, which enables the driver to unlock/lock and start/stop the car remotely.
Satellite navigation is available for $1,200, but despite the prominent graphical improvements, the routing lines are a bit chunky when overlaid on the fine lines of a road. This makes it difficult to determine where exactly to turn at complicated intersections. Since Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, however, there’s no shortage of navigation options.
Finally, perhaps the best thing about this new interface is that it’s exclusive to Alfa Romeo – and not currently shared with any other vehicle in the sprawling FCA lineup. As good as the Uconnect system may be, the display looks exactly the same in a $22,000 Jeep Compass as it does in a $160,000 Maserati Levante. Kudos to the Alfa team for delivering something unique and special.
Safety In Numbers
A wide array of advanced driver assistance systems join the option list for 2020. New additions include traffic-sign recognition and adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and blind spot monitoring in the Active Driver Assistance package ($3,250) that’s available starting with the Stelvio Ti trim level. All of these systems can work together to provide semi-autonomous driving at constant speeds up to 90 miles per hour and in stop-and-go traffic at speeds up to 37 mph. Drowsy driver detection uses steering input and lane detection data, and warns the driver if it detects delayed or erratic inputs. Sadly, no espresso is offered along with this warning.
Left to its own devices, the Alfa tracks straight and true in its lane without wandering on the edges. In heavy traffic, it keeps pace and responds quickly to speed variations, keeping gaps tight. A steady hand on the bottom of the steering wheel is enough to reassure the Stelvio that you’re still paying attention.
Four To The Floor
While there’s no question the 505-horsepower Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a performance banshee, the base Stelvio is certainly no slouch. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 280 hp and 306 pound-feet of torque, and it mates to a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission in either rear- or optional all-wheel drive guise. The sprint to 60 mph takes a stout 5.4 seconds in all-wheel drive models. That’s only three-tenths of a second slower than the much more powerful (and expensive), V6-powered Porsche Macan S, and nearly a second quicker than the Macan four-cylinder. Of all the German offerings, only the Audi Q5 breaks the sub-six-second barrier, with the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC slumming it on the low side of six. Despite its performance chops, the Stelvio is still mighty thrifty, with fuel economy estimates of 22 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway (28 for all-wheel drive versions).
The base Stelvio is certainly no slouch.
As before, the driving experience is a rewarding one. It’s fair to describe the ride and handling of the Stelvio as being a tall Giulia, because that’s precisely what it is. At roughly 4,000 pounds, the Stelvio feels exceptionally nimble for its size. Directional changes are crisp and precise with little body roll, thanks to the inherently stiff chassis. For an even more buttoned-up ride, an active suspension with adjustable dampers is available on Stelvio Ti models. At highway speeds, the Stelvio’s demeanor is nicely composed. Laminated front window glass is newly standard and helps cut down on wind noise, especially from those large side mirrors.
When it comes to scrubbing off speed, it appears that Alfa has finally tamed the hyper-sensitive brake-by-wire system in the Stelvio. Previously, even a gentle tap on the pedal would abruptly clamp the four-piston Brembos tight, and send passengers straining against their seatbelts. The 2020 Stelvio is much more behaved, providing consistent modulation and pedal feel.
With a base price of $42,640, the 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio starts $800 more than the 2019 model. Given the updated interior accommodations, the available advanced driver assistance systems, and a finally respectable infotainment system, we’d say that’s a reasonable increase. Alfa even throws in a 12-month free trial of SiriusXM radio for good measure.
A more comprehensive mid-cycle refresh is slated in two years, at which point we’ll likely see the Stelvio adopt the newest iteration of Alfa’s design language. In the meantime, these incremental (yet necessary) improvements keep the Stelvio competitive – inside and out.