Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
UK buyers have the choice of a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 276bhp or a 2.2-litre diesel with 207bhp. The diesel unit is responsive from low revs and pulls strongly throughout the entire rev range, whisking you up to motorway speeds with ease. That said, it can’t match the punch of a Porsche Macan Diesel S or Audi Q5 3.0 TDI.
The petrol engine certainly feels stronger but needs working quite a bit harder to show its true muscle. It’s a shame, then, that it doesn’t enjoy being revved hard, always preferring to shift up at less than 6000rpm. It’s fine for cruising but not overly sporty.
These engines will be joined in time by a pair of entry-level engines – a 2.0-litre petrol with 197bhp and a 2.2-litre diesel with 178bhp. At the other end of the scale, there will be a 503bhp Quadrifoglio version with a turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 if you really do want a sporty SUV.
Suspension and ride comfort
With so much talk of the Stelvio being designed to out-handle the opposition, it shouldn’t be a great surprise to find that it has a rather firm ride. Although it never bangs, crashes or gets too upset by imperfect surfaces, you will feel lumps, bumps and potholes through your seat. This is most noticeable at low speeds.
At higher speeds, however, the sports oriented suspension set-up comes into its own, dealing with crests and compressions with a fluency and finesse that is usually reserved for the best sports saloons. And unlike softer rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5, pitch and roll are well controlled, so sudden direction changes have less of an effect on passengers.
As always, we’d suggest sticking to smaller wheels if you are looking for the best ride, although from our experience with the Giulia, we suspect that fitting optional adaptive dampers will have an even greater impact on passenger comfort (we have yet to test this system on the Stelvio).
This is where the Stelvio really shines; it feels far more car-like in the bends than many rivals. Like the Giulia upon which it is based, the steering is remarkably direct – you have to turn the wheel very little to negotiate tight corners. However, it isn’t too light, making it easy to place the car’s nose where you want it. Combine this with stiff suspension and you have an SUV that goes round corners with more enthusiasm than many saloon cars.
Even so, the Stelvio feels safe and secure if you do push too hard. Unlike softer rivals, it never pushes on in corners or runs out of body control on undulating country roads. As a result, you can lean on the Stelvio in faster bends, trusting that it is never going to step out of line or act untowardly. The fact that the stability control system rarely cuts in reinforces this belief of all-weather grip and dependability. As for the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, it's one of the best handling Sports SUVs you can buy.
Noise and vibration
The Stelvio’s engines may be pretty powerful, but they aren’t particularly quiet. Even the 2.0-litre petrol sounds surprisingly coarse even when pootling along and and it fails to sound sporty. As for the 2.2-litre diesel, you’re always aware of the gritty dirge that blights cars fuelled from the black pump – an Audi Q5 2.0 TDI is far more refined.
We also noticed a fair amount of wind noise from the door mirros when travelling at motorway speeds on some test cars.
At least the eight-speed automatic gearbox impresses with smooth shifts even in stop-start traffic.