Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
When picking an engine for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, we suggest sticking with either of the two diesels. Both are based on the same 2.2-litre four-cylinder block but there are 187 or 207bhp power outputs depending on the trim level you go for. Both versions are responsive from low revs and pull strongly throughout the whole rev range, whisking you up to motorway speeds with ease. The quicker of the diesels takes 6.6 seconds to reach 62mph from a stop, which is quick for an SUV. However, at the same time, it can’t match the punch of the Porsche Macan Diesel S or Audi Q5 45 TDI, both of which have bigger engines and, as a result, more shove.
There’s also a pair of 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, with 197bhp on lower trim levels, and 276bhp for the most expensive models. The latter takes just 5.7 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph, but both engines need to be worked hard to show their true muscle. Neither of these engines make the Stelvio feel as fast as the on-paper numbers suggest, which detracts from its perceived sportiness, so we’d stick with the diesels.
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 and over particularly undulating roads.
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, and it’s worth paying for the optional adaptive suspension if smoothness is a priority. Set to its softest setting, the system absorbs a lot of the tremors kicked up by patchy surfaces and expansion joints. Alternatively, its firmest setting brings a reduction in body lean when cornering, and better body control in fast direction changes than in a Stelvio without the system fitted.
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. Even so, the Stelvio feels safe and secure if you do push too hard. Unlike many rivals, it has enough grip to stay planted through fast corners, instead of the front end washing wide. 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 entry-level 2.0-litre petrol sounds coarse even when pootling along and and it fails to sound sporty. If you take the higher-powered 2.0-litre near its rev limiter it does have a slightly raspy tone, but when you’re driving it normally, it too is pretty unremarkable. As for the 2.2-litre diesel, you’re always aware of the gritty dirge that blights cars fuelled from the black pump – the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI is far more refined.
Road noise is more obtrusive in the Stelvio compared to the Q5 and we also noticed a fair amount of wind noise from the door mirrors 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.