Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
When picking an engine for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, we suggest sticking with a diesel engine; there are two 2.2-litre units offering 187bhp or 207bhp, depending on the trim level you choose. All versions are responsive from low revs and pull strongly throughout the whole rev range, whisking you up to motorway speeds with ease. The 187bhp engine is a good compromise between power and costs, with smooth yet responsive performance taking 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 on the top-spec Veloce trim. 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.
That is unless you’re tempted by the other petrol engine: a stonking 503bhp 2.9-litre V6 that’s fitted exclusively to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which we’ve reviewed separately.
The standard Drive Mode Select system, which alters the engine response to suit your mood, works in conjunction with the optional adaptive suspension system, which we'll discuss further in the Ride section of this review. You can mix and match settings too; for example, you can have the Stelvio in ‘Dynamic’ mode for alert responses from the engine and gearbox, but still keep the adaptive suspension in its softest, most comfortable setting.
Suspension and ride comfort
This is where the Stelvio really shines; it feels far more car-like in corners than many rivals. As is the case with the Giulia upon which it is based, its 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.
You might find the Stelvio can encourage some sideways behaviour a little too easily; it never feels unsafe, but turn in and you’ll notice some twitching from the rear wheels. But unlike many rivals, it has enough grip to stay planted through fast corners; its front end isn’t at all prone to running wide. 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.
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. The entry-level 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol sounds coarse even when pootling along and fails to sound at all sporty. If you take the higher-powered 2.0-litre near its rev limiter, it does develop 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 that gritty dirge that traditionally 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 than it is in the Q5, too, while the mirrors whip up some wind noise around the front pillars.
Every Stelvio has an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Unlike the slightly-hesitant DSG automatic in the Audi Q5, the Stelvio’s more traditional automatic reacts much more immediately when you want a sudden burst of acceleration. You can also alter the urgency of its gearshift via the driving mode selector in the centre console – it can be changed from quite relaxed to race-car quick with a flick of your wrist, which further highlights its benefits over its German counterparts.