Sinisterised Alfa Romeo Stelvio goes all out ahead of EV switch
More aggressive looking than before the Stelvio promises to rectify the smaller Tonale's shortcomings as a real Alfa clothed in an SUV suit.
Small changes are more prominent than ever before.
When Alfa Romeo debuted the updated Stelvio at the end of last year, unofficially called the series II, it unwittingly created the best scenario for any scribe who had prior experience of it.
Easy to summarise?
Seemingly the easiest side of a “copy-and-paste” exercise, the final written piece would no doubt allude to the Stelvio having failed to yet again deliver on Alfa’s repeated promises, being the recipient of the same frontal design as the smaller Tonale and fitted with a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
The rest of said article would then be a blatant repetition of what the Stelvio was before as besides the mentioned revisions, it has stayed largely unchanged dynamically from when it debuted at the end of 2016 to its first rounds of updates in 2019.
End of an era
While indeed the case, the updates go further as in addition, they effectively preview the end as earlier this year, Alfa parent company, Stellantis, officially confirmed reports branded as unofficial but likely true until now; an electric future will happen by 2027.
Not only does mean the end of Giorgio platform that also underpins the Giulia, Maserati Grecale and Jeep Grand Cherokee, but also all of the current engine options, including the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 that powers the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Effectively, the series II represents the final encore for the combustion engine Stelvio as, based on the timeframe of each update since 2016, i.e. three years, a third refresh appears highly unlikely as by 2025, two of Stellantis’ new EV optimised STLA platforms will already have been in production.
As such, the end of Alfa Romeo’s first proper SUV, which arrives in South Africa less than a year after its global reveal, had to be record in the history books, even though it involves, once again, the all-inclusive Veloce that will be joined by the Quadrifoglio before year-end.
How it goes out
Before Road Test Editor Mark Jones could be let loose on Gerotek though, there is the matter of the mentioned external and internal updates.
Small but immediately apparent, the 3+3 LED headlight arrangement, itself derived from the SZ of the 1990s, provides a much more aggressive look to a Stelvio that previously would have attracted descriptions like “pretty” or “angular”.
Mostly as a result of the clusters being darkened, the terms “menacing” and “sinister” can now be applied to what, it has to said, remains one of the best-looking SUVs on-sale today.
Besides the lights that receive Matrix LEDs as standard, Alfa Romeo has fitted the Stelvio with a new bumper, finished the grille in gloss black and wrapped the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres in the now trademark ‘tele-dial’ alloy wheels measuring a meaty 20-inches.
At the rear, an area the Stelvio has attracted past criticism for being heavy-looking due to the rear overhang, the adaptions are noticeably smaller and limited to new LED light clusters.
Drive to drive
Opening the door, little, bar the instrument cluster, has changed, meaning the retention of the 8.8-inch Uconnect infotainment system controlled by a rotary dial, the massively inviting magnesium gear shift paddles fixed to the steering column and a reliance on physical switchgear in a cabin that has aged anything but poorly.
Despite the lingering horror stories of Alfas of old, the interior feels expensive with soft-touch plastics, leather and imitation aluminium adoring almost every surface.
In a bizarre twist from the first facelift, the tactile feel of the faux alloy on the centre console has been improved without mentioning despite giving an appearance of cheap.
What hasn’t changed is the bang-on seat comfort of the leather-covered, heated and electric front chairs, the driving position and the grippy steering wheel that warrants the starter button being pressed and the Stelvio’s nose pointed to the horizon without delay.
While still a trifle tricky to fathom immediately, the infotainment system, which gets integrated satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, becomes easy to work-out soon after, with the same applying to the instrument cluster that retains the dual-pod outer design.
As before, the Veloce’s specification sheet has been maxed-out and while boot space is still capacious at 525-litres or 1 600-litres with the rear seats down, headroom remains impacted by the panoramic roof that, previously, had been a standard addition.
Now relegated to the options list priced at R20 000, the dual-pane sight of the sky above won’t be appreciated by taller folk, though unlike the Giulia, rear passenger legroom is more agreeable if not on the same level as similar-sized SUVs.
If only it had more to give
It is one the move that the Stelvio Veloce has always struggled against the Giulia thanks the combination of not only the Q4 all-wheel-drive system, but also its 1 660 kg kerb mass and higher ground clearance.
As Mark pointed out soon after his first runs, the Veloce simply doesn’t feel fast enough in spite of its balanced steering feel and largely well-sorted eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic gearbox.
Compared to Alfa Romeo’s 5.7 second 0-100 km/h claim, an improvement on 7.2 seconds couldn’t be found, even with the DNA drive mode dial switched to the grin inducing Dynamic mode.
With 206kW/400Nm still being produced by the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, the Stelvio feels a tidy bit undone as the general consensus was that a touch more grunt could have been extracted in order for it to feel like a proper Alfa capable of annihilating the famous mountain pass in the Italian Alps it is named after.
On pull-away, and again unlike the Giulia, the Stelvio doesn’t feel as spritely and while the delivery does improve on the go, it doesn’t have the same sense of the excitement as the sedan or as Mark pointed out, the rorty soundtrack through those pair of exhaust outlets.
Ups for the downs
What continues to count in the Veloce’s favour is the refinement as noise levels are well under control and the ride unsurprisingly firm, but not bone shattering hard.
That being said, lumpy surfaces will require care and any ventures off-road susceptible to serious consideration as a result of the road-tuned suspension and those wheels. As for fuel consumption, a best indicated 10.2 L/100 km showed-up during the Stelvio’s seven-day stay.
While on the heavy side and completely out of sync with Alfa Romeo’s massively optimistic 5.7 L/100 km claim, the weeklong tenure, inclusive of the trek to Gerotek and Mark’s testing, still represented an improvement of almost one-litre per 100 km over the series I Veloce driven two years ago.
Alfa Romeo continues to have it tough based on past happenings and while the Tonale, painfully, failed to deliver what Milan had promised, the Stelvio is a lot more more sorted and, compared to its rivals, even better value at R1 205 500.
As a final farewell to the combustion engine age however, it lacks just a tiny bit and ultimately, falls short of what its Giulia sibling brings to the party in that it excels at being a proper Alfa Romeo.