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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

Out at last: Alfa Romeo finally reveals eagerly awaited Tonale

Tonale sees a radical departure in that it serves as Alfa's first model to offer standard electrification on all but one powerunit.

First shown as a concept at the Geneva Motor Show three years ago, and delayed no less than two times after, Alfa Romeo has officially taken the wraps off of the all-new Tonale SUV.

Only the famed Italian marque’s third modern-day model after the Giulia and Stelvio, the Tonale slots-in below latter and arrives as not only Alfa’s first mass produced vehicle with electrification, but also the first not to be powered solely by petrol or diesel as the brand heads towards an all-electric future come 2027.

Leaked mere months after Geneva in prototype form, which surprisingly didn’t invoke a response from Alfa Romeo, or then parent company Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), now Stellantis, the production Tonale appears to have been the prototype all along as very little separates one from the other on first glance.

While expectedly toned down from the concept, the Tonale, which takes its name from a mountain pass in Italy like the Stelvio, retains the signature teledial alloy wheels, three by three SZ Zagato inspired adaptive LED headlights almost concealed underneath the bonnet, large lower air intake and sloping roofline as per the coupe-esque look.

Unlike the concept and the prototype, the concealed rear door handles have not been retained, while the mirrors are less slim-line, the rear facia remodelled to appear longer and the taillights redesigned in order to bear a closer resemblance to the Stelvio.

Riding on a development of the same platform as the Jeep Compass, the Tonale seats five and although its wheelbase remained under wraps, boasts an overall length of 4 530 mm, height of 1 600 mm and width of 1 840 mm.

Alfa Romeo Tonale revealed
Rear has undergone a bigger change to resemble that of the Stelvio.

Offering a choice of 17 to 20-inch alloy wheels, the decision to stick with the already in-use Small Wide LWB 4×4 platform used by the Compass, revived Commander, Ram 1000/Fiat Toro and 500X has not been without change.

Adapted to accept electrification, the Tonale is said to offer a “perfect weight distribution between the two axles” with Alfa stating that this involved “working on the car’s layout by placing all the heavier components as centrally as possible”.

Of the mechanical components, the Tonale sports a MacPherson strut design at the front, but with specifically calibrated frequency selective dampers claimed to aid steering feel in and out of corners.

As well as a model bespoke integrated braking system designed by Brembo comprising a ventilated four-piston caliper setup at the front and single at the rear, the Tonale also debuts what Alfa Romeo calls dual stage valve electronic dampers.

A configuration developed in conjunction with long time affiliate Magneti Marelli, the setup involves each of the four electronic shock absorbers featuring their own electro valve said to provide an independent damping feel with the Alfa DNA switch set to Comfort or Sport modes.

According to Alfa Romeo, when switched to the latter, body roll is reduced while vertical rigidity is increased in order to “improve” vehicle dynamics on corners”.

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Along with these, as well as different steering to the Giulia and Stelvio, the Tonale receives a new electronic locking differential on front-wheel-drive models and a hybrid Q4 all-wheel-drive system made up of the conventional petrol engine and the electric motor that cuts when a loss in traction is detected.

The most dramatic departure from the concept is to be find inside. More reminiscent of the Stelvio’s cabin, the Tonale however sports a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as well as a freestanding 10.25-inch Uconnect infotainment system with over-the-air updated, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Fitted with the same steering wheel as its sibling, the alloy gear shift paddles and DNA rotary dial, the Tonale also features Level 2 autonomous driving thanks to the inclusion of, amongst other, Traffic Jam Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Centering, Driver Attention Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Initially, only two trim levels will be offered; Super and Ti with the former having the added option of a Sprint package and the latter the sportier Veloce. Exact details retailing to standard specification items were not divulged.

Up front, the line-up of engines, which contributed to the Tonale’s delay after being described as providing “unacceptable performance” by Alfa boss Jean-Philippe Imparato, consists of four units; a completely new turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, two versions of the Brazilian-made 1.3-litre Firefly turbo and a conventional 2.0-litre turbo-petrol.

While the 1.5 produces 96kW/240Nm, the entry-level Firefly, also used in the Jeep Renegade, offers up 118 kW by utilising the same design, namely placing the 15 kW electric motor that makes up the mild-hybrid system within the seven-speed TCT dual-clutch gearbox.

Alfa Romeo Tonale revealed
Interior, while completely different from the concept, is similar to the Stelvio.

At the top of the range, the plug-in hybrid Q4 combines the Firefly with a 15.5-kWh battery instead of the 11.4-kWh unit used in the Compass 4xe and the Renegade 4xe.

This means an output of 202 kW instead of 177 kW, a claimed all-electric range of between 60 km and 80 km and a waiting time of two-and-a-half hours using a 7.4 kW charger. The only transmission option is a six-speed automatic.

In the United States, the Tonale will also be powered by the mentioned 2.0-litre turbo-petrol, which delivers 191kW/400Nm. Drive is routed to all four corners via a nine-speed automatic.

Unlike the Giulia and Stelvio in other markets, a manual gearbox won’t be offered with the same applying to a diesel engine and a QV model.

Going on sale in Europe from later this year with production taking place at the Pomigliano d’Arco Plant in Naples, the Tonale is expected to become available in South Africa either towards the end of 2022 or in 2023 with exact timing still to be confirmed.

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