By Mike Torpey on 2019-02-08 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
2.0 Q4 Milano
ALFA Romeo was determined to make a major statement with the arrival of the first SUV in the Italian brand's history.
There could be no half measures - when a cool marque like Alfa decides to jump on the SUV bandwagon the result has to be sensational.
In the Stelvio, the company has come up with just that - an offering that stirs the emotions both inside and out, in the way it looks and in the manner in which it drives.
But first that name. The Stelvio draws its inspiration from the mountain pass linking Italy to Switzerland, with 48 hairpins in quick succession and heralded as one of the most beautiful and engaging roads in Europe.
It conjures up images in the mind's eye of A-listers cruising slalom-style through the Alps en route to the swishest ski resorts.
The Stelvio itself is a vehicle that crosses boundaries in that it offers the versatility of an SUV with the performance and handling of a sports saloon.
In an area of the new car market that's becoming more congested by the day it's a real breath of fresh air.
Its design is very Alfa Romeo and distinctively Italian with bulges in all the right places, a triple mesh grille set-up at the front and a tailpipe at each corner in rear.
The cabin is smart, cool and modern with a relatively small leather steering wheel incorporating a discreet start/stop button, while a fairly minimalist interior design means you aren't bombarded with buttons.
Driver and front passenger sit in large, comfortable sports seats and there's plenty of space in the back, including a level position in that centre rear spot.
A deep central stowage box with lift-up lid has the sleek auto gearshift knob ahead of it and a chunky rotary switch for accessing navigation and info has a smaller switch either side - one for volume, the other for moving through Alfa's D, N and A modes.
Oddments stowage is also catered for, courtesy of four cupholders, bottle holders in all four doors, a glovebox while a cavernous boot with sliding cover can swallow the kitchen sink and more.
Out in the road, the 2.0-litre Q4 AWD petrol engine is a cracker, propelling the Stelvio from zero to 62mph in 5.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 143mph, while returning an official average fuel figure of 40.4 miles per gallon, our own return not far off at 37.2mpg.
Perfect 50/50 weight distribution coupled with Alfa's Q4 all-wheel drive and various driver technologies, combine to ensure an exhilarating drive experience in an SUV that performs and handles in a manner that's a rung above its rivals.
But then it can boast being the lightest mid-size SUV in its area of the market thanks to a lightweight body structure and carbon fibre driveshaft - the all-wheel drive system only adding an extra 56kg.
A raft of upmarket kit comes as standard, the Milano variant also getting the likes of red brake callipers, leather seats, a 10 speaker sound theatre, 20-inch V-Spoke alloys, privacy glass with black gloss window surround, electrically adjustable and heated front seats and a rear-view camera.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 Q4 Milano
Mechanical: 280ps, 1,995cc turbo petrol engine driving four wheels via 8-speed auto transmission with manual mode
Max Speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 40.4
Insurance Group: 36
C02 emissions: 161g/km
Bik rating: 33%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles
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