Car review: Alfa Romeo Stelvio - a fun UAE SUV
In a traditionally drab market, the Stelvio stands out
WE'RE AWARE READING the words 'fun' and 'midsize SUV' in the same sentence is as infrequent as hearing the phrase 'enjoyable school play' at a parents' meet or 'Brexit and 'good idea' appearing side-by-side in a reputable news broadcast. As popular as the automobiles may be, you can't accuse the majority of crossovers of being anything other than snooze-inducing beefed-up saloons, helping their owners feel secure on the road whilst providing little individuality or zest. Trust Italian legends Alfa Romeo, though, to take the tried and tested sports utility vehicle formula and come up with a version that screams exclusivity. Just look at their 2020 Stelvio. How many other cars, outside the hyper marques like Maserati, can boast such an athletic and visually appealing presence? However, could it all simply a case of style over substance? We tried one to find out.
La dolce vita inside and out
We could wax lyrical about how elegant, streamlined and aggressive the Stelvio appears on the road, but this typically Italian feat of managing to converge numerous qualities into a car's body design is well-known and you have eyes to take in the pictures - that's all you really need. What we want to talk about is the interior. While contemporaries in this class are obviously going to be comfortable, the cabins can often be described as, frankly, a bit drab. In this Alfa you're treated to an environment more befitting a performance car. And its that combination of good looks on the outside and in, which will put a smile on your face time and time again. Beautiful dash lines highlighted with premium materials elevate this from a typical SUV experience to a dynamic event. A sturdy leather-clad steering wheel (depending on trim type) adorned with a number of useful buttons - more on those later - a comprehensive infotainment centre complete with all the gadgets you'd expect and little touches including the Alfa and Il Tricolore badges evoke both the brand's historic DNA and its ever-present focus on the future.
Tell us more about those buttons
They are the physical embodiment of the Stelvio's breathtaking driver assistance devices. If you bought this car in Europe, you could claim it can pretty much drive itself - especially in traffic. Over in the Middle East we have to contend with more limited abilities, however class leading they may be. Our features include Lane Keeping Assist, which detects if the vehicle is drifting to the side without the indicator being deployed. If this happens you'll receive a visual and touch warning before the Stelvio actively intervenes to return itself to between the lines. Chuck in Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Cruise Control, not to mention a drowsiness alert and you've got yourself an automotive safety convention in one model. Whether this contributes to being fun or not is your call, but we thought the overall package was noteworthy enough to be exciting.
What's it like under the bonnet?
Decent and provides enough oomph to really get going. The Stelvio comes with a turbo-charged two-litre, straight-four engine as standard, which produces 280hp and a 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds. That power is fed through an eight-speed gearbox which makes the ride that much smoother. The all-wheel drive also makes the journeys trouble-free. On the highway you're not going to worry about, nor even really notice, you're driving a large-ish vehicle at high speeds and in the tight channels (if you can find those in the UAE) it's going to zip along nicely without being too much of a handful. You could even call it nippy. We adored the ride's hassle-free, dignified manner and how quiet it remained even when putting your foot down.
Alfa's new tagline is "Beauty Driven by Technology" and we feel this car lives up to the promise. The in-built SatNav is on point, the 8.8-inch touchscreen upon which it is displayed is easy to reason with and responsive to your touch and the pilot's dash display possesses seemingly millions of configurations, yet crucially is easy to alter at the flick of a finger. If fun is standing out from the pack, the Stelvio does so in spades.
Engine: Two-litre I4
Base price: Dhs179,900