~ A DriveWays Review ~
by Frank A. Aukofer
Almost from the get-go of its founding 112 years ago, Italy’s Alfa Romeo has been widely hailed as a manufacturer of sports roadsters and other performance cars suited to race tracks. Lately, it also has proven, with the 2023 Stelvio, that it can deliver the goods in the surging crossover sport utility class.
The brand now is part of the Stellantis manufacturing entity, a merger in 2021 of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with the PSA Group of France’s Peugeot and Citroen nameplates. With its three-nation heritage, the company now is the world’s third-largest vehicle manufacturer, behind only Volkswagen and Toyota.
Just six years old, the Stelvio is a performance compact crossover named for the highest pass in the northern Italian Alps mountains, where drivers can experience 48 hairpin turns over a 12-mile stretch of highway.
It is based on the modern Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan, which made its debut in 2015. The two models share the same wheelbase—the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels—though the Stelvio is two inches longer at 15 feet 5 inches.
Its interior space of 94 cubic feet for passengers and 19 cubic feet for cargo would qualify it as a midsize if it were a sedan. The EPA, however, classifies it as a “small” sport utility vehicle. With its near luxury price tag, it competes against the likes of the BMW X3, Lexus NX, Porsche Macan and Audi Q5.
The Stelvio has ample space for four passengers. As in many vehicles, the center-rear fifth passenger suffers with limited head and knee room, a high, hard cushion and intrusion of the front console.
Another drawback is the flashy styling, which calls for a sharply raked windshield and, of course, its side pillars, called A-pillars in the industry. The angle forces the driver and front passenger to nearly double up to enter and exit the Stelvio. If you don’t contort your body, you risk cracking your noggin on the top of the door opening. Rear seat entry is better but not much.
Tested for this review was a new upscale trim level, the Estrema. Yep, it’s Italian for “extreme,” though it’s no more powerful than other Stelvio versions. Almost all are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque.
The power gets to the pavement via an eight-speed automatic transmission, enough to hit 60 miles an hour from rest in the five-second range. There’s a manual-shift transmission mode controlled by fixed steering-column paddles that are about seven inches long so you should never miss a shift.
Base Stelvio models have rear-wheel drive, while the Estrema and other models come standard with all-wheel drive.
The tested Estrema is equipped with adaptive shock absorbers and a limited-slip differential borrowed from the high-zoot 505-horsepower Stelvio Quadrifoglio. They augment the Stelvio Estrema’s hole card: glue-like adhesion around curves that makes for sharp handling and a surprisingly compliant ride.
Freeway cruising is similarly calm with just enough engine and road noise to keep passengers posted to the fact that they’re riding in an ICE (for internal combustion engine) vehicle. Front seats are well bolstered, supportive and comfortable with myriad adjustments. The surroundings also have a luxurious ambiance with quality materials and good workmanship.
The tested Estrema came with a base price of $53,120, including the destination charge. Standard safety equipment included forward full-speed collision warning with automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, front and rear parking sensors, and an annoying lane-departure warning that beeped constantly whenever the Stelvio came near a line in the road.
Also: Dual-pane glass sunroof; heated folding outside mirrors, color touch screen; navigation system; heated steering wheel, front and rear seats; automatic climate control, SXM satellite and HD radio; Apple Car Play and Google Android Auto, and wireless smart phone and device charging.
The $7,800 Estrema option package included the aforementioned performance items as well as sport leather seats with adjustable bolsters, carbon fiber or wood interior trim, power front seats, and leather appointed dash and doors. With options, the suggested delivered price came to $61,580.
Though there have been a few times over the years when Alfa Romeo has offered less than stellar vehicles—some of the old Spiders of the 1960s to 1990s come to mind—the 2023 Stelvio is a standout crossover SUV.
- Model: 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
- Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 280 hp, 320 lb-ft torque.
- Transmisssion: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
- Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 94/19 cubic feet (56).
- Weight: 4,020 pounds
- Towing capability: 3,000 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/24 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $53,120.
- Price as tested: $61,580.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review. Photos ©Alfa Romeo
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