New Alfa Romeo Stelvio 280 Q4 2018 review
The punchy petrol engine suits the Alfa Romeo Stelvio’s sporty character, but the SUV is let down by interior quality and space
There are more frugal and more comfortable rivals available, but if you want the best-handling SUV this side of a Porsche Macan, the Stelvio nails its brief. When the car’s biggest USP is driving fun, the 276bhp petrol engine is the pick of the range, too. It’s just a shame that the Stelvio suffers all the usual Alfa drawbacks, including interior quality and space.
This is the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio 280. Aside from the flagship Quadrifoglio, it’s the fastest version of the brand’s BMW X3 rival. But if the QF is a stretch too far, does this 280 make more sense than the diesel versions?
Let’s start with the money. The Stelvio 280 is £1,400 pricier than the 207bhp diesel in the same Milano Edizione trim. On a four-year PCP with the same deposit, the petrol costs almost £20 more per month. The diesel is cheaper to run, too, returning 49.6mpg to the petrol’s 35.8mpg.
While the diesel is certainly easier on the wallet, the petrol is more fun to drive. In a car where driving enjoyment is placed as such a high priority, the faster, more exciting petrol is simply a better match to the Stelvio’s character. The 276bhp/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo unit is revvy, enthusiastic and, matched to a slick eight-speed auto, offers smooth power delivery.
As ever, it’s out on the road where the Stelvio truly comes into its own. The SUV is light – weighing roughly 200kg less than an equivalent X3 – and the difference is immediately obvious.
Body control is excellent, and the lack of roll gives the impression that the centre of gravity is six inches below your backside. The Stelvio’s steering is a highlight: it’s wonderfully precise, and quick gearing helps it to turn in more sharply than any SUV needs to.
The downside to all this is that the Stelvio’s ride is much firmer than almost any other rival. And that’s on our car’s 19-inch wheels – the now-standard 20-inch items will make things even more fidgety.
Inside, the 280 comes with the usual Stelvio benefits and drawbacks. The steering wheel and gearshift paddles feel wonderfully tactile, but elsewhere it’s cheap; the infotainment click wheel in particular is flimsy. An Audi Q5 feels better built.