What are you driving?
This is the petrol-powered version of Alfa Romeo's new SUV, the Stelvio. Until the altogether silly range-topping Quadrifoglio version comes along, this is the most potent variant of Alfa's first SUV offered. Visually there is nothing to distinguish this from the diesel Stelvio; both cars even have the same twin exhausts at the rear.
Although it has a smaller capacity engine at 2.0 litres, it is also turbocharged and produces a total output of 280hp, good enough to propel the Stelvio to 100km/h from rest in just 5.7 seconds. It comes only with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a ZF unit that is used in a variety of cars and regarded as one of the best gearboxes around today. Alfa's engineers have done a good job in tuning both to suit the Stelvio. Compared to the diesel it feels far sportier and shows off the car's chassis well.
Name its best bits
Testing this petrol version of the Stelvio back-to-back with the diesel reveals just how much fun it is. Even though the turbocharged four-cylinder engine doesn't have as much torque as the diesel, its 280hp makes it feel much livelier. Both cars use the same transmission, but it feels better suited to the petrol car somehow. It also features oversized metal paddle shifters behind the steering wheel that feel great to use. The rear-biased four-wheel-drive transmission, combined with the more responsive petrol engine, makes for a driving experience that is more involving and more tailored towards driving enthusiasts than most other SUVs on the market. Flicking between the three drives modes of the DNA system adjusts the performance of the Stelvio just enough for you to notice the difference. The obvious choice would be to leave it in Dynamic mode, but the Normal setting is fine for everyday use.
Anything that bugs you?
Considering that this is the company's first SUV model, Alfa Romeo has done an impressive job to make it handle as well as it does. It hides its mass well through bends and during the switchback-strewn driving route near the Stelvio Pass one of the only annoyances was that the paddle shifters are column- rather than wheel-mounted. We think smaller paddles fixed to the wheel would be a better solution. Design-wise, there isn't a great deal to criticise the Stelvio for the inside, but some of the plastics used don't come close to matching those seen in the like of the Audi Q5, one of the cars that Alfa is targeting as a rival.
And why have you given it this rating?
Unlike many new SUVs, Alfa Romeo has kept the Stelvio still very much a driver's car. The chassis and engine combo, as well as its handling characteristics, make this one of the more exciting SUVs to drive. It isn't a clear leader in any particular area, but is more a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
I want to know more
As this petrol version is likely to have only limited appeal, we've gone into more detail about how the diesel Stelvio drives in our test drive. If there's something more specific that you would like to know about either car, please go to our Ask Us Anything page and send us a question.