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2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Test Drive Review

At the end of a commercial for the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio, you’ll see the Italian words “La meccanica delle emozioni.” In English, those translate to “The mechanics of emotions.” It’s a fitting phrase given that Alfa Romeo creates machines that are designed to inspire feelings of joy, excitement, and pleasure.

Here’s another phrase that applies to Alfa Romeo: “Never say never.” When Alfa Romeo left the U.S. market in the mid-1990s, it was uncertain whether the automaker would ever again sell its vehicles in the country whose film industry made an icon out of its Spider drop-top.

Talk of Alfa’s return to our shores went on for years. Every glimmer of hope was eventually covered with a cloud of complications which delayed the momentous occasion.

In 2008, the limited-production, V8-powered 8C Competizione came to the states. With its beautiful curves and eye-pleasing proportions, it made quite an entrance, but it didn’t stay long. It was a halo vehicle whose departure left American Alfisti in limbo once again.

They had a reason to smile when the 4C hit dealerships for the 2015 model year. The new model was classic Alfa: an engaging performance machine wrapped in alluring, curvaceous bodywork. Things started looking even more hopeful when Alfa released its line of Giulia sedans in the U.S.

In all of its years of producing vehicles that were supposed to be as fun as they were functional, Alfa didn’t made an SUV. Until today. It’s now impossible to say that Alfa Romeo has never made an SUV. The 2018 Stelvio combines Italian styling with the vehicle proportions that American buyers just can’t seem to get enough of these days. It’s available in base, Ti, and high-performance Quadrifoglio trim. Power for the first two models comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine; the range-topping Quadrifoglio has a staggeringly powerful twin-turbo V-6 under its hood.

We never pictured ourselves driving an Alfa Romeo SUV, but we should have. After all, you’re supposed to never say never. We were glad to be corrected when we got the keys to a 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti equipped with the optional Sport Package.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Exterior

Like the Alfas that have come before it, the Stelvio Ti features its parent company’s signature “Trilobo” grille. That sits in the valley between the scalpel-shape casings for the bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights.

Viewed from the side, the Stelvio makes it clear that the design team behind it took the fundamental two-box design of a typical SUV and rounded every one of its corners off. The basic SUV look has been softened, but still retains a muscle tone. Upswept lines and contours make the Stelvio Ti appear as if it’s ready to spring into action at the next green light. Our test vehicle’s Montecarlo Blue Metallic body was draped over the Sport Package’s 20-inch wheels, whose 10 spokes gave us a clear view of the 13-inch front brakes, 12.5-inch rear brakes, and red calipers.

The Stelvio Ti’s pronounced rear hip lines flowed to the rear hatch. As much as we loved the dramatic lines of the LED taillights and the way they jutted into the liftgate, we found the dual rear exhaust boom tubes even more attention-getting.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Interior

The second we sat in the Stelvio, we understood what Alfa’s designers were going for… and knew they’d accomplished it. It wasn’t enough for the fabled Italian automaker to make a regular SUV. It needed to create one that had the soul and feel of its sports cars. The Stelvio instantly felt like that unusual combination of space and pace. The sculpted driver’s seat hugged this writer’s body firmly. Its horizontal ribbing brought the seats of the Ferrari Daytona to mind. The flat-bottom steering wheel was undeniable performance car DNA. So were the column-mounted aluminum shift paddles whose large size made down- and upshifting in a hurry fun and easy. We had no problem seeing our rev count and speed thanks to the massive gauges in front of us.

In addition to all of that show and go gear, our media loaner had a variety of comfort and infotainment features. Standard equipment on the Stelvio Ti includes heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, an 8.8-inch center screen, and ambient lighting. The optional Sport Package added sport seats, aluminum pedals, and those cool aluminum shift paddles. The Convenience Package contained an adjustable rail system for the rear cargo area, which offered 18.5 cubic feet of space behind the back seats and 56.5 cubic feet of capacity when those were folded down. An optional Harmon Kardon premium audio system and dual-pane sunroof put on the finishing touches.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Performance

Alfa Romeo has a long history of filling four-cylinder engines with power and driving enjoyment. The Stelvio Ti continues it with a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 that generates a remarkable 280 horsepower and a stout 306 lbft of torque. An eight-speed automatic works with a lightweight carbon fiber driveshaft and all-wheel drive to translate those figures into forward motion.

With the turn of the Alfa DNA Drive Mode System dial, we could tell the Stelvio Ti how we wanted it to operate. The D stood for Dynamic, which sharpened the throttle, brake, and steering response, and made the exhaust more vocal. N was for Natural, the way to go for daily driving. A meant Advanced Efficiency. That enabled cylinder deactivation to maximize energy savings and fuel economy. According to the EPA, the Stelvio Ti gets 22 city, 28 highway, and 24 combined mpg.**

Ride quality from the sport-tuned suspension was expectedly firm yet never felt harsh. On winding country back roads, the Stelvio Ti was planted and solid. As a result, we felt confident and hungry for more twists. The Stelvio Ti’s not a large vehicle in the first place, but it seemed to feel a little smaller when we started hustling it through curves—and more like a sports car than an SUV.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Safety

The assortment of safety equipment on our review vehicle was a mix of standard and optional equipment. Of course, we had a multitude of airbags. In addition to those, we—and the people around us—were protected by rain-sensing wipers, a back-up camera, and front and rear parking sensors. The Driver Assistance Static Package included blind spot and cross path detection. The Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package gave us adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Overall

Alfa Romeo has taught us all to never say never. Once you drive the Stelvio Ti, it might just show you why you should get one now. As tested, our press loaner had a sticker price of $53,640, but you can get a 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti for yourself as close to the base price of $43,995* as you want. So head to an AutoNation Alfa Romeo dealership near you and take a test drive!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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