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Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The Top Gear car review:Alfa Romeo Stelvio
What is it like on the road?
Two engines are offered from launch, exclusively with a traditional eight-speed auto. The first, a 2.2-litre diesel, produces 207bhp and 347lb ft of torque, covers 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds and returns 58.9mpg and 127g/km of CO2. That’s just three tenths slower than a 6cyl Macan S Diesel, and considerably cleaner, too. Impressive stuff. In practice it goes every bit as hard in the mid-range as the numbers suggest – a satisfying, whooshy punch that encourages you to squeeze the throttle and feel the surge, just for the hell of it. But it’s not perfect – there’s a fair bit of clatter at start-up, and not just from cold, and the engine chatters away in the background when you’re not going fast enough for the wind to drown it out. Not a deal-breaker by any means, not as raucous as Merc’s ageing 2.1-litre diesel for example, but the new Audi Q5’s 187bhp 2.0 TDI is a lot quieter.
If it’s smooth progress you’re after, then the petrol 2.0-litre turbo isn’t quite the left-field choice it once was – and suits the car rather well. A soaring 70s Alfa Busso V6 this is not, but with 276bhp, 296lb ft, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and some enhanced exhaust noise craftily pumped in through the speakers on hard throttle (despite every sinew telling us it’s a hateful ploy, we rather enjoyed it), it has more flair than you might expect. It places the Stelvio somewhere in the white space between a 249bhp Q5 2.0 TFSI and the 335bhp Macan S, and gives it a genuine sporty edge. Oddly though, for an engine that revs so freely, the redline is set at a rather abrupt 6,800rpm – “a necessity to hit emissions regulations” Fedeli tells us with a sigh.
The gearbox is invisibly smooth if you leave it to its own devices and don’t clog it too hard. Trouble is the long column-mounted and beautifully tactile metal paddles scream to be used and that’s when you realise it doesn’t have quite the snap of a twin clutch ‘box. The software has been programmed with a sporty experience in mind though – keep the DNA (drive mode switch for sharpening throttle, adding weight to the steering and speeding up shift times) in N for normal and it’ll shift up for you as you approach the limiter. Switch to D for dynamic though and it’ll hold onto the gear until you tug the right paddle. Full throttle upshifts in D are accompanied by a slightly unnecessary, faux kick in the back, too. If I wanted to be beaten up, I’d buy a Lotus, thanks.
Keep your enthusiasm at eight tenths, and through long-fast sweepers body roll is tightly controlled, grip is plentiful and the Stelvio generally does a passable impression of the Giulia, albeit from a higher perch. In tighter stuff the imitation thins, physics takes over and you do start to topple over and melt into unheroic understeer if you come in too hot. However, take a different approach, and on a greasy cold test track we begin to learn a little more about the Stelvio’s chassis. Slow in, then feed in the throttle as you exit a corner and you can sense the rear starting to slip, but by the time you’re dialling in some opposite lock, the Q4 transmission has shuffled 50 per cent of the power to the front axle, muting the slide. That’s followed immediately by the traction control (which you can’t turn off, in the standard car at least, insert sad face here) cutting in and snapping you back into a straight line.
Clearly, this is a pointless exercise if your Stelvio will only exist between your driveway and Tesco Express, but it shows without electronic nannying there is play in the chassis, and bodes well for the QV in which misbehaviour will be positively encouraged. Less good are the brakes, which are perfectly strong enough when you really step on them, but suffer from excessive squish and not enough bite at the top of the pedal’s travel. The steering gets a super-quick ratio – but somehow doesn’t feel that sharp. Cleverer people than I could probably explain this.