Review: Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Destination Penzance, Cornwall, where country lanes are best suited to cars which are already scuffed. Cornish walls on narrow lanes hide under lush ferns and creepers. You do not see the hard bits.
Over a careless lifetime I’ve had “moments” with cars in this land of my childhood enchantment. The first bump was into the rear of a tourist from Bexley Heath. I don’t recall his car but it came off better than the façade of my Morgan 4/4.
I managed to get it repaired promptly and expertly, in a body shop in Hayle, across the estuary from our hotel in St Ives. I did return a few years later in my +8, which satisfied my need for power and didn’t need the man in Hayle.
By the time I started my time as a car tester, the wisdom “smaller is more” helped me squeeze through the narrow lanes when meeting incoming motorised fire. Not before the big one, the V8 Vantage Coupé, a thundering 600-horsepower Works job from Newport Pagnell. I didn’t do much harm, mostly mental guilt for mishandling this fabulous car, worth a quarter of a million in the late Nineties.
There was the scuffed front cheek when trying hopelessly to do a three-point turn in farming land near Kettering. There was the scarred air dam a day later entering the steep drive of a house in Petersfield. The A303 west towards Cornish bliss was a breeze. A trivial nick on the front wheel arch from a granite cul-de-sac in Penzance came a day later. The coup de grâce.
I am proud to say that the Alfa Romeo Stelvio sustained nothing more frightful than gull droppings.
An updated Stelvio is in showrooms soon so this was a last fling in the old one. Active safety is improved while “infotainment” upgrades address a few niggles. See www.alfaromeo.co.uk
My trip was a day before the 4 July re-opening of pubs in England. The Stelvio had encountered no delays. The motorways south were surprisingly quiet. The Gloucester farm shop services on the M5 were lightly used: bikers looked up as the Stelvio’s exhausts crackled.
The A30 which runs from Exeter over Bodmin Moor to Penzance was almost empty. I know this road so well but carelessly allowed the Stelvio’s satellite navigation system to detour us into Truro.
The navigation otherwise was prompt and accurate and easily understood, managed by a BMW-type i-control wheel. The journey recorded 27 miles a gallon. This is thirstier driving than I like (money, CO2 and other emissions) but swell all the same.
The raised chassis provides a ride with a view. The power reserves are almost bonkers in their superfluity for 2020.
This Green Cloverleaf version is the boss of the Stelvio stable and denotes ultra performance in the Alfa Romeo catalogue. Stelvio takes its name from the a 29-mile Pass in the Italian Alps.
There is all-wheel-drive which, even with the dynamics in the mild setting, will make the differential scrabble when manoeuvring on full lock. In normal driving all the power goes to the rear wheels, with up to half being switched to the front when grip is needed. I can’t tell you how it feels at Stelvio Pass g-factors. Suffice to say that the massive P Zero tyres will need Top Gear-type gusto to unstick. When these sorts of cars do go, they may be gone at such a speed to take you with them.
The interior was fabuloso: black leather and suede and red stitching. The front seats are side-bolstered for those hairpin moments. There is a carbon weave fillet playing across the fascia and door panels. The instrument layout is concise, as is the information screen, which is wide but too shallow for instructive mapping in these times of deeper, tablet-type displays. The lovely Alfa Romeo insignia looks cool in silver on the steering wheel hub. The cabin is roomy, the lid on the centre box is hard to unlatch. Each wing carries the green cloverleaf badge, otherwise, quite subtly dressed apart from saucy quad exhausts and bonnet louvres.
Ride quality and refinement and noise levels are good. Those wide Pirellis absorb as well as they grip. The demo car was fitted with skeletal cinque-foil alloys (£590) which exposed most of the hub and disc assembly.
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