First Drive: Is Alfa Romeo’s updated Stelvio still worth considering?

Alfa Romeo has tweaked its Stelvio for 2023. Ted Welford tries it out.

The Stelvio was a real milestone model for Alfa Romeo, arriving in late 2017 as its first SUV, it made an impact, though perhaps didn’t amount to the significant jump in sales that the Italian firm hoped for.

The firm is now having a second wind with the arrival of its smaller Tonale SUV, but it’s not forgetting about the Stelvio yet, which is back with a number of small but noticeable changes to help it keep up with newer rivals, but does it succeed?

It was only a couple of years ago that the Stelvio last received an update, with this focused on bringing this SUV more in the way of driver assistance technology, as well as a more premium-feeling interior.

Photos: PA Media

This latest update doesn’t even go as far as that, with the main changes being new Matrix LED headlights, featuring the brand’s new ‘3+3’ signature, as well as the same digital instrument cluster from the Tonale, replacing the old analogue dials.

The engine choice on the Stelvio remains the same as before, and though the firm is ramping up its electrified models, there’s no hint of hybridisation here. A 207bhp 2.2-litre diesel is now Alfa Romeo’s only model to be powered by the fuel, but our test car instead uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol unit putting out 276bhp and 400Nm of torque. A ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox is also used, along with four-wheel-drive.

Accelerating to 60mph will take just 5.5 seconds, with the Stelvio able to hit a top speed of 143mph. The downside here is fuel efficiency, with Alfa Romeo claiming just 33.2mpg and high CO2 emissions of 192g/km. In the real world, however, you’re unlikely to even see 30mpg.

The Stelvio’s driving experience has always given an advantage over pretty much all its rivals, with the only exception being the Porsche Macan. We’re pleased to report that nothing has changed here.

The seating position is excellent, while elements like the fuss-free steering wheel with huge metal gearshift paddles demonstrate this is very much a car where the driver is the priority. Though the low-speed ride is a touch firm, once at higher speeds, any ride issues are quickly sorted. But it’s the way the Stelvio handles that really impresses. This is a fairly large SUV but it’s as agile as many hatchbacks, with well-weighted steering (especially in the Dynamic ‘D’ setting). Think an SUV can’t be good to drive? Try out a Stelvio.

A bad-looking Alfa Romeo is a very rare thing, and from the Stelvio’s inception, it’s managed that rare thing of making an SUV look both sporty and elegant. The front end gets the firm’s trademark triangular grille, while the new ‘3+3’ headlights help to give this SUV a slightly more aggressive appearance than its predecessor.

If looks are especially important, there’s a top-spec Veloce that will really appeal. This sits on larger 20-inch alloy wheels while getting a number of gloss black elements to give it a more menacing look. Alfa Romeo is also offering a special-edition Competizione model, sitting on the biggest 21-inch alloys, while also getting red brake callipers to help set it apart.

For all of the Stelvio’s stylish exterior design, it’s a shame the same level of effort isn’t invested into its interior. Though the addition of the new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is welcome, the rest of the cabin hasn’t changed all that much since the car first debuted in 2017. The quality, while far from poor, lacks the premium finish of rivals like the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Velar, and the central 8.8-inch touchscreen looks small by modern standards, and feels behind the times. It’s a shame Alfa Romeo couldn’t find a way of ushering in the impressive new screen from the Tonale.

It’s also not the roomiest car in its segment. The 550-litre boot is a very good size, and has a flat floor to help load items easier, but those sat in the rear will be surprisingly cramped. The smaller, and cheaper, Tonale seems to offer just as much room in this respect.

The Stelvio comes in a choice of two trim levels – Sprint and Veloce. There’s plenty of equipment included from the offset too, such as 19-inch alloy wheels, the twin screens and leather upholstery.

Upgrade to the Veloce and this brings the styling upgrades we’ve already mentioned, as well as a limited-slip differential to enhance the driving experience. Electric front seats are added, along with a power tailgate.

The Stelvio is an SUV that goes about its business differently to most rivals, putting a focus on the driving experience and styling above all else. In these two areas, it’s only the Porsche Macan that can come close.

But there’s no escaping the fact this Alfa Romeo, even with its latest tweaks, is beginning to show its age, with its interior feeling off the pace of its German rivals. Yet if you want an SUV that doesn’t follow the path and will delight you behind the wheel in a way few other cars of this type can manage, there’s a lot to be said for the Stelvio.

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