Johannesburg - Call it sacrilegious if you will, but SUVs have become cash cows for carmakers and even sporting marques like Alfa Romeo have not resisted the temptation to jump on the bandwagon.

The Stelvio is Alfa Romeo’s first-ever SUV and it’s now available in South Africa, priced from R810 000.

Measuring 4.7 metres in length and 2.2m in width, the Stelvio is slightly larger than a BMW X4 and certainly leans towards the sportier side of the SUV market, and that extends to far more than just the styling.

Based on the Giulia sports sedan, the Stelvio makes generous use of lightweight materials, with many body components hewn from aluminium and plenty of smaller beneath the skin details such as the carbon fibre drive shaft.

It also comes standard with a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system that propels the rear wheels under normal driving conditions, only roping in the front wheels when extra traction is needed and even then only half of the torque can be sent up front. Also helping it slice through the bends is a sophisticated double wishbone suspension system and Alfa claims that the Stelvio’s steering ratio is the most direct in the segment.

For now all local Stelvio models will be powered by Alfa Romeo’s 2-litre direct injection turbopetrol engine, in this guise kicking out 206kW and 400Nm, and it's mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with alloy paddle shifters.

Alfa Romeo reckons the 2-litre Stelvio will get from 0-100km/h in just 5.7 seconds, and reach a top speed of 230km/h.

As with its Giulia cousin, the cabin is decked out with plenty of premium-looking materials. 

A 22cm ‘UConnect’ infotainment system is standard, operated via a rotary pad and featuring 3D navigation. 

Two models are available at launch, namely the Super and the limited First Edition:

Stelvio 2.0T Super - R810 000

The Super comes with leather seats (available in red, black or brown and with matching dash colours) as well as an eight-speaker audio system, power tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, auto headlights and wipers, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, auto-braking and hill descent control. The Super rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels.

Stelvio 2.0T First Edition - R946 000

This version adds full-grain leather seats (heated and powered up front), a 10-speaker audio system, active cruise control, keyless start, electric sunroof, blind spot monitoring, ‘sport’ pedals and steering wheel, Bi-Xenon adaptive headlights and 20-inch alloys among other perks.

All models are sold with a three-year/100 000km warranty and six-year/100 000km maintenance plan as standard.

Pricing versus rivals:

Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic180kW/370NmR742 198
Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro185kW/370NmR747 500
BMW X3 xDrive30i185kW/350NmR745 956
Range Rover Evoque si4177kW/340NmR787 958
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T Super206kW/400NmR810 000
Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Coupe 4Matic180kW/370NmR841 098
Jaguar F-Pace 2.5t AWD R-Sport183kW/365NmR848 200
Jaguar F-Pace 3.0t AWD R-Sport221kW/400NmR862 300
BMW X4 xDrive35i225kW/400NmR926 422
Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T First Edition206kW/400NmR946 000

IOL Motoring