It’s a pity that driver engagement hardly features on the list of must-haves when it comes to purchasing a car and even less so when we’re talking about SUVs.
It seems more important that the infotainment screen is the size of a small television, you can “Hey my Car”, Google, send mails, hashtag or anything else you can do from your laptop or PC than actually enjoy time behind the wheel.
Also, prospective vehicle buyers in South Africa don’t tend to be the most adventurous and like someone commented on one of the many forums we have a “follow the herd mentality”, which is why cars like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio don’t shoot the lights out.
Part of the reason is possibly that South Africans still obsess about quality, reliability and after-sales issues of days long gone without having done the most basic research, Stellantis which manages Alfa as well as Fiat, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroen and Opel haven’t spent a whole lot of money on marketing it (that’s changing though) or as said previously, we won’t get curiosity get the better of us.
Because if we did then I reckon there'd be a whole lot more Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T Veloce Q4s on the roads, especially if looks were the only criteria.
It recently received a slight nip and tuck with the most obvious being “3+3” full-LED Adaptive Matrix headlights harping back to the SZ Zagato of the 1990s, new-look tail lights, a revised grille and unique finish to the two main air ducts which Alfa says provides a contemporary reinterpretation of the famous and distinctive Trilobo grille.
Those of us that appreciate Alfa’s heritage will be pleased to know that the telescopic instrument panel design still features, suitably upgraded with a 12.3-inch digital TFT screen that can be configured to either Evolved, Relax or Heritage that harps back to the 60s and 70s with details like inverted numbers at the end of the speedometer.
So, we get to the rather small, in comparison to its rivals, 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen also with a rotary selector.
For starters it’s less distracting and does it do everything you expect from it?
The short answer is yes although it’s a bit laggy and the graphics aren’t great but it’s got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allowing you to mirror your phone although a slightly bigger option would not be amiss.
Pleasing too are the number of physical buttons and dials that have thank goodness, not been replaced by touch control.
The comfortable leather-trimmed sports seats do a good supporting job when things get twisty, the start button sits on the steering wheel and you can’t miss the large gearshift paddles mounted on the steering column.
Under the bonnet sits a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 206kW and 400Nm driving all four wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
The Q4 system allows the Active Transfer Case to power the rear wheels by default and as conditions change and it senses the car is reaching its traction limits (or according to which mode you’ve selected) it will send 50 percent of the power to the front wheels in less than 150ms.
I was fortunate enough to be in the car during the Festival of Motoring at Kyalami to experience it around the track first hand.
During my test week with the car I’d experienced glimpses of it but you’re obviously limited by public roads, not so on the track.
In Dynamic Mode there’s a significant change in the car’s reaction compared to Normal with increased throttle response, sharper steering and you also get to use the paddles which thanks to their size, means you can easily use the tips of your fingers to change the cogs.
With its 50:50 weight distribution and relatively light kerb weight of 1,660kg it has absolutely brilliant driving dynamics aided to by 255/45/20 rubber in the front and 285/40/20 at the back
The steering set-up is possibly the best in the business delivering an engaging and satisfying combination of directness, weight and feedback, in fact the whole driving experience is very much not SUV.
One thing I would like though is a more engaging exhaust note. It sounds a little underwhelming considering how well it performs and a few snap, crackles and pops would do nicely to compliment it.
And while it’s a fun car to drive fast it will just as easily do duty as a comfortable family daily SUV drive with 525 litres of boot space which is enough to swallow those bulky items.
It has a plethora of active and passive safety features with everything and more you would expect as standard (which would be options in its German competitors) apart from an electric sunroof.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T Veloce Q4s is a quintessential driver’s car and sure, it’s not Teutonically perfect, but that’s the beauty of it and I feel it deserves a lot more love than it's currently getting.
Oh, and you also get to say “I drive an Alfa.”
It comes with a five-year/100 000km warranty and maintenance plan.
Pricing: R1 205 500