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- Highs Entertaining driving manners, enticing exterior design, energetic turbo-four engine.
- Lows Cargo space is smaller than rivals, back seat isn't very roomy, some unimpressive interior materials.
- Verdict The Stelvio provides a gorgeous and gratifying alternative to typical compact luxury crossovers.
The 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio's curvaceous shell and sublime handling help separate it from more familiar nameplates. While Alfa Romeo's compact luxury crossover isn't as refined or practical as rivals like the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, its Italian heritage and visual flair give it unique characteristics that stand out on the road. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine isn't unusual in this class, but its gutsy acceleration and raspy exhaust note appeals to the right side of our brain. The Stelvio shares a platform with the engaging Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan, and we love how nimble and responsive it feels despite having a higher center of gravity and extra weight. The excitement factor only increases on the 505-hp Quadrifoglio model, which we review separately. Apart from some uninspired interior pieces as well as a small back seat and cargo, the 2021 Stelvio is a treat to the senses.
What's New for 2021?
Alfa Romeo gives the 2021 Stelvio a more streamlined lineup and a series of minor updates. The company also reintroduces the "Sprint" moniker that was last seen on some of its most famous nameplates—the Giuletta Sprint and Giulia Sprint GTA, for example. It now applies to the base Stelvio trim, with the Ti and Ti Sport rounding out the rest of the tiers. Along with a selection of new exterior colors (Ocra GT Junior, Rosso GTA, Rosso Villa d'Este, and Verde Montreal), Alfa now offers optional 21-inch wheels. Built-in navigation and a dual-pane sunroof are newly standard on the Ti and Ti Sport. The latter also adds standard 20-inch wheels with a five-hole design, a dark exhaust, a limited-slip differential, and a rear diffuser. The rest of the changes include new and revised option packages.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We think the Stelvio Ti is the one to get. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is a $2000 option on the entry-level Sprint trim. The Ti adds desirable standard features that include larger 19-inch wheels, built-in navigation, a dual-pane sunroof, heated front seats, and more available options. Most paint colors cost extra and there's a variety of wheel designs, including a newly available set of 21-inch rollers. We'd stick with the stock rims and opt for the Active Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, etc.), the Performance package (aluminum paddle shifters, limited-slip differential), and the Premium package (Harman Kardon stereo, heated back seats, wireless charging, etc.). The latter requires adding the leather dashboard and upper doors, but these help dress up the interior, so we'd recommend it anyways.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Stelvio's turbocharged four-cylinder sends a hearty 280 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the base model, but all-wheel drive is optional and standard on the rest of the lineup. While the engine was effortlessly quick in our testing and sounded great, the Stelvio's sole setup—aside from the high-performance Quadrifoglio—eliminates choices for the buyer and limits towing to a maximum of 3000 pounds. During daily driving, we were particularly fond of its responsive throttle and smooth power delivery. Its raspy exhaust note sounded enthusiastic and appropriate for this application. In addition to its beautiful design, the Stelvio boasts athletic handling and a compliant ride. Even with its 20-inch wheels, the 2018 Ti Sport trim we tested provided sufficient isolation from all but the harshest bumps. While its maximum cornering grip was similar to rivals, the Alfa is the alpha dog when it comes to driving engagement. The chassis, which is shared with the Giulia sedan, had damping that was composed and comfortable. Although the Stelvio's steering isn't as sharp as the Giulia's, its light effort and quick reflexes were still exceptional—especially for a crossover.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Although the Stelvio's real-world fuel economy and highway range are unremarkable, they align with four-cylinder competitors. The EPA estimates the rear-drive version will earn 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Adding all-wheel drive drops that highway rating by 1 mpg. The Stelvio we ran on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, returned 26 mpg on our test route. The Alfa's unrivaled performance and unique persona make this a nonissue in our minds, but alternatives such as the X3 and the Lexus RX are thriftier at the pump.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Like the Giulia sedan, the Stelvio offers a stylish interior and a comfortable driving position. Sportier models can be had with carbon-fiber trim, but those seeking a more upscale appearance can choose wood inlays. In addition to a wonderful driving position, leather upholstery covers its supportive front seats, and handsome aluminum accents adorn the dash, doors, and center console. The Stelvio has some useful storage tricks up its Italian sleeve, but with a small cargo area behind the back seat, it's not the most capacious crossover among this set. Although the Alfa's other cubbies only held average amounts, we appreciated the useful smartphone slot between its cupholders and the tray near the driver's left knee. The center console also has a nifty removable tray at the bottom.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The infotainment system comes only in one size—8.8 inches—and responds to touch inputs as well as the handy rotary controller on the center console as a redundant control. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard, but in-dash navigation is optional. We found the infotainment system to be visually attractive, but navigation alerts occasionally occurred too late, resulting in missed turns. Using one of the two standard smartphone-integration interfaces for navigation solves this minor issue.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Italian-bred crossover is available with a host of high-tech safety and driver assists. Unfortunately, almost none of them are standard. For more information about the Stelvio's crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Despite the company's reputation for reliability woes, Alfa Romeo endows the Stelvio with average warranty coverage.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for one year or 10,000 miles