Alfa Romeo rolls out its first SUV – USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — The rebirth of the Alfa Romeo in the U.S. is finally starting to look real.
While the brand’s reintroduction has been delayed many times over in recent years, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Wednesday will pull the wraps off of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio — its first SUV and the second major launch for the stylish and sporty Italian performance brand.
Despite its delayed American rebirth, Alfa Romeo isn’t holding back on modesty.
With the 2018 Stelvio, Alfa Romeo is brazenly setting the bar high for itself with a host of promises that will continue to stoke anticipation among Alfisti, as the brand’s enthusiasts are known.
According to Alfa Romeo, the Stelvio will deliver “race-inspired performance, real-world driving confidence, state-of-the-art technologies, seductive Italian style and an exhilarating driving experience to the premium mid-size SUV segment.”
The Stelvio joins the Alfa Romeo Giulia that should begin reaching U.S. dealerships this month and the 4C roadster that has been on for just over two years. The Stelvio also give the brand its first SUV in Alfa Romeo history.
When it arrives in the U.S. next year the Stelvio will compete in the hottest luxury segment against vehicles such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Infiniti QX60, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLE Class, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90. It also may compete with the Maserati Levante, a mid-size SUV from its sister brand that went on sale earlier this year, but will likely be priced lower.
“The all-new Stelvio, named after one of the greatest driving roads in the world – the Stelvio pass in the Italian Alps – sets a new benchmark for the segment,” said Reid Bigland, head of Alfa Romeo. “Stelvio is uniquely engineered to challenge two-door sports cars on the track, without sacrificing any of the characteristics you would expect from a premium SUV.”
The Stelvio and Stelvio Ti models feature an all-new, all-aluminum, 2-liter, direct-injection turbo engine that delivers 280 horsepower, allowing it to achieve a top speed of 144 miles per hour.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio – the top-of-the-line variant of the SUV — is equipped with a 2-liter, direct-injection turbo engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission that generates 505 horsepower, powering it from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds.Top speed is 177 miles per hour.
The Quadrifoglio model also comes with performance features that include an ultra-lightweight carbon fiber shell Sparco racing seats that provide maximum lateral support during extreme cornering and high-performance Brembo carbon-ceramic material brakes.
Alfa Romeo also is promising that performance will be assisted by a unique chassis control system. The system coordinates all of the vehicle’s available active systems – including stability control, torque vectoring differential and Alfa Active suspension system.
The performance oriented design and characteristics also are evident in the interior. The Stelvio which includes a Formula One-inspired steering wheel. Behind the steering wheel are all-aluminum column-mounted paddle shifters and a 7-inch cluster display straddled by two large white-on-black face analog gauges.
Pricing, fuel economy and a more specific on-sale date were not provided.
But even with the arrival of the Giulia this month and the Stelvio next year, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plans to re-establish Alfa Romeo in the U.S. and turn it into a competitive premium brand continues faces enormous odds.
The brand’s lineup also is finally reaching the U.S. as industry are starting to plateau, putting pressure on all automakers to compete for market share rather than being able to build sales amid a growing industry.
Marchionne initially talked about Alfa Romeo returning to the U.S. as early as 2012 but put those plans on hold. Then, in 2014, he announced plans to launch eight new Alfa Romeos by 2018 under a $7 billion plan to take on premium German brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
But various parts of that plan were put on hold because of technical development issues and because of changes to the global sales environment.
Marchionne is betting that the performance of the Alfa Romeo models along with distinctive Italian design will set it apart as something new and different.
The Stelvio comes off of the same platform as the Giulia sedan — a brand new architecture FCA engineers developed to underpin it and at least four other new Alfas.
According to Alfa Romeo, the plaform embodies “La meccanica delle emozioni,” or the mechanics of emotion and spirit.
The architecture can support vehicles that are longer, shorter and wider than the compact Giulia sedan. Other FCA brands including Jeep may use it for future vehicles.
“I think it has proved out to be all and more than we expected,” Marchionne said last month. “I think we now have the basis on which we can build a phenomenal rear wheel or all wheel drive environment which may spill over in some form even as far as Jeep.”
Fiat Chrysler unveiled the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan in the brand’s historical birthplace of Milan, Italy in June 2015.
Graced with advanced engines and razor-sharp steering, the Giulia could turn a new generation of driving enthusiasts into Alfisti, as Alfa fans have been known throughout the brand’s 106 years of speed and style.
Fiat Chrysler has said the Giulia sedan should begin reaching U.S. dealerships this month.
Alfa Romeo began selling the 4C — a small two-seat roadster — in the U.S. in 2014 but only intends to sell about 1,000 per year in the U.S. The company has sold 441 4C’s so far this year in the U.S.