By on December 19, 2017

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (280 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 306 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

22 city / 28 highway / 24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

10.8 city, 8.3 highway, 9.6 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $43,995 (U.S) / $57,995 (Canada)

As Tested: $53,640 (U.S.) / $63,240 (Canada)

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $1,895 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

A long-running stereotype of Italian cars is that they’re fun to drive and sexy in style, but also flawed and expensive. Not to mention unreliable – and expensive to repair.

Allow me to extend that stereotype to an SUV of Italian descent, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

At first glance, this compact luxury crossover is one of the best-looking out there, one of the few that’s actually attractive to my eye. After a week with it, my opinion of its looks remained the same – it’s a head turner.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. I was picking up lunch at a chain fast-food joint in a local strip mall and a gaggle of teenaged dudes went gaga over the Stelvio. I guess today’s youth have different cars postered on their bedroom wall than I did.

Beauty often comes at a cost, however. Alfa’s reliability woes are well known, so I had understandable concern that the Stelvio might give me guff during my time with it.

Those fears were unfounded – the Stelvio started and ran like a champ during its stay. That said, reliability is not accurately measured by such a small sample size.

Besides, there were other quirks that irked me. The first was an overly loud, unusually insistent warning chime that sounded while the tailgate was open. Sure, these warning tones are standard across the board, but this one was particularly obnoxious, with no easy way to turn it down or off.

Yeah, that’s an oddly specific complaint. But it speaks to the overall Stelvio experience. There’s a lot of good here, but you have to be willing to overlook oddities.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Perhaps a better example is the infotainment system. Alfa Romeo, as part of Fiat Chrysler, has access to that company’s excellent UConnect infotainment system, which is arguably the industry’s best. Yet the brand persists on saddling the Stelvio with a system that’s reminiscent of BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI. Not the current versions, either, but the much-maligned ones from a generation or two ago. To use the Stelvio’s infotainment system is to fight a battle with controllers and menus that one can’t really win.

At this point, Alfa purists and Italian car fans of all stripes are no doubt screaming “who gives a shift about such petty matters? What counts is how it looks and how it drives.” Fair enough, and save that quote in your mind for when I write up the Giulia.

This is where the Stelvio makes a case for itself. I already mentioned that I liked its exterior looks, and the interior is well-designed, too, notwithstanding infotainment knobs and a silly shifter.

What I haven’t yet gotten to is on-road performance. The 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder provide a nice amount of punch, and unlike with many crossovers, the steering and suspension provide an engaging experience that’s at least on par with the last Audi SQ5 I drove. This thing is never boring to drive.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

The ride is a tad on the stiff side but still compliant enough for commuting duty. Most of my driving was of the gentle cross-town sort and the Stelvio felt plenty at home. Of course, there are three drive modes from which to choose, depending on how aggressive you feel. Like many new vehicles, the Stelvio has an auto stop/start feature, and in terms of seamlessness, it’s about mid-pack.

Space is a little tight, as the Stelvio is a compact at the end of the day – the rear seat is a bit pinched for adults. Up front, there’s more room, enough for comfort. Rear visibility suffers a bit, though, thanks to the relatively narrow rear windscreen.

One can’t say the Stelvio isn’t well-equipped. Standard or available features included heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-pane sunroof, leather seats, custom-painted brake calipers, 20-inch wheels, blind-spot detection, rear cross-path detection, Harmon Kardon audio, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, Bluetooth, satellite radio, front and rear park assist, push-button start, remote start, auto stop/start, dual USB ports, hill-descent control, rear-view camera, power liftgate, and 7.0-inch infotainment screen.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

That list of features is about par for the class, and my test vehicle checked in at around $53K all decked out. That’s not unreasonable for a luxury compact crossover, at least not when compared to the competition, though some folks will never understand paying that much for a compact crossover no matter what the brand/performance/equipment level.

Part of the question on whether to Stelvio or not is to determine where you fall on the “fun versus practicality” equation. If you want a luxury crossover with an engaging (if at times annoying) personality, the Stelvio fits the bill, and does so without costing as much as the Porsche Macan and while offering more power than the turbo-four version of the Jaguar F-Pace. It struck me as being on par with the SQ5, with more visual flair.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

On the other hand, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 might serve as better daily drivers with fewer quirks. This is where personal preference comes into play. My preference would be for more crossovers that drive like the Stelvio, offer dashing looks, but cut the quirks.

Alfa Romeo reliability is going to remain a story for the foreseeable future, but if the brand improves in that area, the Stelvio will be a worth a look.

[Images © 2017 Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]

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59 Comments on “2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport Review – Flawed but Fun, the Italian Way...”

  • avatar

    Ah, another box on 4 wheels.

  • avatar

    “I guess today’s youth have different cars postered on their bedroom wall than I did.”

    I wonder if anyone actually has a poster on their bedroom wall of a box on 4 wheels?

    • 0 avatar

      I put the original Aurora on my dorm room wall (NAIAS poster) next to one of Bob Guccione’s models.

      I can’t picture car posters on the walls of today’s kids but then again if my 3 year old daughter says “I want to watch the “Race Cars” – she’s talking about a Pixar movie. Maybe it will rub off into something.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I mean, I’m only 24, so I grew up in the SUV age, but the only SUV I ever had on my wall was the AMG G-Wagen. In fact, most of the cars on my wall were my own designs.

      • 0 avatar

        Y’all just don’t want to know what cars were on my walls.

        Well, one that may be approved would be the first gen Mazda Millenia S. Some may call it bland, but I think its elegant, understated and frankly beautiful.

        I still like ’em. I’d pick this one up if I could (easy fixer, looks to be in decent shape, nice miles):

        Makes me really want to know what the higher end Amati cars would’ve looked like. I’d love to look at what their LS400/S-Class/7-Series/Q45 competitor would’ve been, assuming it was RWD and had the elegance of the Millenia.

        I even like the Millenia’s smaller brother, the Mazda Xedos 6 (which we didn’t get here, but its just a premium version of the period 626 with Millenia-like styling).

    • 0 avatar

      If they do, it’s the G-Wagen.

    • 0 avatar

      Trucks, maybe.

  • avatar

    “a gaggle of teenaged dudes went gaga over the Stelvio”

    I’d be more impressed if it was college girls.

    Stelvio makes me think of Stevia which is a sugar substitute.

    I know the grille is “HERITAGE” but god it looks like the “Son of Edsel” with that delta shape.

    How many pennies on the dollar will it be worth by the time the lease is up?

    • 0 avatar
      Add Lightness

      My guess is 25 cents on the dollar after 5 years unless it is perfect. 30 cents if it had 3 pedals (not even available in Europe I believe).

      How are supercharged Range Rovers holding their value?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I can’t see the front end of this thing and not see this:

    If I’m risking Italian reliability to get Italian personality in a cramped vehicle with poor cargo space and the face of an inset, I’d prefer a Giulia.

  • avatar

    Tis no headturner m’lord.

    Oh and kids don’t like cars because they’re not phones.

  • avatar

    Can you still make it go into limp mode by left foot braking?

  • avatar

    This car would not look good with my mandated NYS front license plate. No, not at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t run one.

      If you tell the dealer to not install the front bracket, it won’t spoil the looks.

      At some point you may get ticketed, but it’s not like it would be points on your license.

      • 0 avatar

        I do this currently and have for my last three cars. No front plate, no front bracket. I’ve never been pulled over for it, but I have been ticketed twice when I parked on the street at meters in a well-patrolled area. I’ve since taken to putting my front plate in the dash when I park and since then, no more tickets.

    • 0 avatar

      Lack of front plate is a secondary offense. You can’t be pulled over for this, alone.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    The Alfas must be selling like hotcakes. Our local dealer in Brentwood TN shows no special deals. They can’t even be bothered to post pictures of the actual cars in stock.

    • 0 avatar

      Haha, no, that’s just good old fashioned Italian mismanagement.

    • 0 avatar

      My local dealer has a bunch and he’s willing to deal……

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    Aren’t quirky, flawed, evil Mistresses the most exciting kind?

    BTW, with all these glamorous big budget SUVs coming, I think it’s time to leave out the ‘U’. Nothing utilitarian about these things anymore or does calling it a crossover get around that?

  • avatar

    My quick search on the websites of Alfa, Audi, and BMW suggests the Alfa can be leased at a competitive rate to the X3 and for less than a Q5, which suggests that Alfa thinks Stelvio resale value will be equal or better than an X3 or they are heavily subsidizing the leases.

  • avatar

    Lots of reviewers praise the Stelvio’s looks, but to me it just seems like a mid-size Mazda SUV… and not a fancy trim level, either.

  • avatar

    I think it looks good, but to me the shape is almost identical to the F-Pace and Levante.

  • avatar

    If you want to be really practical get loaded Honda CRV (practical people don’t waste money on depreciating items like luxury cars).

    But hey, ever stop and think how many more vehicles you will own in your lifetime? We might all be shuttled around by autonomous Ubers in 10-15 years (no joke). Why not live a little while you still can.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    My best friend and I both agree that the Stelvio is far more deserving of the flying-vagina-face insult than the B9 Tribeca ever was (see TTAC history). Well, he also thinks it looks like a urinal.

    In general, I don’t like SUVs without quarter panel windows. They tend to look cheap to me. The exception is the Kia Sportage, specifically the current one, which looks more upscale than it is.

  • avatar

    Just another amorphous CUV blob, with all the charming looks of a Nissan Rogue. And a black cave of an interior, all for only $20K more! That’s a nice shade of blue though, I liked it on the one Giulia I’ve seen on the road.

  • avatar

    Had a guy from the local Alfa dealership in Northern KY pop into my office yesterday…Alfa Romeo embroidered on his Patagonia vest, driving a fridge white Stelvio with base wheel/tire package and KY dealer plate. It looked, from the back at least, like a stripped-down Jeep Cherokee…

    I simply don’t see the point of this vehicle in the US market.

  • avatar

    Might as well go full crazy and get a 2 YO Levante.

  • avatar

    Five years from now this will be on my neighbor’s BHPH lot and he’ll sell it to me at a great price. But does this have common drivetrain parts with Jeeps and such? Or will it be all impossible to obtain pieces?

  • avatar


    Alfa’s durability is an open question, but what’s your take on the Stelvio’s build quality? I’m not sold…it just doesn’t feel the way a $50,000 vehicle should.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Stay tuned for my Giulia review, but it didn’t feel great. I’m always a little wary of writing about build quality, given the one-car sample size of a press loan, but it didn’t feel quite as solid as it could at this price point (although still fairly decent overall), and I probably should’ve touched on it a little more in the review. That said, I didn’t see any obvious panel gaps or other red flags that would catch my attention.

      I will comment on it more in the Giulia review, as I had it right after the Stelvio and it felt much less put together than the crossover.

      But yeah, for the Stelvio — build quality was good but maybe a little off for the price point, and nothing stood out as bad.

      • 0 avatar

        I recently sampled “bottom end” luxury cars and while none appears to have the “patina” of a well-build luxury car(these start a class higher) including (340i, S4, XE), Guila was especially lacking in that department. But according to the salesman Alfa is not a real luxury car, it’s supposed to be a good-looking performance car, a sportier, better-looking Fiat alternative. Exterior looks OK but interior doesn’t. The design is not great and the materials even less so. My nearest dealer sells Maseratis and Alfas and Alfas look like they don’t belong on the same lot.

  • avatar

    Since when are Italian cars expensive to fix? That may be true for the exotic brands, but Alfa Romeos and Fiats have generally been rather cheap to buy and maintain. Yes, they had product quality issues but these days they have tremendously improved.

    This is not related to the Stelvio, but when I was growing up my father owned a mid-1970ish Fiat 131 Mirafiori. I do not remmeber this car being unreliable in the sense that something broke on a daily or weekly basis. The car lasted pretty long as my father was still driving it in the early mid-1980s. We only had one family car at the time so we depended on this Fiat to work. And it did. It never let us down. I grew up in and with this car.

    That being said, rust was the biggest problems on Fiats (and all cars) from this era. Our 131 eventually rusted so badly it did not pass the TÜV inspection. By then (this was the mid-1980s) it was worthless and my father had it sent to the crusher. There was no emotional attachment to the car even though it had served us well. It was a cheap and disposable car which lasted long enough until something new came along.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an ’86 Alfa Spider for four years, sold it on 3-4 years ago. I really can’t complain about the reliability. I spent the first winter going through it and getting the maintenance up to date, then drove the wheels off it for four summers with nothing but oil changes and one crumbled fuse holder. Not bad for a 30yo Italian sports car. Still running reliably for the friend I sold it to.

      I would expect plenty of first year issues from any newly introduced car. But by the third year I would have no qualms. My second year of availability 2013 Fiat Abarth was perfect for the two years I owned it, with very few complaints of issues in the two active owner’s forums I was on. But “Fix It Again, Tony”…

      The only thing keeping a Giulia out of my garage is the lack of a stick shift. One thing I simply won’t compromise on in a new car – I can forgive the lack of a hatch, but not the lack of a stick.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with your last paragraph emphatically. The Giulia is a bona-fied sports sedan, meant to fill the niche seemingly abandoned by BMW. A manual option seems like a no-brainer. I really don’t get it, especially on the Quadrifoglio.

  • avatar

    Saw those two at SF AS – not impressed with looks – both look cheap and busy. Mazdas look more luxurious and better built. Comparing it with BMW and Audi is a tall order. It will most likely compete with Mazda – same kind of buyers may be attracted.

  • avatar

    The looks don’t do much for me. The Jaguar is more handsome and doesn’t suffer from the sad guppy face. Ditto with Volvo. Heck the considerably cheaper Countryman has a better schnozz than the Stelvio.

  • avatar

    I want to love this, and I am the market for it, having owned a couple X3s and an XC60 over the past decade or so. Apologies to the B&B for breaking the code, but my “fun” car also has to haul dogs, skis, bikes, etc., and have over six inches of ground clearance.

    But it’s a strretch. For not a lot more, I could pick up an X3 M-Sport or SQ5 with real, live 6-cylinder engines — and at least some resale.

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair, I’d at least drive it before I ruled it out completely. It may win you over.

      And, the collective B&B aren’t the end-all, be-all of vehicle choices, lol. Drive what you want, what fits your needs.

  • avatar

    Great car: here in Italy, and generally in Europe, is very appreciated.

  • avatar

    This thing screams CX-5 to me. The lines and the interior just look “Mazda”. That’s not really a bad thing if it wasn’t for the price tag in the 50s. I am a fan of the CX-5 with the exception of the complete lack of Tq/Hp in the name of saving a few bucks a week at the pump (I’d rather part with the few bucks). This CUV gets me the looks and the power but saddles me with Fiat/Chrysler parts sourcing and the resulting poor reliability. Don’t forget the endless recall visits to the dealership which results in way too much seat time in Chrysler 200s. Good attempt from a bad company. I’ll keep my 2015 3.0T XC60 for a little longer.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I test drove one of these about 2 months ago. My local dealer had a lot of activity around the Stelvio, and had sold one during my visit.

    A few impressions:
    1. The reported 5.4 second 0-60 didn’t feel like it. There is some turbo lag, followed by fairly linear power. The 8-speed transmission shifts a lot, but it’s smooth.

    2. Rear seating is tight.

    3. The turn signals’ mechanical function is odd. Other reviewers have noted this, too.

    4. Brakes – strong, but very non-linear. I rolled through a stop sign because the car wouldn’t stop, and then the brakes did a “whump-whump” all by themselves in the middle of the intersection. It was not an ABS thing. Prior stops had been uneventful.

    5. Exterior size – This is a larger, wider car than I expected.

    6. Looks – I really like the looks. But I found the interior to be a bit cold and hard.

    7. Value – My sample was ~$45k. Being an Alfa, it’s probably better to lease.

    Of the three cars I drove that day, my sons and I agreed on the following order of preference: (1) Kia Niro, (2) Chevy Bolt, (3) Alfa Stelvio. The Niro was a much calmer, better fit for the “CUV” name than the Stelvio.

  • avatar

    I have had the 280 hp rear-wheel-drive Giulia (sedan version of this car) for a year and it’s a lot of fun, particularly in the wet.

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