2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Review and Test Drive
A sporty crossover SUV with an Italian flair.
Alfa Romeo has been building beautiful automobiles for more than 100 years but hasn't offered them in the United States for all of that time. The legendary Italian automaker took a lengthy sabbatical from the U.S. market that started in the mid-1990s and lasted until Alfa Romeo introduced its first-ever SUV in 2018, the Stelvio. Named for the highest mountain pass in Italy, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio brings classic style and driving performance to the five-passenger compact luxury crossover SUV segment.
While Alfa Romeo is part of Stellantis — parent company to Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram — the 2023 Stelvio is nevertheless unique in the company's product portfolio. The styling is pure Alfa, with the automaker's traditional trefoil styling up front and classic five-hole phone-dial wheel design. A range of performance levels that includes the powerful Quadrifoglio ensures that the Stelvio delivers the driving characteristics expected of an Alfa Romeo.
Aside from minor updates, the Stelvio hasn't changed much since its introduction. It competes against the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Genesis GV70, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, and Volvo XC60. That's a long list of rivals, but the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio has a distinctive and irresistible Italian flavor that helps it stand out from the crowd.
2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Prices Are Competitive
The 2023 Stelvio comes in Sprint, Ti, Veloce, Estrema, Lusso, and Quadrifoglio trim levels with base prices ranging from the mid-$40,000s to the mid-$80,000s, including the destination charge to ship the crossover SUV from the Cassino, Italy, factory that builds it to your local dealership. Every Stelvio has standard all-wheel drive (AWD) except for the base-level Sprint, which is rear-wheel drive. (AWD is an option.)
For this Stelvio review, Alfa Romeo provided me with a 2023 Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which I test-drove in Redmond, Washington, near Seattle. It came with Verde Montreal Tri-Coat paint, a dual-pane sunroof, an Active Assist Plus driver-assistance package, and 21-inch dark-finish five-hole wheels, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $94,460, including the $1,595 destination charge.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Boasts Style and Substance
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio brings standout styling to the crowded compact SUV segment. Designers incorporate features from the brand's rich history, such as the classic triangular V-shaped scudetto, Italian for little shield, grille that has adorned Alfas since the 1950s.
With large lower air intakes and a sculpted hood, the Stelvio has a powerful stance. Signature LED lights flow from the center, surrounding the LED headlights.
Providing a hint of its higher performance level, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio features vents in the hood with a wider air intake in the lower front fascia. Bolder fender flares and the available 21-inch five-hole wheels add to the sporty look, as do the quad exhaust outlets. It attracts attention, especially the bright-green example I drove with its large, stylish wheels and burbling exhaust.
The Stelvio gets high-end interior materials and an extensive feature list at all trim levels. Leather-trimmed seats with power adjustment are standard, and you can add pizazz with the available red leather sports seats. The top-level Quadrifoglio gets sport seats in black with Sparco racing seats accented with white and green stitching as an option. Racing seats are not a typical seat choice in an SUV.
Depending on the trim level, the Stelvio's dashboard, doors, and center console get dark-gray wood trim paired with aluminum or genuine carbon fiber. Leather covers most other surfaces, and the cabin features subtle satin chrome accents. Standard ambient lighting adds a nice touch at night.
What's New for the 2024 Alfa Romeo Stelvio?
While the Stelvio hasn't seen a significant update since it first came to market, it gets one for 2024. New headlights, taillights, and grille insert adorn the exterior, while the interior benefits from a new 12.3-inch digital instrumentation panel presented in the classic binocular-style housing.
Unfortunately, my 2023 Stelvio didn't have those things.
It did, however, have the 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is standard on all Stelvios. Because the display has a larger black surround, an optical illusion makes the screen look smaller than it is. Alfa keeps the climate controls separate from the display, employing physical buttons and knobs for easy functionality.
Stereo volume and radio tuning use a single dual-purpose knob on the center console, where you'll also find a physical controller to use as an alternative to the touchscreen. Both are convenient and located near the gear selector.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio's Seats Look Good but Don't Feel Great
The leather-trimmed sport seats in my Stelvio Quadrifoglio looked good with a stylish pattern, contrasting stitching, and hefty side and thigh bolsters that provided excellent support. However, the seats were too stiff, and with limited padding they were uncomfortable, especially for longer drives.
The rear seats carried a similar pattern to those up front, and the two outboard seats were heated. While there is plenty of legroom and headroom, the back seats also lack padding, with the same uncomfortable result. The hump in the middle floor and protruding center console reduce legroom for the middle seating location, a space best reserved for a child.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio I drove is a high-performance machine, but it still provides the utility expected of an SUV. Loading is easy thanks to the hands-free power liftgate, and a cargo net with four tie-down hooks helps secure any loose cargo. However, with only 18.5 cubic-feet of cargo space behind the back seat, the Stelvio carries less than its primary rivals. The rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 configuration for added versatility, expanding cargo capacity to 56.5 cu-ft.
Intuitive Infotainment System Is Nevertheless Falling Behind
When the Alfa Romeo Stelvio came to market several years ago, its infotainment system was perhaps the worst aspect of the new SUV. I'm happy to say that this is one area in which Alfa has made significant improvements. In the 2023 Stelvio, the display is easy to read and features widgets for navigation, trip information, performance, audio, and other applications accessible by swiping to the left or right.
Owners can configure the order and placement of the widgets to make the most frequently used features easily accessible. You'll find all the widgets on the setup page, and you can drag and drop them to the preferred positions. Overall, the infotainment system is intuitive to understand and use.
There is a significant flaw, however. Unlike the natural voice recognition systems in other compact luxury SUVs, the Stelvio system requires specific phrases to use it successfully. For example, you can't say, "Give me directions to Starbucks." Instead, you must say, "Navigate to Starbucks." I tried to use the system to obtain directions to a few locations, but it never understood what I said. I ran into the same issue trying to change the radio station and finally gave up.
Need Directions? There's an App for That
Fortunately, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is standard, and their respective digital voice assistants work as you've come to expect. However, these platforms require a wired connection via a USB cable when many of the Stelvio's competitors offer wireless connectivity.
I plugged in my Samsung Galaxy S23+ to the conveniently located USB port at the front of the center console, with my phone fitting nicely in the slot between the cupholders. Connecting is quick and easy. Android Auto utilizes the entire display screen, but a home button next to the controller on the center console quickly returns you to the native infotainment system.
The Alfa Romeo Active Assist Plus Package Is a Worthy Upgrade
Alfa Romeo equips the Stelvio with the expected advanced driving-assistance systems. Still, some items require the optional Active Assist Plus package.
Available on all but the base-level Sprint, this upgrade package adds:
- Intelligent Speed Assist
- Highway Assist
- Lane-keeping assist
- Traffic Jam Assist
- Traffic Sign Recognition
- Blind-spot assist
My Stelvio Quadrifoglio had this package, so I sampled the Highway Assist system, which combines adaptive cruise control with lane-centering assist. It works well on the freeway, keeping the SUV a set distance from the car ahead and centered in the lane with minimal steering corrections. Note that Highway Assist is not a hands-free technology, so you must keep them on the steering wheel, or it won't work.
As far as crash-test ratings go, the Stelvio remains a mystery. As of publication, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has performed crash testing on this SUV.
Stelvio Quadrifoglio Specs Reveal a Speedy SUV
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio has a Ferrari-derived twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 engine under the hood, delivering 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful engine ever put into a production Alfa Romeo. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, driving the full-time all-wheel-drive system through a class-exclusive carbon-fiber driveshaft. Alfa says the Stelvio Quadrifoglio will sprint to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and can reach a top speed of 176 mph.
The Environmental Protection Agency lists the base Stelvio AWD model's fuel economy at 22/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined. However, moving up to the powerful Stelvio Quadrifoglio drops fuel efficiency to 17/23/19 mpg. According to the test vehicle's trip computer, my result was substantially less than the EPA rating, showing 15 mpg after driving about 150 miles.
Perhaps I enjoyed the Quadrifoglio's quick acceleration a bit too much. But in my defense, it would be easy to imagine an owner would use the most powerful Stelvio similarly.
What It's Like to Drive the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
For the performance enthusiast, full-throttle acceleration in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio can make you forget any of this Italian SUV's flaws. Not only does it launch from a standstill with enough verve to shove all passengers into their seats, but it does so with a roaring exhaust that barks loudly with each shift to the next gear, creating an immersive aural experience.
The Stelvio offers three driving modes via the Alfa DNA Pro Drive Mode selector next to the gear shift. DNA represents the three modes: D is Dynamic, typically called Sport mode; N is Natural, or Comfort mode; and A is Advanced Efficiency, geared to provide the best possible fuel economy at the expense of performance.
These three modes are available on all Stelvio variants, but the Quadrifoglio also gets a Race mode, which turns off the stability and traction-control systems while firming up the suspension and opening the dual-mode exhaust.
Where the Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes into its own is pushing it hard on a curvy back road. Though I kept the SUV in Dynamic mode, the handling is undeniably impressive for a five-passenger crossover. It's more akin to a sports car, thanks to excellent steering with instantaneous response and a suspension that limits body roll and ensures stable cornering. High-performance Pirelli P Zero tires provide plenty of grip, aided by the all-wheel-drive system and a torque-vectoring rear differential.
Since the Quadrifoglio has the power to reach high speeds quickly, Alfa provides capable brakes to match. A Brembo high-performance braking system is standard, featuring vented discs with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers. The braking is impressive, and the pedal is easy to modulate around town and when driving the Stelvio near its limits. Carbon-ceramic brakes are an option, a feature typically found in high-end sports cars.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio provides the confidence to fully enjoy it on a twisty road but is perfectly agreeable when driving around town or cruising on the freeway, especially if you switch to Natural mode.
Easy to maneuver in urban and suburban driving situations thanks to good visibility and supplying more than enough power to merge onto the freeway effortlessly, the Quadrifoglio has a docile and domesticated side to its personality.
In addition, in Natural mode, the ride is smooth. Comfort complaints stem from the seats, not the suspension. However, the elevated road and wind noise levels are surprising for a luxury model, requiring occupants to raise their voices to converse.
The Quadrifoglio may be the high-performance variant of the Stelvio, but a $90,000 vehicle should have better sound deadening.
Exclusivity and Style Sell the Stelvio
When it comes to Italian cars, an SUV is not typically what comes to mind. But the Alfa Romeo Stelvio successfully incorporates historic brand styling cues and impressive performance into a practical five-passenger crossover SUV. In addition, the premium materials, intuitive infotainment system, and advanced safety features are certainly pluses for the Stelvio, but I wish the Quadrifoglio's seats were more comfortable.
While all variants of the Stelvio offer good performance, the Quadrifoglio stands out with a powerful engine, excellent handling, strong brakes, roaring exhaust, and sporty styling. You could choose another performance-tuned alternative such as the BMW X3 M or Porsche Macan GTS, which offer similar performance to the Quadrifoglio. Still, neither can match the exclusivity and Italian flair of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.