First Drive: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The Stelvio may be Alfa Romeo's first ever SUV, but rather than borrowing some bits from sister company Jeep, the Italian marque has started afresh with the Stelvio – basing it on the platform of the recently launched Giulia saloon instead.

But is this Italian SUV a proper off-roader or just another Chelsea tractor? AOL Cars went to the Stelvio Pass in northern Italy to have a closer look.

What is it?

Alfa Romeo has taken a slightly different approach to its first SUV than that taken by other companies. By basing it on a saloon car, it aims to ensure the Stelvio's handling is superior to that of its rivals.

The SUV also shares the Giulia's rear-biased four-wheel-drive system, further allowing the car to be a tempting candidate for keen drivers in an increasingly competitive market.

What's under the bonnet?

At present, there are two engines to choose from. There's a 2.2-litre diesel unit that produces 207bhp and a 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol. There will be lower-powered versions of both these engines in the near future – 177bhp for the diesel and 197bhp for the petrol.

When the Quadrifoglio version is launched, it will have something more special under the bonnet, so those after a high-powered Stelvio will need to be patient.

That being said, the 2.0-litre petrol is not slow – it's capable of achieving 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds and going on to a top speed of 142mph. The 2.2-litre diesel isn't quite as quick, with a 0-60mph time of 6.6 seconds.

First Drive: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

First Drive: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

What's the spec like?

Alfa Romeo hasn't revealed the price of the Stelvio yet, but we predict that a middle-of-the-range model will cost about £40,000.

There are only three trim levels – Stelvio, Business and Super. The entry-level car is available with a variety of safety features - such as parking sensors - a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, keyless entry and 17-inch alloys, while Super and Business give you more premium trimmings, such as half-leather seats and larger alloys.

Other optional extras include a Harmon Kardon stereo, a 'full-grain' leather interior and a heated steering wheel.

Any rivals?

The price of the Stelvio puts it in a very dangerous place, going up against the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X4, Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan.

The Stelvio has an advantage over its German rivals in both style and driving pleasure. It has no problem holding its own.

What's it like to drive?

Alfa Romeo has designed the Stelvio to be fundamentally enjoyable to drive, not just a normal SUV with some sporty styling.

The driving position does not reflect the car's size and the cabin is more focused and enveloping than in most SUVs.

The steering is direct, accurate and delicate without feeling over-assisted. There's very little body roll in the corners and the car is lighter than any of its German rivals.

While the cabin could do with some more soundproofing, the Stelvio is fairly well refined and is comfortable for motorway cruising.

AOL Cars Verdict

The Stelvio will have some fierce rivals up against it when it goes on sale later this year, so it's a relief to see that Alfa Romeo's first SUV is as good in the key areas as it should be.

We like the way it drives, the way it looks and even the way it's put together, though it's not quite full marks just yet.

At this price point we'd like to see some characterful engine options and more sophisticated in-car technology, but compared with some rather humdrum-looking SUV rivals the Stelvio is rather appealing indeed.

The Knowledge

Power (bhp): 207
Torque (Nm): 470
Max speed (mph): 133
0-60mph: 6.6 seconds
MPG: 58.8
Emissions (g/km): 127
Price: TBC