As part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Alfa Romeo brand was expected to play a critical role. How it will shake out under the new Stellantis is less clear. But one thing is certain, Alfa will soon have to prove it can rebuild its stalled momentum with the launch of its second SUV, the Tonale.
Repeatedly delayed, the Tonale will make its debut a little more than two weeks from now, in what the Italian automaker is calling “La Metamorfosi,” or “The Metamophosis,” scheduled for a webcast on Feb. 8 at 9 a.m. EST.
Slotting below the brand’s current Stelvio model, the Tonale is meant to put Alfa more into the mainstream of sporty SUVs. But it comes to market more than a year after the original schedule called for.
Plenty of headwinds
According to insiders, the Tonale project ran into a number of headwinds, including problems with the plug-in hybrid drivetrain it will offer. The situation grew even more complicated during the COVID crisis and the subsequent shortage of semiconductor chips that has delayed plenty of other new product launches.
There is little doubt that Tonale will be a critical product for Alfa Romeo. From the time the old Chrysler and Fiat merged a decade ago, former FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne aimed to turn the Italian marque into one of the company’s most import brands. But things haven’t worked out nearly according to plan.
The Giulia sport sedan and Stelvio SUV have generated only a fraction of the sales forecast by Marchionne — who died unexpectedly following surgery in July 2018. A variety of projects have been delayed, or scrubbed entirely. And plans have shifted again since Fiat Chrysler merged with France’s Group PSA last year to form Stellantis.
Alfa is still seen as a critical part of the new carmaker’s portfolio, but it will have to justify the money it is seeking considering Stellantis has to feed 14 brands going forward. So, Tonale will need to deliver a solid hit.
A concept version of the sporty crossover made its debut at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, and the production model is expected to hew closely to the show car’s basic design, as least according to recent spy shots.
Under the skin, Tonale shares underpinnings with the latest-generation Jeep Compass. That means it should measure about 178 inches in total length, or about 7 inches shorter than Stelvio. The smaller model is expected to ride on a roughly 104-inch wheelbase, with a width of 72 inches and a 63-inch height.
Concerns about the plug-in hybrid driveline used for the European Jeep Compass have been blamed for initial delays in the Alfa Tonale program. That said, a PHEV will be central to the production program, though two different versions are thought to be in the works. One, making an estimated 240 horsepower, should arrive in the States. The other, likely targeting overseas markets, will make a reported 190 hp.
The lithium-ion battery pack is said to store just over 11 kilowatt-hours which should yield as much as 30 to 40 miles of all-electric driving. It’s unclear if the system will allow a driver to plug into a high-speed charger or max out at 240 volts.
A diesel is also believed to be in the final option package but there’s no word on whether a gas-only model will be available, as well.
Look for the interior to offer the classic Italian design cues found in Stelvio, albeit a little less lavishly executed. The Tonale also will have plenty of technology onboard, including Alfa’s take on the Uconnect infotainment system and a variety of advanced driver assistance systems.
Pricing should be key to building interest in the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Expectations are that the base model will come in around $35,000. That’d be about $10,000 less than the 2022 Alfa Stelvio — but almost $9,000 more than the stripped down, gas-only U.S. Compass model. Look for the Tonale to finally show up at American dealerships by summer.