Mention the words Alfa Romeo to most American motorists, and their minds wander off to a vague romantic notion of automobiles.
The name conjures up an exoticness that makes women wistful and men passionate. Certainly, it’s a marque with models that still stir the soul decades after their production, such as the 8C 2900, the Tipo 33 Stradale, the Disco Volante, the Montreal and the 1600 Spider Duetto, memorably driven by Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.”
The question is, does the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema Q4 belong alongside such monumental forbearers?
Named for one of Italy’s finest driving roads, the Stelvio Pass, Alfa Romeo’s luxury compact SUV returns for 2023 in Sprint, Ti, Lusso, Veloce, Estrema and Quadrifoglio trim. We tested the Estrema, which benefits from having the adaptive suspension and the torque-vectoring limited-slip rear differential from the Quadrifoglio, along with specific trim.
Black 21-inch alloy wheels, black brake calipers, carbon fiber and gloss black trim accents distinguish the Estrema from its stablemates. It’s not your usual box, with a sloping roof, and taut, yet soft surfaces that simultaneously render it sumptuously sensuous and fast. And its compact dimensions make it a breeze to drive in a world accustomed to bloated XXL full-size pickups. Our vehicle’s bright electric blue made it easy to spot in a colorless sea of with black, white, gray and beige boxes. It’s too emotional of a design to be boring.
Compared to some interiors, the Stelvio’s cabin feels a bit cozier, a feeling reinforced by the prominent, if narrow, front-seat bolsters. Leg room in the front is fine and acceptable in the rear. Cargo space is OK, but some competitors have more. Pack lightly; for you’re going to enjoy the ride.
And when you do, you’ll find the controls easy to use and operate. Leather trim is standard, and our Estrema feature red contrast stitching across the instrument panel. It had a distinctively premium Italian feel, being luxurious without being overindulgent. Bravo.
And when it comes time to haul you’ll find its luggage capacity is 18.5 cubic feet, expanding to 56.5 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. That’s more than enough for most chores.
Most Stelvio models get their juice from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine rated at 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission and Alfa Romeo’s DNA Drive Mode selector are standard.
So too is Q4 all-wheel drive with the exception of the base Sprint model, which comes with rear-wheel drive, although all-wheel drive is optional. Quadrifoglio models get far more power, thanks to a Ferrari-derived double-overhead-cam twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6 that delivers 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque.
Opting for the 4-cylinder mill dials up 60 mph in 5.4 seconds on its way to a 144-mph top speed. The six accomplishes the same task in 3.6 seconds on its way to 176 mph.
But if you want to tow, you’ll have to settle for the smaller powerplant, which can yank up to 3,000 pounds.
And regardless of which engine you choose, you must use premium unleaded gasoline. The EPA rates the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway. We got 22 mpg in mostly highway driving. Then again, we tend to have lead feet.
Safety and Technology
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Driver assistance systems include Highway Assist System, Traffic Jam Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane-Keep Assist, Blind-Spot Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Intelligent Speed Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking and Collision Warning.
The tech package is up-to-date, featuring a wireless hotspot, Wi-Fi hotspot, mobile app with remote operation, over-the-air updates, a 7-inch thin-film transistor driver instrument cluster and an 8.8-inch center infotainment touchscreen with an easy-to-use interface. While the screen seems noticeably smaller than most competitors, its functionality is every bit as good, without the distraction of a large screen constantly glaring at you.
Some vehicles just get better with age, and the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio proves the point. The turbo 4 provides lots of muscle, more than enough to keep you entertained, particularly in Dynamic driving mode. There’s little if any turbo lag, with power always on tap when you need it, with a linear power delivery that belies its turbocharged origins. That said, Normal mode seems a stingier than Dynamic, but not enough to put a damper on things.
The vehicle’s paddle shifters were welcome, although not needed most of the time as the transmission seemed to read our mind when it was time to upshift or downshift. Its logic and timing were impeccable. Steering is fairly light, but quick and accurate. Ride quality was very good, the adaptive suspension delivering the mix of sports car like handling and premium ride comfort that’s always appreciated. But there was a fair bit of road and tire noise, too much considering its price.
Interior assembly quality was excellent, with items that previously proved problematic, such as a loose, flimsy starter button, no longer apparent.
2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema Q4 Specifications
|L: 184.6 inches/W: 74.9 inches/H: 66 inches/Wheelbase: 110.9 inches
|2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive
|22 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined
|280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $51,525; As tested: $61,580 including $1,595 destination charge.
In a world of sameness, the 2023 Alfa Rome Stelvio Estrema is a different flavor, one distilled from the essence of Alfa Romeo, a company that’s been building cars for 113 years with a passion as only the Italians could muster. It makes drive something as plebian as an SUV a true daily driving delight.
2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio – Frequently Asked Questions
Is Alfa Romeo discontinuing the Stelvio?
Yes, in 2026. In 2027, it will become an EV-only brand.
How much is a 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4?
It starts at $46,200 for the base Sprint model.
Is the Tonale replacing Stelvio?
No. The smaller Tonale sold alongside the Stelvio in the Alfa Romeo line-up.