Alfa Romeo knows that if it wants to find any long-term success in America, it needs more than the track-toy 4C and the Giulia sport sedan. Enter the Stelvio – a luxury crossover infused with the emotion and performance that's the backbone of the Alfa Romeo ethos. As more buyers skew toward high-riding hatches rather than low-slung four-doors, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is a compelling choice for those unmoved by mainstream luxury 'utes.

Best Value

The Stelvio is offered in three trims: base, Ti, and the fire-breathing Quadrifoglio. As much as the thought of 505 horsepower from a Ferrari-derived V6 entices us, it's the Ti that best balances features and price. Additional niceties over the already well-equipped base model include the 8.8-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM radio, 19-inch wheels, front parking sensors, heated seats, and genuine wood trim.

A few different packages are available, but the two that catch our eye are the Ti Performance Package and the Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package. Here's our Stelvio after the Italians piece it all together:

  • Model: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 280 hp / 306 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 22 City / 28 Hwy
  • Options: Ti Performance Package ($1,500, adaptive suspension, limited-slip differential, paddle shifters), Navigation ($950, required with Performance Package), Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package ($1,500, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, infrared windshield, lane departure warning), Driver Assistance Static Package ($650, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-dimming mirrors)
  • Base Price: $45,240 (including the $1,245 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $49,840

Performance

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Spend enough time driving the Stelvio and you'll forget that this hoot of a car is actually a crossover. Even in base trim, the Stelvio's performance chops let it play with the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace, the segment's standard-bearers in the performance arena.

Most versions of this Italian stallion will be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. This is more power than stalwarts like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLC, and is enough to let the Stelvio do zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds as it heads toward a top speed of 144 mph – two other segment-trumping stats. Fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway is also right in line with the competition.

Alfa hooks this motor up to an eight-speed automatic, a ZF-built unit that can be found in most FCA products these days. There's a good reason this transmission is put in everything from the Chrysler 300 to this Stelvio – it's a darn good gearbox. When set to the most balanced setting (Natural, in the parlance of the slyly-labeled DNA driving modes), shifts are crisp and well timed. Call on it to downshift and it does so quickly and willingly, and it'll refrain from upshifting if you ask it to.

While those are the stats for the volume powertrain, the Quadrifoglio ratchets all that up a notch or three. The 2.0-liter four is swapped out for a 2.9-liter V6 (derived from a Ferrari engine) that makes a thunderous 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. If the zero-to-60 time of 3.6 seconds or top speed of 176 mph doesn't seem like enough, upgrade to a fighter jet or Bonneville land-speeder.

Handling the Quad's gear changes is a upgraded version of the eight-speed found in the four-cylinder Stelvios. It's just as excellent here as it is in the lesser models. Considering the firepower on tap, we're fully supportive of leaving the DNA drive mode selector in Dynamic mode, where gearshifts border on brutal and redline shifts are business as usual if you hammer the go pedal. If there's any crossover that would be at home on the track, it's the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

Style

You might see a familial resemblance between the Stelvio and the Giulia, and if so, that's intentional. However, we feel that the Stelvio better wears the Alfa design language than its sedan counterpart. With the added ride height and taller snout, the classic triangular "trilodo" grille that's so definitive of the brand looks at home here. Combined with the inward-canted headlights and the horizontally-oriented lower air ducts, the whole front end has more than a whiff of exotic sportiness to it. Coming around to the flanks, the highly sculpted character lines also inject emotion into this already-emotional car and give the Stelvio one of the better-looking profiles in the segment. If looks alone are the major factor in your purchase, this Alfa will have you signing on the dotted line.

Unfortunately, in the quest for form, it seems that Alfa forgot about the function bit of the equation. Thanks to that sloping roofline, the 18.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row is disappointing. And with just 31.9 inches of leg room, the second row is best used by those still in grade school.

The Alfa's cabin is well equipped, but the quality left us wanting. Especially compared to the luxury 'utes this competes against, the second-rate materials and subpar fit and finish were letdowns. At least the infotainment system is FCA's excellent Uconnect, which comes packaged in a seven-inch touchscreen on base models and 8.8 inches elsewhere.

The Best and Worst Things

The on-road performance is one of the best of any crossover on sale these days. Between the eager powertrain and lively handing, you'll have a ball just wheeling this to the mall.

Unfortunately, the interior's subpar materials as well as fit and finish reminded us that Alfa Romeo is still a fledgling luxury brand. If it wants to be truly competitive, it needs to do more than make lust-worthy powertrains – it needs the interiors to go along with them.

Right For? Wrong For?

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Those who love the expressiveness of exotic Italian style and performance – and don't carry many people or things – would be happy piloting a Stelvio.

However, if you're looking a well-rounded luxury crossover to use as the family-hauler, the lack of space and rear leg room make this a non-starter.

The Bottom Line

Whether they succeed or fail, Alfa Romeo's attempt to reenter the American market is one we're happy to see. While the general goodness of the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio doesn't guarantee the brand's long-term success, its attractive silhouette and smile-inducing powertrain make a strong case for Italian engineering in a German-dominated segment. If Alfa can just class up the materials and carve out a bit more leg room for second-row occupants, the Stelvio will truly be ready for prime time.