The Italian option. The 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the first SUV from the Alfa Romeo brand, and is a fitting expression of an Italian luxury SUV. It's as stylish as a Milanese handbag, with a look that sets it apart from every other luxury SUV on the market. The Stelvio's is far more curvaceous than your normal boxy SUV, and the sloping rear end sacrifices some cargo room for fashion.
Inside, the Stelvio comes standard with real cowhide, and real walnut and aluminum are used for the trim in some models. To increase the Italian-ness, Alfa Romeo borrowed some interior design aspects from Ferrari; they put the start-stop button on the steering wheel and the large aluminum paddle shifters stay in one place as you turn the wheel. It's different than most cars, but it won't be hard to get used to.
Hardcore performance. The Stelvio's name should give you some clues as to Alfa Romeo's performance goals for their first SUV. Named after a ribbon of tarmac considered to be one of the best driving roads in the world, Alfa wanted this to be the sportiest luxury SUV in its class, which is no small feat considering the likes of the Audi SQ5 and Porsche Macan. In large part they've succeeded; the Stelvio will hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds thanks to its 280-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is quicker than many base luxury SUVs currently available.
Additionally, the Stelvio receives Alfa Romeo's DNA drive mode selector, which stands for Dynamic, Natural, and All-Weather. Dynamic increases the throttle response while making the gearbox shift quicker and hold gears longer, while All-Weather will ensure the right wheels are getting traction in slippery conditions.
Most of all, the Stelvio loves the corners. Alfa Romeo gave it a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and a short wheel base, which gives it sports car-like handling characteristics despite its SUV proportions. Models equipped with the Sport trims are even better with their upgraded suspension, but the Ti Performance Package seriously ups the ante with adaptive suspension and a limited slip rear differential.
While the standard Stelvio holds its own, Alfa couldn't resist turning it up to 11 with the Quadrifoglio. With a 505-hp twin-turbo sourced from Ferrari, it'llll hit 60 mph in an insanely quick 3.5 seconds, and will continue to take you to triple-digit speeds if you aren't careful. It also comes with an additional DNA mode, R for Race, along with the adaptive suspension, a loud exhaust, carbon ceramic brakes, and fat tires to help put the power down.
In short, the Quadrifoglio is insanely fast, and should be taken very seriously.
Short on safety features. While the Stelvio puts a premium on performance, it does fall short compared to other brands when it comes to active safety. The Stelvio's suite of driver assistance features is only available as a $1,500 package.
These days, most of the Stelvio's rivals at least include some basic features like blind-spot monitoring and forward collision warning as standard, but even these features are extra with the Stelvio. Furthermore, automatic emergency braking isn't available until you get to the Ti model, and you'll have to spend an extra $500 to get it.
Problematic reliability. Alfa Romeo has made a recent return after an absence of several decades, but it appears that some of the old issues still ring true. Reliability has always been an Achilles heel to Italian brands, and while they've certainly made some improvements, current Alfas like the Stelvio still have their issues. While your mileage may vary, it's something to keep an eye out for.
Compounding the issue is Alfa's own warranty. While a four-year, 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is above average for your standard economy car, it falls short when compared to most other luxury brands who usually offer a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty. This means you can get stuck with costly repairs earlier than with other vehicles.
Final thoughts. The 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the crossover SUV for the person who enjoys driving. It handles incredibly well, has a reasonably powerful base engine, and can be equipped with a number of performance enhancing options like adaptive suspension and a limited-slip rear differential. For those in search of a thrill, the Quadrifoglio will pin you to the back of your seat like no other SUV on the road today under $100,000.
That said, while it's very stylish, the Stelvio doesn't bring anything new or exciting to the table in terms of luxury features. This makes it hard to make an argument in it's favor for those who aren't thrilled by curvy roads and just want a stylish SUV. Factor in the potential issues of reliability, and most luxury SUV buyers would be better off with something else.
Those looking for a more luxurious and technology-filled luxury SUV experience would be better off with the Audi Q5 or the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, as both offer enhanced tech that goes above and beyond what's available in the Stelvio. If you're primarily concerned with reliability, the Lexus RX has a reputation for a safe and worry free ownership experience like no other.