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2019 alfa-romeo Stelvio

If you're familiar with Alfa Romeo's history, you'll know the Stelvio isn't the brand's first SUV. But while its 1950s predecessor was essentially a rugged Italian Jeep built for the army, the Stelvio is a true performance model aimed at the likes of Porsche and BMW.

Buyers who want an even sportier SUV can step up to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which puts over 500 horsepower under the driver's right foot.

Recent changes
For the latest model year, Alfa expanded the Stelvio line-up with a rear-wheel drive variant. It also added Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Overview
Named after a famous mountain pass in the Alps, the Stelvio joins the Giulia sedan as Alfa's second modern mainstream model for the United States market since the 1990s. Visually, it adopts the Italian brand's most recent design language and gets a V-shaped grille flanked by horizontal air vents and sharp, elongated headlights.

It looks more utilitarian than any Alfa in recent memory when viewed from the side, but it's still more stylish than the average SUV. The hood is long, and the roof line peaks right above the driver before sloping down towards the rear end.

Life aboard
Inside, the Stelvio channels Alfa Romeo's performance heritage. The three-spoke steering wheel and the analog gauges are reminiscent of the brand's historic models, while the center console puts all of the key controls within the reach of the driver.

A wide screen is neatly integrated into the dashboard. It groups the SUV's connectivity, navigation (if equipped), and entertainment functions into a single unit controlled via a knob on the center console.

Standard and optional features
The Stelvio lineup is broken down into two trim levels named base and Ti, respectively.

The base model comes with Alfa's drive mode selector, a carbon fiber driveshaft, dual exhaust tips, 18-inch aluminum wheels, leather upholstery, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, a 6.5-inch screen for the infotainment system, a rear-view camera, parking sensors, remote start, keyless entry and start, a power liftgate, and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

Buyers have several option packages to choose from. Notably, the Ti trim's sport package includes 20-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, 12-way adjustable sport seats, shift paddles, a sport steering wheel, black roof rails, aluminum pedals, and painted brake calipers. The Lusso package adds Pieno Fiore leather upholstery with Cannelloni inserts, 12-way adjustable seats, leather upholstery on the dashboard and the door panels, dark gray oak or light walnut trim, and aluminum pedals.

Technical specifications
Both the base and Ti models ship with a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 280 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 306 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. Rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission come standard, while Alfa's Q4 all-wheel drive system is offered at an extra cost.

The Stelvio hits 60 mph from a stop in 5.4 seconds, which is fast enough to keep up with the German competition. Given enough tarmac it goes on to a top speed of 144 mph.

Fuel economy checks in at 22 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg in a combined cycle. Properly equipped, the Stelvio can tow up to 3,000 pounds.

Occupant safety
Every Stelvio comes standard dual front, front side, and curtain airbags in addition to electronic stability control, hill descent control, and traction control in addition to front, side, and curtain airbags.

Key competitors
The Stelvio competes in one of the most crowded segments of the market. Its rivals include the BMW X3, the Audi Q5, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, and the Jaguar F-Pace. Buyers willing to lose a bit of sportiness and gain in luxury should also look at the Volvo XC60.