Launched locally at the end of last year and aimed at the mid-sized premium SUV market, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio m­uscles its way into this ever increasingly popular market with the catch phrase, “More than an SUV.”

I found clarity on the motto hurtling through the Franschhoek Pass down in Cape Town, where the launch was held. You find yourself taking tight and twisty bends in the comfort and space of a SUV, but with the agility and speed of a sports coupé. This is where the Stelvio comes into its own and you begin to appreciate why it’s named after the famous Stelvio Pass, which has 48 hair-pin bends and links Italy with Switzerland through the Alps. The performance is unbelievable because you don’t notice how quick  the Stelvio is due to it’s size, but a claimed 0-100km/h from standstill in just 5.7 seconds, gets you there fast.

Looking closer into the make-up of the Stelvio reveals the truths behind its high performance character. It shares the same Giorgio platform as its sibling the Giuila. This hair raising performance is thanks to some ingenious light-weighting design – it weighs in at a class-leading 1 660kg.

An aluminium bonnet, rear wings and suspension along with a carbon-fibre driveshaft is coupled with an all aluminium (206kW) 2.0-litre Turbo petrol engine which heightens sportiness and economy. All that together with sophisticated double-wishbone suspension creates minimal body roll through the bends. The direct drive through the Q4 All-Wheel Drive System is instantaneous and seamless thanks to the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Nothing unsettles this box as no matter what gear the auto selects down into after hard braking through the corners, it’s always the perfect gear. Once through the twisties switch from “D” (the dynamic setting) to either “N” (for normal) or “A” for better fuel efficiency on the DNA selector switch on the dash. Just like that you’re back to a softer more serene SUV mode.

The Stelvio borrows the same front end as the Guilia with new sexy Alfa Romeo trade mark nose design and is raised 200mm off the ground for good clearance. On the inside expect a luxurious modern feel with touches of aluminium and grey oak inserts as well as comfortable supportive leather seating. Smart on the Stelvio is experienced through an easy to use 8.4-inch U-connect infotainment system and seven-inch TFT instrument cluster.

Two derivatives of the Stelvio are available, namely the Stelvio Super edition or the First Edition with a standard equipment list that you would expect the from the premium segment. Some of them on the Super edition are an eight-speaker sound system, 18-inch alloy wheels, electric tailgate, parking sensors with reverse camera, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Hill Descent Control.

Additions over and above those that you can expect on the First Edition is a 10-speaker audio system and heated seat and steering wheel with gear shift paddles, 20-inch alloys, Blind Spot Monitoring, Active Cruise Control, sunroof and automatic levelling bi-xenon adaptive headlights along with plenty more. The starting price of the Stelvio is R810 000.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is without a doubt more than just an SUV as it blends both family limo with racing pedigree into one beautifully balanced machine with lots of flair and personality, that only the Italians know how to create.

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