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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti

      When an Italian does a compact luxury crossover

    Trying to review an Alfa Romeo vehicle is difficult as I found out with the Giulia Quadrifoglio. There were parts of model that I found to be quite amazing and worthy of putting it on my year-end favorites list. But other traits and details left a very sour taste in my mouth. I ended my review with this line,

    “To some, that is the charm of an Alfa Romeo. Within all of those flaws is a brilliant automobile. For others, it is something that should be avoided at all costs.”

    Now I find myself in the same difficult position with another Alfa Romeo, the Stelvio. My fingers were crossed that the Stelvio would avoid some of the pitfalls from the Giulia.

    If you were to ask me to describe the Stelvio’s design, I would say it is a tall riding Giulia hatchback. The shared DNA is made quite clear in the front as there is a three-leaf design for the grille, narrow headlights set at a slight angle, and there are deep cuts in the hood. More of the Giulia can be seen in the side profile with flowing curves and noticeable fender bulges. One design trait that sets the Stelvio apart from other luxury crossovers is the sharply raked d-pillar that gives it a sporty edge.

    The Stelvio’s interior mirrors the Giulia with the same modern design and mixture of high-quality and very cheap materials. I also had an odd build quality issue where the button for the driver’s heated seat would get stuck. I would have to press the button a few times to dislodge it. This is a bit worrying for a brand with a very questionable reliability history.

    A set of leather sport seats that are part of an optional sport package came equipped. With increased side bolstering, the seats do an excellent job of holding you in during an enthusiastic drive. It is a shame that the seats aren’t comfortable for long trips. After an hour or so, I found that my thighs were becoming sore. A little bit more seat padding would do some wonders. In the back, there is adequate head and legroom for an average sized adult. Taller passengers will notice headroom is very much at a premium due to the sloping roofline. Cargo space slightly trails competitors with 18.5 cubic feet of space with the seats up and 56.5 when folded.

    For infotainment, the base Stelvio comes with a 6.5-inch screen. The Ti makes do with a larger 8.8-inch screen. Both systems use a controller knob on the center console and voice commands to move around the system. If you read our Giulia Quadrifoglio review, then you know I had a number of problems with the infotainment system: Odd design choices, issues with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and a number of crashes to name a few. I was hoping the Stelvio’s system would have ironed some of the issues. But sadly, the Stelvio experienced the same issues as the Giulia.

    Alfa Romeo should have just used the UConnect infotainment system like Maserati does. Just put a different coat of paint and call something different.

    Under the hood of the Stelvio lies a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder producing 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. There is also the high-performance Quadrifoglio with a 505 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 engine. 

    Some turbo lag makes an appearance when the vehicle begins to accelerate. But once the turbocharger spools up, the Stelvio moves at a surprising rate. This comes down to a broad and flat torque curve. The eight-speed automatic mirrors what I found in the Giulia Quadrifoglio I drove earlier in the year - stumbles with gear changes at lower speeds, but becomes smoother as speed increases.

    Handling is where the Stelvio really pulls ahead of the competition. On a winding road, the crossover exhibits excellent control of body motions. Steering provides decent weight and feel needed for an enthusiastic drive. I had to remind myself this isn’t a Giulia sedan, this is a compact crossover. But there is one item that will make you think twice about driving the Stelvio with gusto and that is brakes. The pedal feel was very inconsistent - lightly press on the pedal and the vehicle didn’t feel like it was slowing down, press a little bit further and it felt like the vehicle was going into a panic stop. The issue deals with the brake-by-wire system which uses sensors to measure the amount of force and speed applied to the pedal. This information is then transmitted to a controller which applies the appropriate amount of braking force. This is a problem a few other reviews have noted and one Alfa Romeo needs to address.

    The ride is compliant with a fair number of bumps making their way inside. If you’re looking for a somewhat smoother ride, dropping to the smaller 18-inch wheels is recommended. Road and wind noise are kept to average levels for the class. But engine noise is very noticeable inside, sounding like an old diesel truck. Be prepared to keep the volume for the audio system up.

    Like the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Stelvio has me torn. The crossover has a lot going for it such as the sharp exterior, a very punchy turbo-four, and impressive handling. But then I look at the list of issues such as the problematic infotainment system, confused transmission, and a braking system that is very inconsistent. This isn’t including the dark cloud of Alfa Romeo’s reliability. During my week, I had a ‘Service Alarm’ light that would pop up when I started the vehicle. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I accidentally pressed the panic button and the alarm went off for five minutes. I was about ready to break out the wrenches and remove the battery to shut up the alarm, but then it stopped. It needs to be noted that FCA has issued four recalls on the Stelvio at the time of this writing.

    If you really have your heart set on a Stelvio, be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. There are moments of brilliance mixed in with the perils. Everyone else should look at the competition.

    Disclaimer: Alfa Romeo Provided the Stelvio, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2018
    Make: Alfa Romeo
    Model: Stelvio
    Trim: Ti
    Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L MultiAir2 SOHC Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 5,200
    Torque @ RPM: 306 @ 2,000 - 4,800
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/28/24
    Curb Weight: 4,044 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Cassino, Italy
    Base Price: $43,995
    As Tested Price: $54,090 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Ti Sport Package 22S - $2,500
    Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package - $1,500
    Dual-Pane Sunroof - $1,350
    8.8-inch AM/FM Bluetooth Radio with 3D Navigation - $950.00
    Harman Kardon Premium Audio - $900.00
    Driver Assistance Static Package - $650.00
    Vesuvio Grey Metallic - $600.00
    Compact Spare Tire - $450.00
    Convenience Package - $200.00



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    (Slightly) Better looking than a Jaguar, but not as good reliability.   I really want to be impressed with these new Alfas... I was in love with the 159s.... but these just fail to impress me.

     

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    I like the styling, but seems like the old Italian shortcomings of poor build quality and poor reliability remain...

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    What an ugly auto with a terrible dash. It is like they decided to pick pieces from everyone and throw it into the dash and call it good. You have the circle vents on the outside of the dash by the windows which remind me of Mercedes-benz, cheap rectangle vents in the center stack, the heat control section under the center vents says Ford to me but I cannot seem to remember which specific model I seen that control panel on.

    Weird, but it really is just a mess or design types with no flow and terrible quality.

    Bill is right on in that the Alfa line is a PASS for everyone as there are far superior products out there.

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    For once I have to agree with @dfelt, I am not a fan of the new Alfa's exterior design.  Interior looks ok to me.  Also, way too many stories about really questionable build quality puts me off them also.

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    On 6/15/2018 at 9:18 AM, Drew Dowdell said:

    (Slightly) Better looking than a Jaguar, but not as good reliability.   I really want to be impressed with these new Alfas... I was in love with the 159s.... but these just fail to impress me.

     

    I second that,

     

    if I wanted an exotic design in this class it’s the Jaguar F-Pace every time, and that’s also because they have the mid level R-Dynamic with the supercharged V6.

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      200

      300

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      Pacifica

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    • By William Maley
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      Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Forte, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
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      Make: Kia 
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      Horsepower @ RPM: 147 @ 6,200
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      View full article
    • By William Maley
      It feels weird to be writing a review of the previous-generation Mazda3 when the new model is currently sitting out front at dealers. But I find this situation to be unique because I had the chance to explore a 2019 Mazda3 to get some first impressions while working on a review of the 2018 model. This gives me a chance to compare the two in certain aspects, along with pondering the question of whether or not the previous model is still a good buy.
      Despite the new model taking the styling up another level, the outgoing model is still a looker. From the bold front end with a large grille and slightly angled headlights, to sculpting running along the sides, the 2018 3 still stands out in the compact crowd. The older design also allows for slightly better rear headroom and a larger area of glass for improved visibility.  But the new 3 holds a significant edge over the old model when it comes to the interior. The modern design and use of high-quality materials really help boost Mazda’s ambitions of becoming something more premium. But the 2018 model I found to have a slightly easier center stack layout and more interior room. One item I didn’t get the chance to play within the 2019 Mazda3 is the infotainment system. Aside from boasting a larger screen, Mazda has also dropped the touchscreen functionality. The latter has been a big issue on some of the recent Mazda vehicles I have driven, including the 2018 3. It is difficult to figure out which parts of the screen are touch-enabled and which aren’t. The system is also beginning to show its age somewhat as the system showed some slowdown in certain areas such as connecting to my phone via Bluetooth. Under the hood of the 2018 model is either a 2.0L or 2.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder. My tester had the latter which produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet. This engine can also be found under 2019 Mazda3, albeit slightly tweaked - 186 for both horsepower and torque. I find the Mazda3 to be the best application for the 2.5 engine. The lighter weight of the vehicle allows the 2.5 to provide a smooth and quick acceleration for most situations you find yourself in. However, the 2.5 feels like it is running out of breath when going above 70 mph, making passing and merging onto a highway slightly difficult. Where the 3 really shines is down a twisty road. Very few vehicles can match the sharp handling characteristics on offer. The suspension keeps the vehicle level when cornering and quickly respond to change in direction. Steering is quick and features a nice weight when turning. Ride quality is slightly rough with a fair number of bumps coming inside. Some of this can be attributed to the 18-inch wheels fitted on my tester.  Should you consider a 2018 Mazda3 when the bright and shiny 2019 3 is available now? I can only give a half-answer as I haven’t driven the 2019 model yet. But having sat in one, I can see why someone would consider it. The impressive design inside and out can make you believe you’re driving something from a luxury brand. The 2018 model still has some things going for it such as having slightly more interior space, similar fuel economy figures, and dealers beginning to lower prices on them to get them out. As I am writing this (May 5th), I have seen dealers in my local drop prices by $1,000 to $3,000 on 2018 models. Right now, I would be willing to pocket the extra cash and go with a 2018 Mazda3. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: 3
      Trim: Grand Touring
      Engine: 2.5L SKYACTIV-G DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline:  Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700
      Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/35/30
      Curb Weight: 3,098 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Salamanca, Mexico
      Base Price: $24,945
      As Tested Price: $28,035 (Includes $890.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Equipment Package - $1,600.00
      Soul Red Metallic Paint - $300.00
      Scuff Plates/Door Sill Trim Plate - $125.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $100.00
      Cargo Mat - $75.00
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