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In a small town in California, resting between two mountain ranges and close to the sea, an Italian visitor appeared for two weeks and everything changed. People started eating dinner al fresco, music was louder, hordes of townsfolk begin to paint and wine began appearing at every meal. Gelato was seen in numerous places and bridges and aqueducts materialized as well as renewed attention to shoes, glasses, coats and digestifs.
Okay, so that’s a small exaggeration.
But the day the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio TI Sport AWD appeared ($55,240 as tested), our interest in driving increased exponentially. In fact, we planned two road trips with the Stelvio. We used it as our official team car in the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) in Carlsbad, California, and, a week later, we filled it full of magazines and drove it and our crew to the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey. All told, we put 1,400 miles on the odometer (gladly) and we would have kept going if our friends at Alfa Romeo USA hadn’t come back to Ojai to pick up their car.
Like all Italian bikes, components, wheels and clothing, Italian cars—especially Alfa Romeos—hold a special place in our hearts due to a variety of factors, some emotional, some objective. The 2.0L I4 Direct Injection Turbo engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifting option) boasts 280 horsepower and sounded and reacted just as we had hoped, complemented by remarkably tight and agile handling. Our TI Sport had some upgrades (the base model is $43,995): sport leather seats, 20-inch wheels, steering-column-mounted aluminum paddle shifters, sport-tuned suspension, blind-spot and cross-path detection, dual-pane sunroof and a Harman Kardon premium audio…just to name a few. Our review car also came in the Rosso Competizione Tri-Coat Paint (racing red with soul), which was a nice touch and made us want to roll through town at peak traffic hours to engender envy and attention from locals and tourists alike.
As I write this, memories of the Alfa Romeo x PELOTON Magazine team car are front and center: staying with the lead group at the BWR through dirt and paved sections; the handling of the Stelvio; and the intense acceleration once the turbo kicked in (the Stelvio goes 0-to-60 in 5.4 seconds and has a top speed of 140 mph). We spent from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Stelvio during that race, predominantly in “Dynamic” mode (is there any other mode, really?). Agile, quick, elegant and responsive, the Stelvio handled all race situations with style and responded with enthusiasm whenever prompted. The interior is roomy, with plenty of cargo space in the back and the feel inside is more race-comfort than family-relaxed, which we appreciated. Our trip to Monterey however was about long (and mildly fast) freeway miles and the Stelvio was a joy and pleasure to drive. We could have kept going all the way to Oregon, but we had appointments in Monterey.
WHY THE STELVIO?
The head of design, Ralph Giles of Alfa Romeo, told Road & Track in an interview that Italian design means “passion over logic, an obsession with a statement of beauty.” The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio is a statement of beauty. If you are into Italian bikes, design, performance and unique and powerful cars, add the Stelvio to your list. We are still in deep mourning that it no longer sits out in front of our office waiting for the next adventure.
For those of you with the ability to take things up a notch, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio (0-to-60 in 3.9 seconds and a 505 horsepower, 2.9-liter twin-turbo engine that includes a fourth driving mode called “Race”) is also available. Mamma mia!