New car presentations are usually events organized to please the media and investors. There are nice speeches, lights and very precise presentations that explain the attributes of the new product. Some of them take place during the motor shows, but in other cases the companies prefer to use selected locations to even impress more the journalists. However, Alfa Romeo decided to change this approach with its new SUV, the Stelvio.
I had the opportunity to be invited to a very nice and easy event organized by Alfa Romeo’s marketing, engineering and PR areas for EMEA region. The revolutionary reveal took place at FCA’s proving ground in Balocco, near Milan, and welcomed around 150 social media “influencers” of the brand. In contrast to the tradition, the mass media did not have the chance to drive the car first than anybody, but it was common people in loved with the brand like me.
The “First Stelvio Drivers” were important enough to grab the attention of Sergio Marchionne, who surprisingly arrived at the last moment. He attended the presentation along with Alfredo Altavilla, EMEA’s boss. The top management is really committed to this new car, which means the life or death of Alfa Romeo as a brand within FCA group. If the Stelvio doesn’t work, then Alfa won’t have any more possibilities of success. Based on what I saw on Saturday, there are solid reasons to believe that this new premium midsize SUV will find its place in the market.
After a funny reveal hosted by two friends – Maria Conti, PR, and Mario Alvisi, Alfa’s product manager, we were invited to have a test drive of three of the best current Alfas. The 4C, which I had already drove back in 2013 at the media drive in Balocco. The fantastic Giulia Quadrifoglio with manual transmission. And of course, the new Stelvio, which I must say was astonishing.
The Stelvio is a midsize premium SUV that is intended to rival the Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC, BMW X3/X4 and Volvo XC60, among others. It is the SUV version of the Giulia as it uses not only its platform but also its design language, interior and engines. The car looks great with an aggressive headlights, and a simple but elegant side and rear views. The interior features high quality materials with interesting driving solutions.
The handling is almost perfect, and the version I drove (2.0 Turbo Q4 with 280 hp) responded very well in terms of power, acceleration and in the curves. The conclusion by the majority of the “first drivers” is that the Stelvio looks like a SUV but its easy, stable and sporty handling is closer to that of a regular sedan than to a SUV. This of course will be a key element for the success of the new Alfa, as many of the complaints of the current SUV drivers is that their cars are sometimes uncomfortable or unstable in the curves.
Alfa Romeo has everything to succeed in the booming SUV market. The Stelvio is perhaps one of the best products available in the market this year, and FCA must work hard in order to position it in the right way. No mistakes are allowed, and personally I think the brand should not focus on the Quadrifoglio version as it did with the Giulia, but on the regular ones. The Quadrifoglio may be a shocking car, but Alfa Romeo risks to be known as a niche-brand instead of a real choice in the premium segment.
Many thanks to Maria and Mario for the invitation.