Something special

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Speciale

Model on test £48,490

If you’ve never driven an Alfa, there will be something missing in your understanding of them. If you’ve never owned one, you’re missing something else: the ability to call yourself a petrol head.

Before I start (or at least before I really get started) I should say that for some time I was critical of Alfa for making an SUV. Historically, that’s not what the marque was about. It was about bonkers stuff – amazing handling, crazy power, stupendous style, but not sensible, reliable family life.

But leaving that aside, the Stelvio looks amazing. It has good looks, comfort and performance so it should satisfy most camps… but it’s Italian and (let’s face it) an Alfa. Given their reputation for build quality and attention to detail, is Alfa a good investment for family looking for an SUV? Possibly not.

I should preface this by saying that at one point in the last 15 years both my wife and I owned an Alfa of our own. As I said, you can’t be a petrol head until you’ve owned an Alfa and loved it anyway…

My wife’s 147 was a dream. It rarely missed a beat. It remained at its best for years and brought my son home from hospital after is birth – in the show – and I felt safe (still hands down the most harrowing drive of my life, by the way).

My 156 however appeared to have been built at 4.55pm on a Friday afternoon with glorious weather and the Italian equivalent of a bank holiday in the offing. It was horrific, to the extent that I got hold of a copy of Alfa’s diagnostic software and bought myself a set of diagnostic cables so I could reset the numerous fault codes every other week or so.

But…

I still loved that car. It was amazing. Even when it wasn’t working.

And that reputation endures. My neighbour asked if the Stelvio was as quirky as you’d expect from an Italian car. At the time I said no, but on a week away with the family the Satnav went full Italian on me. The main display said I had to turn right in 1 mile. The dash display said to turn left at the exact same point. Neither resolved themselves until I chose one.

Like I say, very Alfa.

But, as with my piece of cr*p 156, I loved it anyway. It was flawed, but with such character that it was somehow endearing.

This was not meant to be a commentary on Alfa Romeo as a manufacturer but I think for the uninitiated it serves as a good recommendation.

They may not be reliable, they may not always make sense but give Alfa a chance and you will, as I have, fall in love.

Giving it back though, I felt… nothing. I like the car but it’s missing something compared to the Alfa’s of old.

It was missing a soul.

Luckily, they make a Quadrifoglio version, with a 2.9 litre bi-turbo V6…

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