Alfa Romeo has spent a long time in the American wilderness, but the storied marque is on the comeback trail. The renaissance started with the Giulia, and now continues with the Stelvio four-wheel drive, set to launch at the Geneva Motor Show.

Ignoring the fact it spent a solid 15 years building front-wheel drive hatches and sedans to compete with the rear-drive Germans, Alfa Romeo is keen to remind the world about its sporting past. Naming your four-wheel drive after one of the most famous mountain passes in Europe is a bold move, and one that speaks volumes about how confident the brand feels about its product.

To make sure it delivers on the promise of its name, the Stelvio runs with a very similar chassis setup to the Giulia. It sits on the same platform as its sedan sibling, and makes use of the same multi-link suspension setup that has won (almost) universal praise from the motoring media. A carbon fiber driveshaft and aluminum in the engines, hood, flanks and tailgate helps keep weight down, although the Q4 all-wheel drive hardware does add a bit of bulk.

Nestled in the lightweight chassis is a choice of petrol or diesel engine. Petrol power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 280 hp (209 kW), while the diesel is also a small four making 210 hp (157 kW). Both are hooked up to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, which proved a willing companion during a quick spin in a diesel Giulia last year but might not be quick enough to match the best dual-clutch 'boxes on the move.

So far, so good then, but there are a few areas where the Stelvio might not be able to match the best from Germany and Japan. One of those areas is a traditional weak point for Italian cars – quality. The interior design is pretty, there's no doubt about that, but our spin in a Giulia also revealed the touchpoints and trim quality aren't as pleasing as those in an Audi. The infotainment system also lags behind the best, stealing bits-and-pieces from other brands but not matching them for overall ease-of-use.

As is standard with European four-wheel drives, the possibilities for customisation are almost endless on the Stelvio. There are 13 paint options and 13 different wheel designs, while upscale Super models can be specced with leather seats in red, brown or black. The full range can be optioned with a full safety suite including active cruise control, blind spot warnings, lane-keeping assist, auto-emergency braking and forward-collision warnings.

The Stelvio will be on show at the Geneva Motor Show, which kicks off on March 6. New Atlas will be on the ground covering all the action, so stay tuned.

Source: Alfa Romeo

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