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Is the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio a Good SUV? 4 Pros and 4 Cons

alfa romeo stelvio estrema 2023 04 exterior front scaled jpg 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

Alfa Romeo jumped into the rapidly growing luxury compact SUV market for the 2018 model year with the launch of the sporty, handsome Stelvio. Aimed at buyers looking for a bit of Italian style and performance as an alternative to more mainstream European competitors, the Stelvio arrived to positive reviews. But updates have been slow in coming, and five years is a long time in the automotive world — particularly toward the higher end of the market.

Related: 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Review: Aging Not So Gracefully

For 2023, Alfa Romeo has added a new Estrema trim that slots in between lower trims and the hyperactive, performance-focused, 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio. The Estrema gets the Quadrifoglio’s adaptive suspension along with cosmetic upgrades for a distinct look, but under the hood is the same 280-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine used in all other trims. While the Estrema succeeds in providing a bit more visual excitement, the bottom line is that the updates can’t conceal that the Stelvio has not aged all that well. It has an interior that’s showing its age and a powertrain that can’t match the smoothness or performance of its primary competitors.

Cars.com’s Aaron Bragman recently spent a week with a 2023 Stelvio Estrema and came away with some positive impressions, but he found it may take more than a freshening to keep it competitive. Hit the link above to read Bragman’s complete review; for a quicker look, below are four things we like about the latest Stelvio and four things we don’t:

Things We Like

alfa romeo stelvio estrema 2023 22 interior climate control scaled jpg 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

1. It Still Looks Good

With its sculpted flanks, hood bulges and distinctive Alfa Romeo triangular grille, the Stelvio still looks fresh and different in a sea of luxury compact SUVs. The Estrema variant builds on that, with its blacked-out trim and larger 21-inch wheels for a more aggressive look. Six years after its debut, the Stelvio’s exterior design holds up.

2. Ride and Handling

The Stelvio delivers a terrific combination of crisp handling with a comfortable ride, aided in the Estrema trim by standard all-wheel drive along with the electronic adaptive suspension and limited-slip differential shared with the Quadrifoglio. The steering is quick and responsive, with plenty of feedback, while the brakes offer firm and confidence-inspiring response. Ride quality is also excellent even with the big 21-inch wheels and tires on our test car. Chalk that up (at least in part) to the adaptive suspension.

3. Straightforward Controls

Most of the Stelvio’s controls are operated using simple knobs and switches, which are refreshingly easy to use in an era when many manufacturers are abandoning physical controls in favor of a touchscreen that’s harder to operate on the fly. Climate functions use three simple dials on the dash, and the console-mounted rotary selectors are also big and easy to operate.

4. Inviting Helm

Getting into the Stelvio can be a bit of a challenge, largely due to a B-pillar that sits farther forward than most. Once in, however, you’re treated to a posh leather seat. The steering wheel has a thick and grippy rim that feels good in your hands, and the wheel-mounted start button adds a businesslike look. Black and white analog gauges on the instrument panel are another nice touch, and they’re big and easy to read.

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Things We Don’t Like

alfa romeo stelvio estrema 2023 25 interior backseat scaled jpg 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Estrema | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

1. Ergonomic Issues

Interior material quality is generally good in the Stelvio, but the packaging and execution are somewhat questionable. The driver’s seat is surprisingly uncomfortable, and it sits too high for drivers of various sizes to easily see and reach some controls. Headroom is also compromised as a result, particularly with the standard moonroof.

2. Limited Interior Room

Drivers may find headroom lacking, but things are tougher all around for rear-seat passengers. Legroom is limited even with the front seats pushed all the way forward, making the backseat all but unsuitable for adults. A big hump for the driveshaft further compromises rear-seat room, and there’s barely even room for toes under the front seats. The good news is the cargo room is decent.

3. No Uconnect

It’s odd that when parent company Stellantis offers its excellent Uconnect multimedia system through most of its lineup, Stelvio buyers are forced to get by with a lesser system. The SUV gets an 8.8-inch touchscreen mounted atop the dash that’s smaller than what’s found in competitors, slower to respond, less reconfigurable and more limited in function than Uconnect.

4. Powertrain Shortcomings

The Stelvio’s turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine puts out an impressive 280 hp, but it’s severely hampered by an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s slow to downshift in Normal mode even when you floor the pedal. That can make it feel sluggish even around town, let alone when trying to merge on the highway. Response is quicker in Dynamic mode, but leaving it there isn’t really an option; doing so makes the Stelvio hesitant to upshift, resulting in a high-strung feel.

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