If there was any doubt Alfa Romeo was ready to do business in North America, consider it erased with the arrival of the brand's first-ever crossover, the Stelvio.
Named for Italy's Stelvio Pass, an alpine road renowned for its switchbacks, the Stelvio has already established itself as one of the modern breed of upscale, driver-focused crossovers and SUVs with a record-setting blitz (for a production SUV) around the Nurburgring racetrack in Germany.
That seven-minute, 52 second run was done in a Stelvio Quadrifoglio, a forthcoming performance-oriented variant of this compact crossover powered by a turbocharged 2.9L V6 good for what Alfa says is a best-in-class 505 hp rating. Alfa's parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, says that record is a full eight seconds faster than the previous SUV title and follows up the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio's title of fastest production sedan. When the Quadrifoglio isn't tackling race tracks, Alfa says it'll do 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and hit a top speed of 285 km/h.
Appealing as that level of performance sounds, most Stelvio models will leave Alfa dealers with a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 280 hp and powers the car from 0-100 km/h in a claimed 5.4 seconds.
Regardless of powertrain, all Stelvios boast near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, a boon for high-speed handling stability.
All Stelvio trims come with standard AWD and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
A base trim includes 18-inch wheels, leather seating, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, eight-speaker stereo, TFT driver information display, selectable drive modes, backup camera and passive keyless entry.
The Stelvio Ti adds 19-inch wheels, navigation, 8.8-inch widescreen infotainment display and genuine wood interior trim, and can be further optioned with sport, lusso and performance packages.
In addition to its punched-up powertrain, the Quadrifoglio gets seats done in leather and Alcantara and real carbon fibre interior accents.
While the idea of a crossover that can pound out a record around the 'Ring still seems a bit anachronistic to us, it's certainly less ridiculous than Jaguar's introduction for the F-Pace, which involved a real-life 360-degree loop, which it (obviously) followed up with a barrel roll stunt in the smaller E-Pace.
All that to say you've got to do something to make your upscale crossover model stand out in a class long-dominated by the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Porsche and Land Rover are big players here, too, but to us the Stelvio differentiates itself quite nicely simply by way of its Italian heritage. That alone carries a certain weight in North America given that, until Fiat's return in 2012, it had been a long time since we could buy Italian cars that didn't carry six-figure price tags.
And for its starting prices of $53,000 (base) and $55,000 (Ti), we think the Stelvio looks good with a face built around Alfa's distinctive triangular grille. Quadrifoglio pricing hadn't been announced at publication time, as it was a late addition to the 2018 model lineup.