As the boys of “Top Gear” have long preached, “You can’t be a true petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa.” For Americans, this has always seemed like a gloat at best and an attack on American car enthusiasm at worst. I mean, what if you like cars but don’t want to go bankrupt running an old 164 or a Spider?
For decades, cars like the 159, Brera and Giulietta eluded us because of their unavailability in the American market. Then, in 2007, some Maserati dealers started carrying the beautiful 8C Competizione. This didn’t scratch the itch either, because when the 8C arrived on the market it was pricier than most three-bedroom homes. Alfa followed the 8C with the 4C, but you still didn’t really want one, because demand for a 2-seat carbon-fiber coupe with less storage space than that humidor you secretly constructed in shop class back in high school wasn’t particularly high at the start of the crossover boom.
And then it happened: They sent us the Giulia sedan to compete with the big, bad Germans. “Finally,” we thought, “Alfa gets it!” But even the Giulia had problems — mostly centered around its pricing, as the sedan was Alfa’s first practical foray into the U.S. market in 20 years, and yet it cost as much as established German rivals. Most Americans weren’t having it, and the Giulia isn’t selling too well.
After getting it wrong so many times, Fiat Chrysler finally put it together. What they needed to succeed in the American market was a car that appealed to the mass market, unlike the original vision of a manual-only Giulia, or a 4C that would prove impossible for you to convince your significant other you needed. What Alfa Romeo needed was an SUV. *shudder*
Like with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, lineups of cars that adhered more to tradition than market trends stretched the finances of each brand to their breaking points. Mercedes had trouble finding enough old money and aspiring heads of state to fund its passenger-car operations, while there weren’t enough aging orthodontists to keep 911 sales strong.
Realizing their days may be limited, Alfa ripped a page from the luxury-car playbook in late 2016 and announced they would be building an SUV. Although the last thing the world needs is another premium compact SUV, it is with a begrudging acceptance that we acknowledge its inevitable role as the savior of Alfa Romeo.
And honestly, it’s almost impossible to truly hate the Stelvio. The thing starts at a stunningly reasonable $42,000, it makes a much more appealing buy than a Lexus RX, and it (almost) captures all the passion Alfa-Romeo has always instilled in the hearts of enthusiasts, owners and mechanics. Because after all, even if it is a crossover … you can buy this crossover and still be a “true petrolhead.” Find an Alfa Romeo Stelvio for sale
Andrew Murray and Seamus Cassidy are the founders of RedLine, a car blog that administers a daily dose of motoring journalism aimed at the car enthusiast. They can be found at RedLineCarBlog.com.
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