LOS ANGELES -- Alfa Romeo today unveiled the Stelvio, its first SUV, promising that its performance and driving dynamics will be better than rivals such as the Porsche Macan.
The Stelvio will enter a booming segment for premium midsize SUVs. Its success will be key to reviving the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand's sales in the U.S. and in its home region of Europe.
Alfa premiered the high-performance Quadrifoglio version of the Stelvio at the auto show here. The variant uses the same 505-hp turbocharged gasoline engine as the range-topping version of the Giulia midsize sedan.
Alfa described the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's performance as "staggering." The car's 2.9-liter V-6 turbocharged engine is "Ferrari inspired," it said. The engine uses the same bore and stroke dimensions as Ferrari's V-8 engine and was designed by Gianluca Pivetti, a former Ferrari engineer.
Alfa said it gave the Stelvio Quadrifoglio more power than the top-performing Macan, which offers 440 hp, in a bid to claim that it has the fastest conventionally powered SUV in the segment.
Alfa says the Stelvio Quadrifoglio can go 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 kph) in 3.9 seconds. Porsche's fastest Macan goes 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, according to the automaker's U.S. website.
Alfa has given the Stelvio Quadrifoglio a sportier design than the standard variant. Its styling tweaks include carbon-trimmed side skirts, front intakes to feed air to the engine intercoolers and four tailpipes. As a result of the changes to the regular car, the Quadrifoglio "looks more like a sports sedan than a traditional SUV in this segment," Alfa said in a statement.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio has a four-wheel-drive system called Q4 that directs power to the rear wheels in most conditions. When the car detects wheel-slip, it can then send up to 60 percent of available power to the front wheels. Power through the rear wheels can also be varied to either side via a torque vectoring system that aids performance and traction, Alfa said.
Other technology includes a braking system that combines electronic stability control with a traditional brake booster that the brand says improves braking performance. Both this and the torque vectoring system are also available on the Giulia.
The Stelvio lineup will include a mid-range performance version using a 280-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine. In Europe the car also will be available with versions of Alfa’s new 2.2-liter diesel. Their power outputs were not disclosed.
The Stelvio was named for Italy's highest mountain pass, a road famous for its challenging driving conditions.
The Stelvio is the second car after the Giulia to be launched on the Giorgio rear-wheel-drive platform that Alfa says will eventually underpin eight separate models. A smaller SUV will be next off the largely steel platform, media reports say.
Alfa Romeo described the Stelvio's design as uncluttered and "distinctly Italian." The brand admitted in 2014 that its recent cars had not been true to its heritage and vowed to return to building vehicles that blended performance, style and driving ability.
The Stelvio will provide Alfa Romeo with an "opportunity for volume," analyst IHS Markit said. It said the model is crucial for U.S. sales because the premium midsize SUV/crossover segment where it will compete is the most popular premium price-class segment.
The Stelvio measures 4680mm long, 1650mm tall and 2160mm wide. Also among its competitors will be the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Mercedes GLC.
The Stelvio will go on sale in Europe in the first quarter of 2017. U.S. sales will start in the second quarter of next year.
The SUV is built on the same platform as the Giulia and will be produced in the same factory in Cassino, Italy.