Monday, September 9, 2019

WANT THE FASTEST PRODUCTION SUV? LOOK NO FURTHER THAN 2019 ALFA ROMEO STELVIO

Considering that Alfa Romeo races in Formula and is known for producing nifty little roadsters like the 4C Spider it brought to the U.S. just a few years ago, it is not surprising that the Italian automaker’s first venture into the SUV/crossover world would come down heavy on power and performance.

Depending on what’s under the hood, the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio matches the performance of many of today’s sports sedans or can take on a high-performance sports car in a straight-line drag race.


With the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in the base and Ti models, the Stelvio zips from zero-to-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, according to company timers. That isn’t bad for vehicle of this heft, but it would be left in the dust going against the Stelvio Quadifoglio and its twin-turbo V6.

How about numbers of 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque and a zero-to-60 clocking of 3.2 seconds? That’s nearly a second quicker than that for the company’s 4C Spider that weighs in at 2,500 pounds or nearly 2,000 pounds less than the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.


The company boasts that the Stelvio Quadfoglio turned in a record 7 minutes 51.7 seconds on the Nürburgring, the best time ever posted by a production SUV on the famed circuit, making it the fastest production SUV in the world.

Both the 4-banger and the V6 are mated to an engine-specific 8-speed automatic transmission that features Sport, Natural and Advanced Efficiency modes with the Quadrifoglio model also getting the option of “Race” for even more enhanced performance.


You set those modes via the “DNA” button on the console. The dial is marked "d, n, and a" and the image on the screen shows red for Dynamic mode, blue for Natural, and, of course, green for eco. It is yellow for Race, perhaps denoting the caution you should take when using that setting. You push the center of that DNA dial to adjust the suspension.

Quadrifoglio is the tag that Alfa Romeo assigns to its high performance models, similar to the BMW’s “M” and Mercedes’ “AMG” designations. Quadfoglio is Italian for a four-leaf clover, which explains the cloverleaf logo near the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s  front fenders. The cloverleaf’s link to Alfa Romeo dates back to Alfa Romeo’s early racing efforts in the 1920s.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio also comes with all-wheel drive as standard, which is denoted by a Q4 on the left of the rear power liftgate.


In addition to all that power and performance, the Stelvo Quadrifoglio also features distinctive Italian styling. That can be polarizing, of course, as the risk that goes along with stepping away from the crowd can also put off some potential customers.

But it works in this case. The Selvio Quadrifoglio is not just for those who “think outside the box” but for those who don’t acknowledge that a box even exists.

Introduced for the 2018 model year, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio gets some specific styling touches with dashes of carbon fiber throughout, including a carbon-fiber drive shaft. Still, the interior could use a bit of sprucing up in comparison to some of its competitors, and the red interior borders on garish to some.

For a price tag that starts at just over $80,000, the Quadrifoglio doesn’t separate itself much in interior quality from its lower priced stablemates Stelvio, Stelvio Sport, and Stelvio Ti that run in the $40K neighborhood.

But there are plenty off features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, premium Harman Kardon audio, 8-way power adjustable and heated front seats with 4-way lumbar support, navigation, leather dash and upper doors with accent stitching, bright aluminum pedals, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that are included as standard before you have to venture into option packages offering lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a dual-panel sunroof.

All that ran the total of my test Stelvio to $88,540.

What I liked about the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD: The styling, both interior and exterior, is definitely distinctive. It is a joy to drive, and comfortable for occupants as well. I don’t use them that often, but mounting the paddle shifters on the steering column rather than the steering wheel itself makes for easier shifting.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD: The display for the rearview camera is on the small side, which can become critical in bright, sunny conditions. Operation of infotainment functions is somewhat fussy. You need to take care entering the vehicle, especially from the driver’s side, or you'll bump your head. Harnessing all that horsepower can be an issue if you’re not on full alert. The vehicle often takes bit of a leap at the slightest touch of the accelerator pedal when dynamic mode is set.

Would I buy the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD? Yes. If you’re looking for a high performance crossover/SUV, this has to be on your list.


Monday, September 2, 2019



AUDI A7 MOVES INTO SECOND GENERATION WITH NEW ENGINE, OTHER UPDATES FOR 2019

It was a case of love at first sight.

No sooner had I stepped out my front door to see the white Audi A7 parked in my driveway than I knew this was going to be a great week. It was stunning enough just sitting there motionless — a sedan that looks like a coupe but really is a hatchback.

And it only got better as the days went on.


Its driving performance was exhilarating, powerful yet refined and easy to manage. Its road manners are impeccable, but not stuffy. You don’t have to wrestle with the steering or treat the accelerator pedal gently lest the car get away from under you.

Steering is precise. There’s just enough of an exhaust note to let you know it’s there — sharp but not ear-splitting to those in the next county. 

And bumps in the road? What bumps in the road?


All in all, I felt like the guy who married a super model and then found out she could cook, too! And owned a liquor store as well!

That’s the Audi A7 quattro, all new for 2019 as it moves into its second generation.

Among the items new for this year is a new turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 engine that boasts an increase of 44 pound-foot of torque over its supercharged V6 predecessor. Mated with a 7-speed, double-clutch transmission featuring auto, comfort, dynamic, and individual modes, the engine delivers 335 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque at a range of 1370 and 4500 rpm, moving it from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.


That’s the official number from Audi. Edmunds.com clocked it at 4.7 seconds.

Also a first for 2019 is Mild Hybrid Electric technology system that helps improve drivetrain efficiency, resulting in EPA mileage figures of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 29 highway, and 25 combined. Even with all-wheel drive it’s among the best in the large luxury class.


One big change that is sure to catch your attention is Audi’s new touch-response system featuring dual touchscreens. The larger one at the top of the centerstack is used for adjustments for audio, navigation and car settings. The smaller one below is for climate control functions such as blower speed, temperature, etc.

That eliminates the need to switch the screen from say, navigation or audio display to re-adjust the A/C as is necessary on single-screen setups.

The touchscreens replace the rotary dial system used to operate the MMI system in the past. You can still use voice commands to operate many functions, which is good because using your finger to navigate the various options is a pain.

Standard equipment includes such niceties as heated leather seats, LED headlights, power sunroof, and power liftgate (almost a necessity considering its heft), and Bluetooth communications.

The Prestige model adds a package of features that adds $8,300 to the base MSRP of $68,000 and includes the MMI system with navigation and a 10.1-inch screen (replacing the 8.8-inch in the base base Premium model) along with Audi’s virtual cockpit,  premium Bang & Olufsen sound system, a top-view camera system, and 4-zone climate control. Driver and front passenger not only have their own temperature controls but blower as well, and the rear occupants have their own controls.

My test vehicle also included options like an individual contour seating package, a Driver’s Assistance Package, and 20-inch wheels  (replacing the standard 19s) that ran the total to $85,240, including the $995 destination and delivery charge.

What I liked about the 2019 Audi A7 quattro: The “virtual cockpit” that puts information like the adjustable map for navigation right in front of the driver’s eyes is the best system yet. There are tons of storage space in the back (part of the DNA of a hatchback) but when the deck lid is closed, the A7’s interior has the appearance of a sedan with the cargo area (24.9 cubic feet) completely closed off.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Audi A7 quattro: Audi has changed its infotainment functions to operate by tapping on one of two touchscreens rather than spinning a dial on the console like its Teutonic mates BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and results are mixed. It’s easy enough to adjust climate control settings on the lower screen, but tuning the radio or adjusting the audio volume or making other adjustments by touching the right spot on the upper screen can be distracting. Rear headroom might be compromised for taller occupants because of the slopping roofline that gives the A7 its coupe-like profile.

Would I buy the 2019 Audi A7 quattro? Yes. I don’t like the touchscreen controls for audio and A/C, but I don’t see it as a complete turnoff. There’s just too much going for the A7 to let that get in the way.