Step up into the updated Stelvio expecting a complete interior transformation and you’ll be largely disappointed: the design team clearly had to work within the confines of the existing layout, but the general arrangement remains the same, although materials used are a real improvement.
Cheaper plastics are almost entirely removed, with the centre console now featuring glossier fixtures that both look and feel more premium. Stowage beneath the central arm rest has increased, with wireless smartphone charging added for the first time. The rotary infotainment dial doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy any more, turning smoothly and without the overly shiny plastic finish of the outgoing car, and the subtle Italian tricolore above it is another nod to the brand’s history.
The gear lever is now leather-wrapped, rather than plastic, and feels all the better for it – though with the immensely satisfying aluminium shift paddles flanking the steering wheel, it remains second choice for taking manual control of the gearbox.
The infotainment display recessed into the dashboard stays at 8.8in, but now recognises touch inputs for the first time. More importantly, the entire interface has been redesigned, with a customisable, widget-based layout that lets you put the features you use the most on the main screen. It’s a major improvement over the old system, with modern graphics and intuitive controls that work equally well with the physical rotary dial. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are both available, but given the scale of improvement to Alfa’s own system, you may feel you can do without.
Less transformative is the instrument cluster, which still uses a central screen flanked by analogue dials. As the likes of Audi, BMW and Jaguar move to fully-digital clusters, this design feels slightly behind the curve, but an updated layout does at least account for the new driver assist systems. Adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist bring the Stelvio up to par with the rest of the class, though the latter proved rather insistent on our Italian test route.
On the road, the four-pot diesel engine delivers confident performance, and although it’s largely done by 3500rpm, the gearbox is quick to supply a fresh cog in each of the three driving modes. It’s not the most refined of engines, but keeps noise to a minimum while at cruising speeds.
The Stelvio is as dynamic as ever, with more handling charisma than you’ll find in many of its rivals. In admittedly damp conditions, it took little effort to coax out oversteer when in Dynamic mode, with the same quick steering rack as the Giulia and a lenient stability system, though one that can’t be disengaged completely.