Alfa Romeo has a new bundle of automotive joy that’ll have you speaking Italian, twirling pasta like a pro, and singing in the shower like Pavarotti.
Repeat after me: Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce. Just the sound of the words will have you dreaming of cruising the Amalfi Coast, soaking up la dolce vita.
Named after Italy’s highest mountain passes, the bellissimo Tonale is the brand new entry model in the Alfa Range. With prices from $42,995, or around $56,800 very nicely loaded, it brings a whole bunch of brio to the compact SUV market.
Of course it’s all about the style. That iconic V-Scudetto grille, the adaptive LED Tribobo headlights, those oh-so-Alfa 20-inch Cinque-buco five-hole wheels. Just magnifico.
Hard to believe then, that beneath that sexy Brioni-like suit of clothes, are the mechanical bits and pieces from the latest Jeep Compass and Dodge Hornet. Remember that Stellantis owns all three brands.
But the Alfa is the star here. And what sets it apart is what’s doing the powering. Yes, it’s an electric plug-in hybrid that mates a 180-hp turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine, with a muscley 121-hp electric motor on the rear axle that’s juiced by a 15.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Combined, the hybrid package cranks out a best-in-class 285 horsepower and 350 torques. That’s plenty enough to squirt the Tonale from standstill to 60mph in around six seconds. And give it a zero-emission, electric-only range of 30-or-so miles.
And with the piccolo four-cylinder driving the front wheels, and the electric motor turning the rears, the Tonale is officially an all-wheel-driver, ready and raring to extract your from that muddy Little League parking lot.
Climb aboard and the surprise and delights continue. The nicely-bolstered front seats look just like those in Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Spider two-seater from The Graduate. They’re all paneled-and-perforated leather with contrast stitching.
And you’ll love the chunky, leather-rimmed wheel with that big, round, trademark Alfa start/stop button on the left side. Hard to miss are the huge paddle shifters on each side which look as big as Dumbo’s ears.
What I love about the dashboard is that it combines cool, new technology with old-school buttons and switches. That means a 12.5-inch digital display behind the wheel along with a bright and precise, floating 10.25-inch touchscreen in the center.
But for all the climate and audio controls, it’s still good ol’ buttons and switches.
Even though the Tonale is a good six inches shorter than its Stelvio sibling, there’s still impressive kneeroom in the back seat. I’m around six feet and could easily sit behind myself.
Less impressive is the load area. All that electric machinery around the rear axle shaves luggage space to a so-so 22.9 cubic feet, or 50 with the rear seats folded. The Tonale’s main rivals, BMW’s X1 and Audi’s Q3 offer more.
But tap the start button, squeeze the throttle and the feeling of being behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo is guaranteed to bring a Julia Roberts-sized smile to your face.
Of course it’s initially the sound of silence as you whirr away on electric only power. But squeeze harder and the gas motor joins the action to add Red Bull to the mix. It’s quick off the line, eager and energetic. And fun.
Twist the DNA drive mode selector to D-for-Dynamic, and there’s extra response for passing, or punching out of a freeway on-ramp.
With that battery pack set low in the body, and 20-inch rubber at each corner, the Alfa handles likes, well an Alfa. There’s little body roll through the twisties, lots of poise and balance, and nice precision from the steering. The brakes are just awesome.
There are three Tonale models to choose from – Sprint ($42,995), mid-range Ti ($45,665) and Veloce ($47495), which is what I’ve been driving.
Pick either one and you’ll be driving one hot Tonale.