The Alfa Romeo Tonale Is Predictably Gorgeous, Inside And Out - Men's Health Magazine Australia

The Alfa Romeo Tonale Is Predictably Gorgeous, Inside And Out

In the impossibly sexy shape of the Alpha Romeo Tonale, the luxury Italian car maker is redefining its values – and leaving hoary motoring cliches in its wake.

I’m going to let you in on a little motoring-writer secret. You know all those over-used tropes you read in reviews all the time? Well, they’re mostly bollocks.

The truth is that nothing actually handles like a go-kart (no, not even a Lotus, which actually produces a drive experience that’s far more violent, like you’ve been trapped in a giant washing machine on its fastest spin cycle). And if you truly want to ride in something that ‘corners like it’s on rails’, then you’d better get yourself a train ticket and a good book for the journey.

But there are always exceptions. And Alfa Romeo is one of them. Because, yes, the Italian brand really is stuffed full of passion like an over-filled cannoli. And, yes, historically, their cars have aged just as gracefully as a dairy-filled breakfast pastry.

But all that, says Alfa Romeo’s new global boss, Jean-Philippe Imparato, ends with the brand’s new and impossibly sexy Alfa Romeo Tonale small SUV. Oh, and please read that with an Italian accent. Nobody wants to drive a toenail.

Alfa Romeo Tonale

This is a man so laser-focused on changing Alfa Romeo’s reputation for questionable quality that he slowed production of the Alfa Romeo Tonale to just 25 cars per week, meaning each vehicle was dutifully inspected to ensure it met his standards before letting it loose in the wild. To put that output into perspective, Toyota builds almost 25,000 cars per day.

So, has it worked? The short answer is yes. While Alfa Romeos of old were always a hoot to drive, they were sorely lacking in things like build quality, nice cabin materials and technology. The Tonale flips that script entirely. 

Its build quality feels excellent, like it’s been screwed together by the same people who make sure submarines are watertight, and the tech stuff in the cabin is great, thanks to a big 10.25-inch central screen, a second 12.3-inch screen in the driver’s binnacle, wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto, wireless phone charging – and even Amazon’s Alexa onboard for digital help.

It’s also predictably gorgeous, inside and out, which is no tiny feat in the small SUV space. Its curvaceous styling, massive 20-inch alloys and angry, mesh-filled front-end combine to deliver something that definitely stands above the typical plain-Jane pack. 

But if the fact the Alfa Romeo Tonale doesn’t feel like your standard Alfa Romeo is the good news, the bad news is that it doesn’t really drive like one either. A front-drive, modestly powered small SUV doesn’t scream Italian performance, I know, but the Tonale’s attempts to act like a sports car can be pretty grating.

“It feels like it’s been screwed together by the same people who make submarines watertight”

There’s plenty of grip at the front, almost no body roll, and the steering, while lacking in feeling, is super sharp. But it also feels a little tightly wound, and on tight, twisty roads, altogether too busy. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is constantly changing cogs to magic up some extra grunt, and the engine noise is too loud and obnoxious, without actually producing much in the way of extra speed.

A true sports car this ain’t, and your best bet is to keep it humming along at city speeds with gentle inputs, soaking up the cabin ambience (which locks out plenty of road noise), and trying to drive past reflective surfaces so you can catch a glimpse of its svelte exterior styling.

Head-turner: the Alfa Romeo Tonale is predictably gorgeous, inside and out.
Head-turner: the Alfa Romeo Tonale is predictably gorgeous, inside and out.

But the signs are good for the future here. For now, the Tonale has just two output options, with a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine tuned to deliver either 96kW and 240Nm or 118kW and 240Nm. There’s
also a 48-volt mild-hybrid system on board to reduce fuel use and emissions, and
to provide a little extra boost under flat-footed acceleration.

Next, though, is a high-performance plug-in hybrid variant, which should deliver more than enough petrol-electric power to really take advantage of the Tonale’s impressive ride and handling set-up.

And so a new Alfa Romeo is upon us. And it’s one that might finally – and perhaps mercifully – say arrivederci to the whole ‘Italian car’ schtick. 

alfaromeo.com.au

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