We just wrote about the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV coming to the US — finally. We’ve also lamented in the past the lack of electric SUV/CUV choice. It’s the hottest segment in the world and there are so few electric offerings, even though consumers are begging for them! The options on the market (before the Outlander PHEV arrived) are expensive, expensive, expensive, expensive, and more expensive. We need plug-ins of that class, but we also need more affordable ones. What we arguably don’t need, though, are automakers missing the beat and not adding plugs to their SUVs. Some Alfa Romeo news seems to indicate it’s one of those companies, even as it makes its coming offerings more efficient. Perhaps it just needs a little nudge from Steve-O? —Zach
Alfa Romeo Wants In On The SUV Game
Alfa Romeo is having a transformative year. Absent from the US market for 25 years, its two new models — the Giulia sedan and the Stelvio SUV — managed to attract more than 14,000 American buyers in 2017, according to Bloomberg. How? By giving people what they want most — high performance in a sexy package. I have a friend who is a long-time Ferrari owner. Recently, he opted for a new Stelvio and is wild about it. He calls it the best car he has ever driven. That’s high praise from someone who knows a thing or two about high-performance cars.
Now, Roberto Fedeli, Alfa Romeo’s technical boss, tells AutoGuide, “The Stelvio for sure is an example of Alfa DNA, why don’t we translate that in a car which is a little big bigger? We have to marry the new car with the right level of electrification. Plug-in hybrid could be a problem for the Alfa DNA point of view, but for instance a 48-volt mild hybrid solution is something that we can do without losing anything.”
48 volt electrical systems can power a small electric motor in the powertrain, but what they do really well is spool up an electric turbo or supercharger in record time, eliminating turbo lag in the process. The quibble about plug-in technology is a bit of a mystery. Everyone is doing it, Roberto, including BMW with its PHEV version of the X5.
“I’m quite happy about the result we have obtained coupling a four cylinder with the 48 volt e-turbo. I think next time we can also use it in production,” Fideli says. “With a 2.0 liter turbo engine you can achieve around 350 to 400 bhp. We are driving on a simulator a car like that, we are working on it, and the result is not so bad.”
When would a 7 passenger Alfa SUV with 48 volt assist be on the market? Look for it in about 2 years, Fideli suggests. While that may be an ambitious timeline for a new vehicle, Alfa runs the risk of being behind the curve as several competitors will be offering plug-in and electric SUVs by then. Styling is still important to car buyers and Alfa has that going for it in spades with its current offerings. But will it be enough to offset the disadvantage of offering technology that lags behind other brands? Ask us in about two years.
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