Better Without Make Up

Alfa Romeo have revealed the standard edition Stelvio soft-roader CUV raised hatch product.

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Based purely on a careful glance of the publicity photos, the car radiates much less of a displeasing character than the full-on range-toppers that have been shown so far.

Much the same applies to the Alfa Romeo Giulia which, in its top-spec, looks slightly grotesque. In its standard form it’s nice enough. Turning to other brands, the AMG versions of Mercedes cars all overcook it. I would wager that if the AMG running gear was transferred to the body-shell of a base model the vehicle would even perform slightly better.

BMW’s M-series cars and Audi’s S-lines carry the performance baggage with a little less effort and don’t shout quite as much from the kerbside as you go by.

The principle behind launching the range toppers (the Stinger has just done it) is to show the best version and let the after-glow trickle and ooze down over the lesser cars. I’d like to turn this philosophy on its head and put it into a wheelie-bin. Seeing as I am extremely moderate, I’d argue that a nice-looking mid ranger would be the best model to show in the launch photos. Or perhaps the best of the “normal looking” range would be another way to style it.

That way the majority of customers who are never going to buy the 560 bhp, 4×4 V8 version will not be deterred by the flashy addenda that usually adorn such chest wig cars.

Small but important.
Small but important.

With such a strategy the manufacturer then has something left for the end of the product “striptease”, a product-range money shot, if you like, for those who don’t like to leave things to the imagination. This gives a chance for a new bit of news, say about six months after launch: “Wolseley reveals Turbo V6 Raceline version of the 31/34 soft-roader”. In truth, there are not so many of these extreme cars sold and I think there is such a difference in character that anyone who really goes for a medallion-man version is going to be cross-shopping other such cars not vehicles down in the same range.

So, I want to know what the standard Stinger looks like. Some of our stalwart correspondents have shown less than total approval of the car. I’d even agree that it’s probably going to be just about alright. However, it’s not up against stiff competition in the looks stakes. The Giulia is not bad in its standard form and the Jaguar XE is growing on me. I even think – at long last – Mercedes have somehow turned out a quite attractive vehicle in the C-class. A few other parameters could be what will make the real difference to the Stinger, not the existence of the largely hypothetical V8 monster they unveiled recently.

Maybe the Stelvio will turn out to be a nice kind of car within the modern idiom – I can see that more easily now the make-up is off and the pose has been dropped.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “Better Without Make Up”

  1. It is much more usual to launch the standard versions first and let the halo model follow. It is Alfa Romeon that turned this on its head with the Giulia, showing the QF first with the lower spec values following in its wake. I suppose they needed to grab as much attention as possible and considered the strategy a success, so have followed it with the Stelvio.

    And at the risk of annoying you Richard, I would suggest that colour choice has an impact here. The Giulia QF worked those Ferrari associations with its red war paint, but the Stelvio looks overblown in the same hue. This grey, however, suits the car rather well.

    1. Nothing about car opinions annoys me. It’s fun to discuss and I enjoy hearing other views. I’ll have to think about other top-down launches.

  2. I suppose that Bentley have a habit of launching the biggest engine first and then filling the range below that. Porsche like to lead with the full Turbo model for their non-sports cars, like Panamera. But, more typically, the really racy version comes late in the product life cycle, as you suggest – Ford RS, Porsche RS, etc

  3. I could not agree more with you Richard re the travesties AMG imposes on the Mercedes range. Whilst my automotive interests tend to lie elsewhere in Europe I have always admired the rather chunky squat shape of the current A class until those Tuetonic tuning wizards got their hands on one. What ensued is a mishmash of almost cartoon like appendages, the worst offender being the rear spoiler which has never better lived up to its name. It is probably the best current automotive example of the oft used quote ‘If one has nothing to say then one should say nothing at all’.

    If others feel there are better automotive disasters in a similar vein possibly an entire article on this subject would be a great way for spleens to be vented.

  4. With FCA’s latest financial disaster looming here over goodness knows how many RAM pickup trucks fitted with the VM Motori V6 diesel, which the EPA though the US Justice Dept is after for yet another ingenious implementation of cheating the pollution tests, one wonders if we’ll ever see the Stelvio or Giulia at the dealerships. There are only five Alfa dealers in Canada, none around here. They have been busy flogging the 4C, some even managing to sell three or four in an entire year! Obviously a CUV is needed since people with the requisite bread are older with bad knees, and flounce off to the Mercedes dealer at the slightest sign of impediment.

    My best pal with the same hobby as me, completely out-of-fashion top-end audio and vinyl, is Warranty manager (a job with solid long term prospects) at a local FCA dealer, the only one of three in our hinterland outpost to which Marchionne awarded a Fiat dealership. Well, it’s been a financial disaster. They really aren’t much cop and I’ve driven three reasonably extensively, courtesy of my friend. Abarth was the best, the 500L just grim. Can’t be bothered to have a go in the 500X, like everyone else showing zero interest – it’s been a dud. The best-selling model since last July has been the 124, a Mazda Miata MX-5 in disguise. Two! Thus thrilled, the sales manager has ordered and received three more during the winter doldrums, so as to be fighting fit for Spring sales. Joy!

    Even better, one of principals of the dealership, who also owns Ford, Jag, Porsche, Audi, Hyundai, Subaru, Mazda etc etc dealerships in his automotive group, and is thus an exceedingly wealthy man, decided he’d have a 4C, so one was shipped down from Tee-Oh (our short form for Toronto) for his delectation. Like all the FCA imports, the price is sky high for reasons unconnected with the Euro/Cdn$ relationship. Goodness knows why. One more reason for low sales.

    I suspect, given that Marchionne is Canadian, with several degrees including his law one earned at the most prestigious law school, as we term them, in the country – Osgoode Hall, we are being punished for not buying more Fiats. Once he left Canada where he’d lived since the age of 11, and returned to the bacchanalian pleasures of Europe, he seems to have concentrated on buying numerous black sweaters (jumpers), smoking and capuccinos, while adopting a top down management style, and not implementing better quality at Chrysler, while informing everyone else they’re not as intelligent as he is. That and making bold incorrect predictions about the always imminent revival of Alfa Romeo.

    Excuse me if I don’t hold my breath much longer for, as Richard so deliciously puts it, a “soft-roader CUV raised hatch product.” Everything’s a product these days, but “raised hatch product” takes the gong. We have a winner. As to whether a midrange spec one in grey would be better featured in photos, I remain in anxious stasis merely hoping to see one in any spec whatsoever in the flesh! Even better would be one that showed some sign of being properly screwed together, as depressingly, Italian and Serbian Fiats are lacking on that score.

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