Setting the Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale

Setting the Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale

So we’ve finally seen Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale in the fleshand had a good prod around it. What do we make of it?


Story by Chris Rees

Images by Simon Thompson


Setting the Tonale

ALFA ROMEO TONALE

We attend the unveiling of Alfa’s all-new SUV


In a secret studio in a non-descript industrial estate somewhere near Coventry, the covers are finally coming off. Unveiling the new Tonale feels like a big moment for Alfa Romeo – and for me. Despite the muted Vesuvio Grey paint scheme of the preproduction prototype that emerges from under the covers, the first impression is immediately good: it looks right and feels right, right from the off.


Setting the Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale

That’s such an important thing to say. Buyers make snap judgements based on their first few seconds with the car; and I’m already feeling positive. And so should Alfa, since the Tonale simply has to sell well. With 52% of the new car market now comprising SUVs, and a remarkable one in four new cars being SUVs of the Tonale’s size, it’s right in the heartland of what buyers want. The clear benchmark for Alfa is the BMW X1.

OK, so the production Tonale doesn’t have quite the visual impact of the 2019 concept car. Changes include longer overhangs, bigger lights, a broader front grille and a flatter bonnet, but most significantly conventional door handles rather than the concept’s hidden ones and conventional mirrors in place of slender cameras. The superb five-hole teledial wheel design has been kept unaltered, though.

The Tonale is quite tall at 1.6 metres, but not too long or wide (4.53m and 1.84m respectively). Easily the most striking view is from the front, where those six LED lights dominate, all clearly inspired by Alfa’s SZ and Brera/159. Move round to the back and the taillights make a similar impression, curving around the rear end and echoing elements of the Alfa 33, 164 and 916 Spider. The V-shaped rear window, meanwhile, recalls the Alfa 147 and – perhaps – the 8C Competizione.


Setting the Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale

OK, it’s time to step inside and experience the cabin. Grasping the three-spoke steering wheel, my eye is immediately drawn to the classic Alfa twin-hooded instrument binnacle. While it doesn’t contain analogue gauges – there’s a fully digital 12.3-inch screen instead – you can choose from three different styles: Heritage (classic dials), Evolved (modern dials) and Relaxed (for night driving). The Heritage format looks brilliant to me and would be the one I’d smoke around with. One neat detail: when you switch the car on, the display shows a head-on image of the car with the headlamps illuminating; switch it off and an image of the taillights going off is shown.

Emerging from the centre of the dashboard is a big 10.25-inch touchscreen unit (the biggest in its class, claims Alfa). This is also configurable with a choice of tech gauges, TomTom navigation and Amazon Alexa control. It also integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and can be updated over the air.

Alfa needs the Tonale to compete with premium German cars. Ensuring top quality was one of the reasons why the launch was delayed by three months, and Alfa is aiming to build up the brand over a 10 to 20-year timescale, pushing quality to the fore. So I’m delighted to report that the feeling of quality in the Tonale is palpable. The materials are high-end, with only the lower front cabin suffering from hard plastics. The dashboard features beautiful ambient lighting whose colours you can change. More neat touches: a metal volume controller, a wireless charger ahead of gear lever and great-feeling aluminium shift paddles. The only ergonomic fault I could find was a rather obtrusive centre front armrest.

The rear seats have plenty enough headroom for six-footers and big door apertures to ease getting in and out. The feeling of quality is, as per usual among new cars, less impressive in the rear: it’s scratchy plastic land back here. The boot is big at 500 litres and benefits from a split-level floor, and while the load lip is way off the ground (75cm), that’s par for the SUV course.


HOW WILL IT DRIVE?

For many Alfa fans, this is the million-dollar question. The signs are all hopeful: Alfa is claiming “best-in-class driving dynamics”, thanks to ideal 50/50 weight distribution, ultra-direct steering and a chassis – developed by the team behind the ‘Giorgio’ platform – that’s confugured for sharp handling (for instance, Alfa says the cornering roll angle is 20% better than the class average). The platform is an evolution of the Fiat 500X/Jeep Renegade but has a wider track, extra stiffness, less weight and unique suspension, steering and electronic systems.

The MacPherson suspension comes with Comfort and Sport modes selected via the DNA controller (now a nice-feeling rotary dial). Moving between modes alters the engine, steering and stability control; it also changes torque vectoring (front-drive models only) and electronic damping (Veloce models only). For the first time there’s an ‘ESC Off’ mode too – just like a Ferrari. As with the Stelvio, the Tonale uses a brake-by-wire system and four-piston Brembo callipers. There’s a choice of 18, 19 or 20-inch wheels.

Expect punchy performance, too. In the UK, the Tonale is hybrid-only, with three power options. Starting the range are two front-wheel drive, 1.5-litre turbo petrol hybrids with 130hp and 160hp. Each uses a 48-volt electric motor offering 15kW of power and 55Nm of torque and can travel in electric-only mode at low speeds by selecting ‘A’ on the DNA dial.

The range-topper is the Plug-in Hybrid Q4 all-wheel drive 275hp model, with its 1.3-litre MultiAir turbo engine driving the front wheels and an electric motor driving the rears. It’ll do 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds and travel up to 37 miles in EV mode.


LAUNCH RANGE

The UK range at launch will consist of three models: Ti, Speciale and Veloce. The full equipment list and specifications have yet to be confirmed but we do know that the Speciale edition will be sold in 2022 only, and priced between the Ti and Veloce. The Speciale will have 20-inch wheels, MHEV or PHEV and no electronic damping (a cost-saving measure).

Only six colours will be offered: Misano Blue, Alfa Red, Vesuvio Grey, Visconti Green, Alfa White and Alfa Black. Taking 50% of sales, company car customers will be important – something that hasn’t really been on Alfa’s radar in recent times – as will families and females. We don’t know prices yet, other than that they will be “competitive” – we’d expect a start price below the £40,000 mark – and Alfa anticipates high retained values and therefore low monthly payments. Production for UK customers begins in July for September delivery.

Speciale model (shown) is the launch spec for 2022 only. Expect the Tonale to be a dynamic class leader. Positive impressions: great quality cabin, clear driver graphics, smart style with classic Alfa design themes. Front lights recall the Alfa SZ, while the rear has hints of Alfa 916 Spider and 147. Overall, a successful design.


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS HYBRID 130 HYBRID 160 PLUG-IN HYDRID Q4

  • ENGINE: 1.5 petrol/electric 1.5 petrol/electric 1.3 petrol/plug-in
  • MAX POWER: 130hp 160hp 275hp
  • MAX TORQUE: 240Nm TBA TBA
  • EV RANGE: TBA TBA 37 miles
  • TRANSMISSION: 7-sp DCT, FWD 7-sp DCT, FWD 6-sp auto, AWD
  • DIMENSIONS: 4530mm (L), 1840mm (W), 1600mm (H)
  • WEIGHT: 1800kg 1800kg 1900kg
10:09
704
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
Drives TODAY use cookie