THE RISE AND RISE OF SUVS

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO, JAGUAR F-PACE, MASERATI LEVANTE

Last year saw a 6.5% increase in new car registrations across Europe and across all segments, but the SUV surge was the overwhelming trend of the year with a 21.4% increase, with a similar rise echoed here in the UK. Much of this shift was and continues to be down to the burgeoning popularity of affordable compact SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Captur and VW Tiguan, but premium brand SUVs from the likes of Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche and Volvo have also had a significant impact on sales of the more traditional executive and luxury models.

2016 was undoubtedly a boom year, and April 2017’s year-on-year figures saw an expected overall drop in all new car registrations across Europe with luxury cars down 9.2%, and the executive and sports car sectors both down 12.3%. And SUVs? Up 7.2%.

Not to be left out of the equation, Bentley launched its first SUV, the Bentayga, last year, and it was an instant sell-out, while other luxury brands like Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and even Ferrari all have crossover SUVs in various stages of development.

As mentioned, the premium brand crossover market is already very well covered, but Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio, Jaguar’s F-Pace and Maserati’s Levante are three that have come to the party more recently. They’re the first of their kind from each manufacturer and each are hoping to take their share, for the most part not without good reason.

Rather than present you with a conventional magazine-style group test of this sporty trio we’ve collated some salient and balanced review snippets from a variety of respected titles and bundled them all into the four same categories for each car. We hope you find this easily digestible, informative and, not least, entertaining.

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO

Styling

There’s plenty of shared hardware with the Giulia saloon, but the Stelvio’s looks are a big draw. It’s a bit retro compared to the ultra-modern F-Pace, but who doesn’t love Alfa’s back catalogue? It’s possibly the only SUV you’d buy on looks alone…
Car

Personally I find it a little thickset from the front three-quarter angle, better from the rear, but it is, by and large, an attractive thing and, for some reason, unmistakably Italian. Perhaps it’s the red paint.
TopGear.com

The Stelvio is a cracking shape, handsome on the drive-by shop-window reflection test and a deal more handsome than the common herd of crossovers as well as more immediate rivals such as Porsche’s Macan
The Telegraph

I had much the same sense of teeth-gnashing rage when I first encountered Maserati’s Levante, and that turned out to be just as bad as I’d feared. But as the man brought over more friends for more selfies, I started to gaze more carefully at the Stelvio, and there was no getting round the fact that, actually, it’s quite good-looking.
J. Clarkson, Sunday Times Driving

Driving

Its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine not only delivers an enticingly generous 276bhp, but also 295lb ft of torque, and you can feel the full strength of this from 2,250rpm if you floor the throttle from idle in a low gear. The four-cylinder Multiair motor is smooth, although what you notice most is the mild rort issued across most of the rev range.
Autocar

This is where the Stelvio really shines; it feels far more car-like in the bends than many rivals. The first thing you notice is how quick the steering is – you have to turn the wheel very little to get round even tight corners. Thankfully it isn’t too light, making it easy to place the car’s nose where you want it. Combine this with the stiff suspension, and you have an SUV that goes round corners with more enthusiasm than many saloon cars.
What Car?

On the move, the Stelvio displays a lightness of touch that is initially quite surprising for an SUV – even a small sporting one such as this. The electric power steering is ultra-light in its weighting but also very direct, while the ride is excellent. Body roll is extremely well controlled – to the point of virtual non-existence in most corners.
Auto Express

The funny thing is, though, that because everyone in Italy has a diesel-powered car, it didn’t feel all that weird to be clattering out of the car park. And then it felt fine, because soon I was on the racetrack known as an autostrada, where it felt very powerful.
J. Clarkson, Sunday Times Driving

Interior

There’s more than a whiff of junior Maserati to the interior design, and the sense of quality is in a different league from Alfa’s of old. The driving position is 190mm higher than in the Giulia, but you don’t feel to be perched up too high in the Stelvio. The balance between increased SUV visibility and snug sportiness is about right, in fact, much like it is in the Porsche Macan.
Auto Express

The Stelvio may be classed as a mid-sized SUV, but that still makes it a pretty big vehicle. Up front, there’s plenty of head room even for taller drivers and the seat goes back far enough for the longest of legs. It’s also wide enough to ensure you won’t be rubbing elbows with your passenger.
What Car?

The interior is nicely designed if old-fashioned, with a traditional instrument binnacle and a shallow centre screen for satnav, phone connection and audio. It’s moderately well finished, but some of the myriad surface changes have wide gaps, some of the switchgear has excessive slop and there was variable amounts of wind noise from the test cars, implying door sealing issues.
The Telegraph

There’s some genuine sculpture in there. You get the impression in a Q5 that the dash was built with all the care of a kitchen worktop. It’s just a housing for the dials and the switches. Alfa has made its one something worth looking at. I suppose it’s an Italian thing. It’s why Siena is a better place to sit and people-watch than Dortmund.
J. Clarkson, Sunday Times Driving

Verdict

Would I recommend it? That’s tricky. Out of the box, the Stelvio presents a cheaper but less sporting alternative to the Macan. It looks terrific and relishes being driven fast but not so much being driven slowly, while the ride is as harsh as the Porsche’s.
As always with Alfa, you need to buy with your head as much as your heart. I’m giving it four stars, but they are heavily qualified.
The Telegraph

With so much Giulia DNA the Stelvio was bound to be good. All things considered, Alfa has done an admirable job on converting it’s [the Guilia’s] value into an SUV package. Perhaps it isn’t as stirring as Alfas of the past, but this time who knows, you might actually buy one. At last, Alfa has a car to buy with your heart and head.
TopGear.com

The Stelvio faces stiff competition from a renewed Audi Q5, the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace, but it certainly deserves short-listing if it turns out to be as impressive on the road as it is on the track. Although if you are after the full Alfa Romeo experience the petrol versions seem better at exuding this purposeful passion.
Autocar

If you want a crossover that sacrifices as little of the conventional-car driving experience as possible, then the Alfa Romeo Stelvio should be given serious consideration. It’s a great car in its own right, but given it is Alfa’s first SUV, it’s borderline brilliant on first acquaintance.
Car

Because it’s a big, practical car with a huge boot and folding seats and lots of cubbyholes that’s also an Alfa Romeo, it’s the only SUV that’s quite tempting. It may even be irresistible when Alfa launches the version with the 500-horsepower petrol engine.
J. Clarkson, Driving.co.uk

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO
Price range:from £33,990 to £45,390 (otr)
On sale in UKOctober 2017
Engine (petrol):1,995cc 4-cyl 16v turbo
Engine (diesel):2,143cc 4-cyl 16v turbo
Power (petrol):200 or 280hp. 330 or 400Nm
Power (diesel):180 or 210hp. 450 or 470Nm
Transmission:8-sp auto/manual, RWD or AWD
0-62mph:7.2 or 5.7 secs (p), 7.6 or 6.6 secs (d)
Max speed (mph):130 or 134 (p), 130 (d)
Mpg (combined):40.4 (p), 58.9 (d)
CO2 (g/km):161 (p), 124 or 127 (d)

JAGUAR F-PACE

Styling

To our eyes it’s an elegant looking car, and although the 22-inch wheels might seem ludicrously big in concept, they really suit the F-Pace. Jaguar’s design language has been adapted well, and it fits within the current range while still looking far more individual than Jaguar’s current saloon models.
Evo

Jaguar’s Ian Callum loves to design a car with big wheels and the F-Pace can wear rims up to 22 inches in diameter, its haunches sitting pretty as a picture over them.
Car

Just look at it. It’s notoriously difficult to design a handsome-looking SUV, but if any brand was going to manage it, Jaguar would.
The Express

See how far forward the front wheels sit, how far back the cabin is relative to those and how the window line tapers away and narrows towards the rear. It’s appears a very well proportioned and beautifully detailed car, arguably more stylish than the first rivals that come to mind.
PistonHeads

Driving

Body control is tighter than any Land Rover model, but let’s not pretend it changes direction like an F-Type – that’s physics. Dial back your binary inputs and drive briskly, not manically, and it responds with slick, balanced movements.
TopGear

It exhibits poise and composure down demanding B-roads and, when threading it through corners, it’s truly involving as the four-wheel drive system perceptibly hunts for grip. We’d even go as far to say that it’s actually fun, even if it isn’t quite as engaging as a well-sorted estate or saloon.
Evo

For the F-Pace to be at its most enjoyable to drive, you have to choose the adaptive suspension. Without this options box ticked, it’s not bad, but it feels a little top-heavy and bouncy, which means it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to control when you’re driving in a spirited fashion.
The Telegraph

This is a resolutely on-road focused car, and Jaguar has given it handling, performance and dynamism that are close to the Porsche Macan for class honors.
Car

Interior

Everything looks and feels appealing enough. Material quality is good rather than outstanding, just as we found with the XE and XF. Fit and finish standards are likewise, with some trim pieces feeling just a little bit wobbly when subjected to scrutiny.
Autocar

It’s a wide car, the F-Pace (nearly two metres across – yikes!), with a relatively long wheelbase and short overhangs. That means you can easily sit three adults in the back and there’s 650 litres of boot space with the rear seats up or a commodious 1,740 litres with them folded, versus 500/1,500 for the Macan.
TopGear

Some of Jaguar’s saloons, particularly the XE, are a little cramped inside, but the F-Pace is easily big enough for most families. It’s certainly roomier in the back than a Porsche Macan because a couple of six-footers won’t just fit, they’ll have head and leg room to spare.
What Car?

The F-Pace’s interior is tactile and attractive. It looks and feels classy, and it’s arguably more special to sit in than a BMW X4 or Porsche Macan. What’s more, it’s easy to use – for the most part.
The Telegraph

Verdict

Practical and pretty, Jaguar’s first SUV is arguably the best car it makes.
TopGear

It has enough SUV convenience, utility, ruggedness and refinement, combined with outstanding handling, to earn a fulsome recommendation.
Autocar

The contrasting talents of the F-Pace never seemed so clearly defined. It’s more rewarding to drive quickly than any SUV needs to be, and it’ll tackle terrain 99% of buyers won’t ever experience.
Car

The Jaguar F-Pace is fun to drive and surprisingly practical. The 2.0-litre diesel makes the most financial sense, but the V6 diesel is an absolute belter if money is less of a concern.
What Car?

It would appear the current desirability of the Jaguar brand, the styling and indeed the price were enough to tempt a great many customers to the F-Pace before it had been driven. On this experience it’s easy to see how plenty more will now be drawn to Jaguar’s first SUV as well – it’s fantastic.
PistonHeads

JAGUAR F-PACE
Price range  from£34,730 to £53,365 (otr)
On sale in UKnow
Engines (petrol):1,997cc 4-cyl 16v turbo

2,995cc V6-cyl 24v supercharged

Engines (diesel):1,999cc 4-cyl 16v turbo

2,993cc V6-cyl 24v turbo

Power (petrol):250, 300 or 380hp. 365, 400 or 450Nm
Power (diesel):163, 180, 240 or 300hp. 380, 430, 500 or 700Nm
Transmission:6-sp manual or 8-sp auto/manual, RWD or AWD
0-62mph:from 6.8 to 5.5 secs (p), 10.2 to 6.2 secs (d)
Max speed (mph):from 135 to 155 (p), 121 to 150 (d)
Mpg (combined):from 31.7 to 38.2 (p), 47.1 to 58.9 (d)

MASERATI LEVANTE

Styling

Funnily enough many of the tricks employed to make the Jaguar F-Pace look good, including a long bonnet, cab-rearward stance and narrow window line, are used here. Overall it’s better than you probably first gave it credit for, and not ugly. But the traditional Maserati styling cues arguably don’t work as well on an SUV.
PistonHeads

Basically it fits the template of modern high-end SUVs – a big, powerful five-door hatch, standing tall, wearing design cues from its maker’s luxury saloons and coupes. The design, both inside and out, is on the more extrovert end of the spectrum, but it’s certainly not outlandish.
TopGear

Thanks to the sloping roofline and small rear three quarter windows, the Levante looks smaller than it actually is, whilst maintaining the sort of details one would expect of a Maserati. It is relatively specification sensitive, looking more brash in lighter colours, but in a sea of Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes the Maserati will certainly get you noticed at your next private school PTA meeting.
Evo

Yes, I know the front grille looks like Richard Widmark’s teeth, and the wing portholes are filched off a 1950s Buick, but before you shout “foul” and “plagiarism” at the new Levante, remember that Maserati’s transatlantic style goes back to the 1950s. It was only in the 1980s that the company redesigned its entire range to look like Hyundais.
The Telegraph

Driving

Solid stability at motorway speeds means it’s a great long-distance car. The whole thing is helped by standard air suspension. It can crouch for high-speed driving, lowering the centre of gravity and cutting drag. It lifts to keep the belly off the floor when you’re in the rough, and compensates for the considerable variations in load an SUV will be asked to swallow.
TopGear

The F-Pace was a success because it upscaled – as much as it reasonably could – the dynamic prowess of the XF. The Levante, larger and on standard self-levelling air suspension, feels much more distantly removed from the taut sportiness that defined the Ghibli. That would be fine except that the compromise struck between the divergent requirements of ride and handling is not a particularly satisfying one.
Autocar

While it’s impressively capable off-road (of the five suspension settings available, the highest of the two off-road modes lifts the ride height by 40mm) the biggest surprise and greatest pleasure comes on the high speed handling course. Too often these big beasts contain their mass with huge tyres, musclebound damping and resolutely rigid anti-roll bars, but the Levante feels free and fluid from the off. There’s plenty of poise and pliancy, and the handling balance really does reflect the 50:50 weight distribution.
Evo

The hefty kerbweight also has a big affect on handling. It might come with adjustable air suspension as standard, but it fails to keep the body upright in turns even in its sportiest setting. Factor in steering that is too light and not overly accurate, and you get an SUV that doesn’t corner with the same enthusiasm as the Porsche Macan or Cayenne.
What Car?

Interior

Despite it’s bulky dimensions, the Italian SUV is only available with five seats, though space in the back is pretty good. The Audi Q7 offers seven seats – with the rearmost row folding electrically into the boot floor. The Q7 beats the Levante for quality, too, with Maserati’s tech-filled touchscreen let down by sub-standard materials and flimsy buttons.
Auto Express

It’s all about Maserati’s signature plush warmth, accentuated by acres of soft leather. Given the size outside, it’s no surprise the cabin is above class norms. The centre-console infotainment is a solid upgrade on what Maserati or any other Italian car has offered hitherto.
TopGear

The car’s driving position is excellent: vaunted and commanding yet congenial and very slightly hunkered down behind the high scuttle. With the application of £2,650 worth of fine-grain leather, it looks the part, too, but not every surface, nor every item of switchgear, is as impeccably crafted as in Porsche’s SUV cabins. There’s cheaper plastic to find if you go looking for it – most notably in the brazenly naff clock and the Chrysler parts-bin starter button.
Autocar

I’ll start with its clock. For as long as I can remember, Maseratis have been fitted with an elegant, oval timepiece, the sort of thing you would expect to see David Beckham advertising at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Even when Maserati was basically bankrupt and making the Biturbo, it never stooped so low as to go down the Casio digital route. In the Levante, however, you get an ordinary circular plastic clock mounted in a plastic oval. You look at it and think, “Well, if they’ve cut corners there, where else have the accountants been making merry with the sandpaper?”
J. Clarkson, Sunday Times Driving

Verdict

The Levante isn’t perfect but it is distinctive, practical, fun to drive and a far better resolved product than the Ghibli. And at less than £55k it’s only £4-5k more than the saloon and comes with all-wheel drive as standard.
Car

An accomplished and appealing SUV with a breadth of capabilities, character and identity that set it apart from its rivals.
Evo

The Levante is a good first attempt at an upmarket SUV from Maserati. It’s competitively priced and practical enough, which should open the brand up to a new group of buyers. But it’s neither supremely comfortable nor is it particularly sporty. Quality issues inside also mean it can’t compete with its German rivals.
Auto Express

I expected to return from Italy with a heavy heart, just like I always do on a Maserati launch, having found so much promise but so little delivery. Yet the Levante gets closer to its German competition than any Maserati has before and it does it with heart and soul and a stunning soundtrack, just as it should do.
The Telegraph

There are many, many people of my age who would dearly love to own a Maserati. Lying in bed at night, knowing that you had one in your garage, would make you all warm and gooey. But not the Levante. It doesn’t look or feel or drive like the image you have in your head. And, to make things worse, it doesn’t even feel or look or drive as well as its rivals. To put it simply, BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Land Rover can offer you something better. Much better. I’m willing to bet that the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio is better as well.
J. Clarkson, Sunday Times Driving

MASERATI LEVANTE
Price range  from £56,250 to £76,995 (otr)
On sale in UKnow
Engine (petrol):2,979cc V6-cyl 24v twin-turbo
Engine (diesel):2,987cc V6-cyl 24v turbo
Power (petrol):430hp, 580Nm
Power (diesel):275hp, 600Nm
Transmission:8-sp auto/manual
0-62mph:5.2 secs (p), 6.9 secs (d)
Max speed (mph):164 (p), 143 (d)
Mpg (combined):25.9 (p), 39.2 (d)
CO2 (g/km):253 (p), 189 (d)

SUMMARY

So there you have it. A fair amount of agreement on all three cars, but no shortage of conflicting opinions too. It’s a close call, but on balance we’d say it’s a toss up between the Alfa Stelvio and the Jag F-Pace, both of which attract little negative comment. (The head says Jag, the heart says Alfa…) The Levante certainly takes some flak, plus the cheaper of the two Levante models costs the best part of £3,000 more than the most expensive F-Pace and nigh on £11,000 more than the more expensive Stelvio, but there’s no denying that Maserati’s Trident badge carries appreciably more cachet.

As always, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Speaking of which, we’ve created bespoke finance solutions for numerous premium and luxury SUV buyers, so if you’re looking to purchase an SUV or indeed any other prestige, classic or supercar, please call us on 020 3355 0035 to discuss your finance options.

MASERATI LEVANTE
Price range  from £56,250 to £76,995 (otr)
On sale in UKnow
Engine (petrol):2,979cc V6-cyl 24v twin-turbo
Engine (diesel):2,987cc V6-cyl 24v turbo
Power (petrol):430hp, 580Nm
Power (diesel):275hp, 600Nm
Transmission:8-sp auto/manual
0-62mph:5.2 secs (p), 6.9 secs (d)
Max speed (mph):164 (p), 143 (d)
Mpg (combined):25.9 (p), 39.2 (d)
CO2 (g/km):253 (p), 189 (d)
JAGUAR F-PACE
Price range  from£34,730 to £53,365 (otr)
On sale in UKnow
Engines (petrol):1,997cc 4-cyl 16v turbo

2,995cc V6-cyl 24v supercharged

Engines (diesel):1,999cc 4-cyl 16v turbo

2,993cc V6-cyl 24v turbo

Power (petrol):250, 300 or 380hp. 365, 400 or 450Nm
Power (diesel):163, 180, 240 or 300hp. 380, 430, 500 or 700Nm
Transmission:6-sp manual or 8-sp auto/manual, RWD or AWD
0-62mph:from 6.8 to 5.5 secs (p), 10.2 to 6.2 secs (d)
Max speed (mph):from 135 to 155 (p), 121 to 150 (d)
Mpg (combined):from 31.7 to 38.2 (p), 47.1 to 58.9 (d)
ALFA ROMEO STELVIO
Price range:from £33,990 to £45,390 (otr)
On sale in UKOctober 2017
Engine (petrol):1,995cc 4-cyl 16v turbo
Engine (diesel):2,143cc 4-cyl 16v turbo
Power (petrol):200 or 280hp. 330 or 400Nm
Power (diesel):180 or 210hp. 450 or 470Nm
Transmission:8-sp auto/manual, RWD or AWD
0-62mph:7.2 or 5.7 secs (p), 7.6 or 6.6 secs (d)
Max speed (mph):130 or 134 (p), 130 (d)
Mpg (combined):40.4 (p), 58.9 (d)
CO2 (g/km):161 (p), 124 or 127 (d)

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