From the History Repeats Itself Department.
[ August 2018 ]
I’m going to lunch with a friend. And I’m smitten with his daily driver.
It’s a new, 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4. Think: Giulia SUV.
It’s white on the outside, and all red leather, black leather, ironwood, and brushed aluminum on the inside. It doesn’t have a manual gearbox—but it doesn’t have a CVT either. Nope. It’s got a 280-horsepower, 2.0L, turbocharged four banger under the hood paired with an 8-speed automatic.
He turns the “dna” knob to “dynamic” and punches it. The damn thing just goes. From a roll. With all-wheel drive. With the air conditioning on. Uphill.
It’s punchy. Nimble. And, oh, so stylish inside and out.
And that’s when it hits me.
MY current automotive weapon of choice is pushing 20 years old. It’s got a 200-horsepower, multi-point injected, 3.5L V6 bolted to a 4-speed, slushbox automatic. It’s a beast—but it’s relatively crude and agrarian.
Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that.
But it’s the realization I’m stuck in the 1990s—and the vehicles have evolved beyond me.
There was a time when carbureted muscle car owners turned their noses up at fuel injection. And there was a time when turbocharged sport compact owners laughed at those guys.
And now here I am—faced with the realization times and tech have changed. I know Fezzik, my trusty, getting-trustier-by-the-day, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero has its own strengths.
The Stelvio, like most modern SUVs, isn’t made for off-tarmac adventures beyond a dirt parking lot at soccer practice—but I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I didn’t want one.
It’s everything I’ve always loved about Alfa Romeos. It’s gorgeous inside and out. It’s form following function—where form is a big part of the function. It’s a grocery getter and a crossover and a touring car and all the wonderful things you can’t really put into words that make Alfa Romeos so damned special.
And it’s a reminder—at least, to THIS gearhead, anyway—that there is much to love in the new models we don’t quite understand, so we should check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.
Maybe it’s not so much the new models are delicate and overly-reliant on technology as it is they’re simply less forgiving of amateur, shade tree hackery at the ham-fisted hands of cheapskate, internet sycophants.
Maybe we can’t just throw a couple hundred bucks of white label, Made in China, performance parts at them and beat on them like the knuckle-dragging animals we used to be (okay, still are in many ways).
20 years ago, we all laughed at our parents for not being able to set the clock on the VCR. How many of us know how to know how to modify direct injected, drive-by-wire vehicles?
The Italian GSX
I just did a quick google. The Stelvio is a modern day Eclipse GSX. Check this out.
1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, 5-speed. TOP OF THE LINE.
- MSRP $26,550. That’s $40,160 in 2018 dollars.
- 210 horsepower (2.0L L4-turbo)
- 0-60: 7.0sec, ¼-mile: 14.8sec @ 91mph
- Top speed: 130-140mph
- 21/28mpg city/highway
- Base weight: 3,270lb
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4, 8-speed automatic. BASE MODEL.
- MSRP $43,290
- 280 horsepower (2.0L L4-turbo)
- 0-60: 5.4sec, ¼-mile: 14.0 @ 97.3mph
- Top speed: 144mph
- 22/29mpg city/highway
- Base weight, 4,044lbs
The base model Stelvio is everything the top-of-the-line GSX was and more.
It’s a bigger vehicle, making an additional 70 horsepower from the same sized engine, getting slightly better fuel economy, a second and a half faster to 60, and almost a full second second quicker through the quarter-mile—despite weighing almost 800 pounds more—for what is essentially the same price, adjusted for inflation.
And I’d bet a dollar more than a couple people reading this far in have thought, “Yeah, but fix it again, Tony,”—even though they didn’t know Alfa is owned by Fiat. (And even though they might be driving 20-year old Mitsubishis to boot.)
We’re gearheads. We love motoring.
We love beautiful design. We love modern technology. We love high performance.
So why do we resist and disrespect the new hotness when it’s right in front of us?
For many of us, picking up the wrench was a matter of necessity. We either figured out how to fix it ourselves or we bummed rides—because we couldn’t afford to pay someone to do the work for us.
That self-reliance became a point of pride.
We discovered we could not only fix our own shit—we could improve it, too.
Did we just find something we loved so much we decided to forsake all others? Are we afraid to admit we know sweet fa about tuning new cars? Have we lost our desire to work on cars? Have we still not learned to modify our bank accounts and tune our budgets so we might afford the new hotness?
Who knows. Everyone’s on their own journeys.
But there will come a time when we find ourselves in a modern machine, feel that adolescent excitement bubbling up like it did all those years ago, and realize we’re still living in the past.
Which is an interesting feeling for gearheads like us.