CHATHAM, Mass. – To most Americans who even remember the Alfa Romeo name, the image it evokes is a sleek, sexy two-seat roadster with unique Italian flair being driven by the likes of Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren along the twisting, mountainous Mediterranean Coast.
The driving spirit of the iconic Spider sports car today can be found from behind the wheel of the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce, a unique compact sport utility vehicle (SUV).
The design begins with the iconic triangular “Trefoil” Grille in the center of the front fascia identifying the Tonale as an Alfa Romeo. This is an SUV with curves and character lines which sets this vehicle apart from the others in its segment.
The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce represents the sporting side of plug-in-hybrid vehicles, combining a fuel-efficient 1.3-liter turbocharged gasoline-fueled internal-combustion engine (ICE) with a 90kW motor for both superior performance (0-60 miles per hour in under five seconds) as well as excellent fuel economy (29 mpg overall).
The all-wheel-drive (AWD) of the Tonale Veloce splits the power – the ICE 180 horsepower flows through the automatic six-speed transmission to the front wheels, while the 120 horsepower (90kW) electric motor powers the ones at the rear.
The driver’s right foot on the accelerator along with the amount of electrical energy available, and the vehicle’s computer system, determines which wheels will get how much power.
A fully charged 15.5kWh Lithium-ion, nickel manganese cobalt graphite battery (which weighs 276 pounds) can propel the Tonale Veloce for about 31 miles on pure electricity before the ICE needs to take over.
The Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV offers three options in delivering electrified power to the wheels, controlled by the D.N.A. selector switch at the front left of the center console. Each mode also includes changes to the driving dynamics (steering, braking and suspension). Regardless of the mode selected, the Tonale operates as an efficient hybrid once the battery nears its minimum state of charge.
Dual Power mode provides maximum performance, guaranteed by full output from the 1.3-liter turbocharged engine and rear electric motor power sources. This mode also gives precise calibration of the throttle pedal and more assertive ecoasting/regenerative braking. The combined output of the entire powertrain is 285 horsepower and 347 pounds-feet of torque.
In Natural mode, managing the switch between the electric motor and engine is automatic. The ideal setting for everyday use, the system will bring in the 1.3-liter turbocharged engine when the vehicle shifts into second gear or when more performance or traction is demanded.
The Advanced Efficiency setting is designed for maximum electric range. The Tonale will only use power from the 15.5-kWh battery to drive the rear electric motor for more than 30 miles. Once the battery reaches its minimum state of charge, the 1.3-liter engine will start, and the vehicle will operate like a traditional hybrid with continued efficiency and extended range. The (BSG) eMotor will charge the battery, enabling continued use of the rear e-motor and AWD.
Platform dynamics and integrated brake system
The suspension system of the Tonale Veloce features MacPherson-type struts up front with a three-arm geometry system in the rear. The Dual Stage electronic suspension allows the driver to choose sport or comfort settings, with the former reducing body movements, increases vertical rigidity and is aimed at improving vehicle dynamics in the corners.
The Tonale features the Integrated Brake System (IBS), an electromechanical system combining stability control with conventional friction brakes. The integration between electronics and mechanics, significant weight optimization, optimal feeling and the total absence of pedal vibrations guarantee the system an instantaneous brake response. The adoption of fixed calipers by Brembo (red, with Alfa Romeo written in white script), with four pistons and self-ventilated rotors at the front (13.53 inches) and full discs at the rear (12.08 inches), contributes to improved braking performance.
Extensive ADAS onboard
The Tonale comes equipped with the Alfa Romeo Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) for Level 2 autonomous driving with Traffic Jam Assist (TJA), automatic handling of acceleration and braking and remaining within the center of the lane.
According to the company, “In detail, the Alfa Romeo Tonale enables Level 2 autonomous driving by combining the forward-facing camera, which longitudinally and laterally monitors all the car’s surroundings, the Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (IACC) and Lane Centering (LC) systems. Specifically, the IACC system automatically adjusts the car’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front utilizing the Traffic Sign Recognition and Intelligent Speed Assist systems. The former uses the on-board camera to recognize traffic signs, reports them on the display, and alerts the driver of the current speed limit. The latter suggests the driver reduce or increase their speed to the limit detected. If the driver accepts, the cruise control settings are automatically adjusted. Conversely, the LC system controls the side movements of the car to keep the vehicle in the center of the lane, even in heavy traffic conditions.”
The additional standard ADAS includes driver-attention alert; blind-spot and cross-path detection; rain-sense automatic wipers; ParkSense® front and rear park-assist, and traffic-sign recognition.
The test vehicle also had the optional ($2,000) Active Assist Advance Package which added automatic-dimming rearview mirror; active driving assist system; surround-view camera; parallel and perpendicular park-assist with stop and ParkSense Front/Rear/Side-park assist.
Comfort, Italian style
The interior combines technology with a raft of high-end amenities to fulfill the promise of a luxury compact SUV.
The heated and ventilated leather seats (part of the optional $2,500, Premium Interior and Sound Package) are power adjustable and the leather-covered steering wheel is heated. The seats are a bit harder than the average American might be used to, but this is not noticeable after spending some time in the vehicle and they are well shaped for aggressive driving, which the Tonale Veloce asks for at all times.
A 12.3-inch color LCD touchscreen resides at the top-center of the dash providing the heart of the Uconnect 5 infotainment system with navigation. Voice command as well as easy to navigate on-screen menus makes for a well thought out system. Included is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
The other major portion of the Premium Interior and Sound Package is the Harmon Kardon Premium Audio system.
It is a cozy, well designed space in which to enjoy the Tonale’s cruising capabilities as well as its sporting nature.
Living with the new Italian SUV
As I said earlier, there is something about getting behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo which begs the driver to drive; to drive aggressively, with verve. This was true of the Spider Veloce and it is true of the Tonale Veloce. The car easily maneuvered around and through Cape Cod’s busiest seasonal traffic as well performing wonderfully on the hilly twisting roads leading from the Atlantic Coast into Wellfleet’s village.
The well equipped Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce starts at $47,495 and the test model, with options mentioned and a few others, totaled $57,290 (including $1,595 destination charge).
If performance and fun in a sport utility package is your goal, the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce delivers.