Three new vehicles from Alfa Romeo, Mercedes and Mini show how you can savor the flavor of Europe without ever leaving the States. Think of it as owning a staycation on wheels.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
MPG: 22 city, 28 highway
Zero-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
From the land of Prada and last year’s steamy “Call Me by Your Name” romance, there’s now a sexy crossover from Alfa Romeo. The compact Stelvio — aptly named after a scenic Italian mountain pass with 48 hairpin turns — is quick, nimble and sculpted like a fashion runway model.
The class-leading acceleration erases any notion this is a ho-hum daily driver and the exhilarating exhaust note is more sophisticated snarl than NASCAR thunder. Power comes from a sturdy 280-hp turbo, and for more gusto there’s a 505-hp Quadrifoglio version, which can blast from zero-60 mph in just 3.6 seconds. But such Q4 power comes at a price: $82,000. That’s why the base Stelvio is perfectly fine, with form-fitting seats, sporty Euro dash and a wacky-but-fun ignition button on the steering wheel.
Lots of luxe and safety options are also available, such as blind-spot monitor, collision warning, dual-pane sunroof and Harman Kardon stereo. But some downsides exist, such as the clunky infotainment system and questionable vehicle reliability. Still, if Alfa had made the Stelvio back in the 1980s, Armie Hammer’s character in “Call Me by Your Name” just might have remained in Italy to cruise around with his lover.
Mercedes GLC 350E 4MATIC
MPG: 25 gas only, 74 gas/electric
Zero-60 mph: 6.2 seconds
After the VW diesel-emissions scandal a few years ago, German automakers really jumped on the hybrid bandwagon.
This includes the all-new GLC 350e 4MATIC, Mercedes’s second plug-in hybrid crossover. Quick and efficient, this compact ride teams a four-cylinder turbo with an electric motor for up to 320 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard and autobahn purists will love the firm-yet-refined handling. To help eliminate driver distractions, there are plenty of safety features: blind-sport monitor, 360-degree camera, collision prevention, drowsy-driver alert and cross-traffic assist.
There’s even “crosswind” assist and traffic-sign assist, with wrong-way warning. A head-up display shows current speed, posted speed limits and other info. Then there’s the high-quality cabin, with natural grain wood, diamond-stitched leather seats, pre-entry climate control and a power liftgate. The noise-insulating front glass keeps things incredibly quiet. And an app lets you control the charging process, park the car from outside the vehicle and determine the fastest and most fuel-efficient routes to take.
Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4
MPG: 27 gas only, 65 gas/electric
Zero-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
Mini is always expanding its line-up in the United States, from the iconic two-door coupe in 2001 to the four-door sedan, convertible, Clubman hauler, Countryman crossover, high-end John Cooper Works models and other variants.
Now there’s the Countryman plug-in hybrid. At $13,000 less than a Mercedes GLC 350E plug-in, the Countryman is a penny-pincher’s delight. But there are a few caveats. Acceleration is slightly slower than with the Mercedes. Cargo space is less than on a traditional Countryman. And this hybrid gets only 12 miles of electric-only range, while other plug-ins can go two to four times as far.
But cornering and parking are a breeze, the standard all-wheel drive comes in handy on slick roads and there’s a surprising amount of headroom (though rear-seat legroom is a bit scrunched). Plus, the nicely finished cabin is full of nifty Mini touches, including retro toggle switches, a multicolored LED ring circling the infotainment system and an 8.8-inch touchscreen with navigation, enhanced Bluetooth and wireless phone charging.