Granted, Enzari wouldn’t normally be the place you’d visit to read about 4x4s and driving ‘off-road’, or green-laning to use its proper term. Nor, come to that, are you likely to see many of the AWD SUVs that are plentiful on our roads these days venturing off tarmac, except maybe on a gravel car park or grassy verge.
However, I am not your average 4×4 owner, and when I test a 4×4 I like to explore our ever demising right of way system and test a cars ability to drive them. So, when Alfa sent me their Q4 Stelvio to review, I of course went in search of mud.
This tale of adventure goes back to the week before Christmas when my wife was stricken down with a nasty cold, our press car was the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and I was trying to think of somewhere different to take it. Then, out of the blue, Nat, an old friend sent me a message saying that if I wanted, I could visit him and explore some of the tracks around his farm.
Never one to refuse an offer to play in mud, I sent him a quick text back saying “Cool, I’ll see you on Sunday!” When Sunday arrived I threw a few bit’s ’n’ pieces in the back of the Stelvio and set off for the 2 hour drive towards Helmsley, North Yorkshire to test the Stelvio’s 4×4 credentials, and take some pretty pictures.
Arriving at the farm, we reminisced about the old times, checked out his old yellow Suzuki LJ80 and I kindly refused the offer to buy a goat, as you do.
Agreeing that we both didn’t have a lot of time to spend meandering around the lanes, Nat chose to take me along some of the tracks that skirt through the farm.
Following Nat in his Toyota Hilux tray back through some fairly deep ruts made by tractors and other farm machinery, I began to wonder if this was a good idea. I expected to hear an array of noises as the front of the Stelvio plowed a layer of mud and stones from the surface, but I didn’t, the Alfa’s ground clearance is better than it first looks.
Further along as the ruts evened out I noticed as Nat began to slide sideways due to the camber of the track, but he regained traction easily due to his aggressive off-road tyres. “How would the Stelvio cope on road tyres.” I pondered.
Well, it was one of those buttock-twitching moments as the tyres didn’t have enough sidewall grip and I slid sideways towards the rolling Yorkshire hillside! Thankfully there was enough of a lip on the track to prevent me getting into any real danger.
The track remained muddy with a solid base, and as we headed downwards towards another gate I could feel the back end twitching slightly as I feathered the brakes. The gradient wasn’t that steep, but I thought it wise at this point to press the Hill Descent Control button on the steering wheel, and suddenly the electrics took over slowing the Stelvio down which made it much more controllable.
A couple of gates later and we crossed a small stream, which doesn’t sound that bad, but both the entrance and exit were quite sloppy. Normally at this point I’d have given it a bit of momentum but I decided against it as I wanted to see how the Stelvio coped with the gooey stuff. Very well, it transpired.
From there we continued up the single track and through another couple of gates until we reached the main road, then continued on a loop back towards Helmsley.
Next I followed Nat along one of the many forestry tracks that surround the farm that were initially nice and flat, then, after a hairpin bend I was confronted with quite a steep and slippery descent as we headed downwards towards the valley below. Again, the Stelvio’s Hill Descent Control took over and made it look easy.
A couple more gentle lanes and a few photo stops later we headed back to the farm, and after leaving Nat to carry on with his farming duties I followed our previous track back along the forestry road towards the steep bit, stopping of course for the odd photo.
The Stelvio’s drive system is quite simple, in normal driving it sends all the drive to the rear wheels for that typical sports car feel, but when traction is lost it feeds power to the front. I have to say that it does this seamlessly and efficiently, even when I stopped on the steepest and wettest part of the incline the Stelvio drove forward without any hesitation of loss of traction. It’s also fitted with one of those auto handbrake things that stops you from rolling backwards whilst on a hill, which was handy!
Arriving home filthy (both me and the Stelvio) I reflected on the day over a pint of Guinness and a huge grin. I was more than impressed with the Stelvio off-road capability, and although a 2wd car could have coped with some of the lanes we drove, there were others they wouldn’t have, and the Stelvio made light work of them all.
It obviously isn’t a ‘proper’ 4×4 in the true sense, but if you live in the countryside and often need to plough along muddy farm tracks and the like, don’t discount the Stelvio because of it’s sporty heritage, it’ll manage just fine.