Every model year there are more and more crossovers added to an already crowded segment as consumers are buying them in record numbers. The segment continues to see big sales gains year over year.

This brings us to newcomer Alfa Romeo, who is trying to strengthen its foothold in this market by offering its first luxury/sport SUV. I tested their first effort, a 2018 Stelvio AWD model, which I discovered is a blend of Audi, BMW and Porsche.

Same old story?

So, you’re probably thinking “another two-box styled crossover,” well you would be wrong. From the performance 19-inch wheels (w/painted calipers) on up, Stelvio’s voluptuous body lines elevate this crossover from workhorse to sleek racehorse. In the rear, a tapered, slanted rear window blends nicely down into a stylized rear hatch. Stelvio finishes with two, big waterpipe exhausts that indicate this is a serious performer.

Sharing is good

Stelvio is based on the Giulia sedan, and that’s a good thing as it shares its suspension, brakes, steering and, most importantly, its powertrain. My test car came with Giulia’s turbo 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. Don’t scoff, this little dynamo can propel this crossover quickly. Power is directed via an 8-speed, paddle-shifted automatic. 

Performance inside

Inside, Stelvio’s cabin is down slightly from the aforementioned competition, but it makes up for that with some performance pieces some of the competitors are missing. Sliding behind Stelvio’s flat-bottomed steering wheel you’ll note two metallic performance paddle shifters on the column. Beyond those two items is a 7.0-in. display cluster full of digital gauges to keep an eye on performance.

Handsome, narrow heated seats wrapped in leather keep you in place during spirited driving. Patches of wood and aluminum trim adorn the dash, and thankfully Alfa kept hard plastic panels to a minimum.

My tester came standard with power controls, 6.5-inch infotainment system compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, an eight-speaker stereo (tester had opt. Harmon Kardon unit), and power liftgate.

In the rear, legroom is tight in this compact hauler, so rear passengers (seat belts for three) better be kids, or you’ll hear complaints after a long trip. Room for your melon is average and compromised more if you opt for dual sunroofs like my tester had.

Again, I use “average” when I describe cargo space, as there’s 18.5 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the second row and just over 56 cu.-ft. with second row folded.

A top act

The road is where Stelvio really distinguishes itself. Stelvio’s standard all-wheel-drive system can send up to 60 percent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels. Step on the pedal and the little 2.0T engine pulls strong from the line all the way to redline. This crossover jumps when you say “jump.” Alfa indicates a 0-60 mph in an estimated 5.4 seconds with a top speed of 144 mph.

The Alfa DNA Drive Mode Selector has three-modes Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency. Stelvio acts like Dr. Jeckel in Natural mode and Mr. Hyde comes out in Dynamic mode with hard-jolting shifts that make the Stelvio leap forward. Stelvio has a fantastic 50-50 weight balance for neutral handling, great sense of road balance/feedback and you can even kick the rear around if you know what to do (at least that’s what I hear).

This crossover carves up corners and road courses better than many performance sedans with similar power and size/weight. A gripe is that Stelvio’s brake system could use some adjustment. The response felt hesitant for an instant during around town drives, but no delay during higher speed blasts.

Porsche used to have a lock on performance SUVs with Audi/BMW nipping at its heels and Mercedes trying to keep up. Now, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio has leapfrogged those last three and is pulling up alongside Porsche.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication