Alfa’s Opulent New SUV Slashes EV Running Costs!

Tonale brings plug-in hybrid power

Wed 12 Jun 24


Surprisingly, Alfa Romeo owes its existence to a Frenchman – and the French won’t let us forget it.

To circumvent high import taxes, manufacturer Alexandre Darracq built an ultra-modern factory in Portello near Milan in 1906 to assemble his cars for the wider European market.

Sacré bleu! This tax optimisation ahead of time turned into a fiasco, so much so that the company went bankrupt three years later. Cavaliere Ugo Stella, former director of Darracq in Italy, saw an opportunity to recover this fine plant at a good price, saving its 200 employees. On June 24, 1910, Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (ALFA) was formed with Stella appointed director.

A bit of history there.

In what is a wide welcome for the brand, Alfa Romeo has introduced a much-needed small SUV to its range – the Tonale which carries the legacy of the old compact executive car the Giulia. But at a price – $78,500 plus on-road costs.

But you get the optional $4500 Lusso Pack and $2500 sunroof of non-plug-in models as standard equipment. So, discounting those add-ons, we’re looking at a $13,000 impost for plug-in hybrid power.

The Tonale is part of Alfa’s reinvention as an electrified brand, more popular than the Giulia and Stelvio, that now gets a choice of plug-in hybrid power.

Bypassing the 1.5-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission of the regular Tonale for a 1.3-litre unit and six-speed torque converter, bringing an electric motor to the rear wheels and a 15.5 kWh battery, a big boost for performance.

The plug-in system gives a claimed 60.5 km of EV driving range to potentially slash running costs. Plug-in hybrids are somewhat rare in Australia with around 11,500 examples bought last year, representing less than 1% of the market.

However, the allure of a plug-in hybrid is perfect for some – cheap electric power during the week and the option to extend the driving range via the petrol engine for weekends away.

The posh Lusso Pack includes heated and ventilated front seats with eight-way adjustment and memory, perforated black leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with 465 watts of power, and heated washer jets.

This comes atop standard equipment such as 10.25-infotainment display, 12.3-in. digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, matrix LED headlights and 19-in. diamond-cut alloy wheels.

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Tonale’s posh Lusso Pack includes heated and ventilated front seats with eight-way adjustment and memory, perforated black leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with 465 watts of power, and heated washer jets.

To this opulent bundle add adaptive damping, privacy glass, a 360-deg, camera system and a more complete range of safety and driving assistance features.

Unmistakably an Alfa Romeo, key features include the signature shield grille, slim multi-beam headlights and details like the offset front licence plate position.

Some more history.

A lot of people don’t know, but Alfa Romeo originally started as a racing team, dominating the worldwide circuit. Eventually, after World War 1, they started producing more road cars, and one of the most iconic ever made is undoubtedly the Giulia.

During the 1960s, although the company had no official presence in the top tier of motorsport, several Formula One teams used independently developed Alfa Romeo engines to power their cars. In the early 1970s, Alfa provided Formula One support for their works driver Andrea de Adamich, supplying adapted versions of their 3-litre V8 engine from the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3 sports car to power Adamich’s McLaren 1970-71 entries.

In the mid-1970s, Alfa engineer Carlo Chiti designed a flat-12 engine to replace the T33 V8, which achieved some success, taking the 1975 World Sportscar Championship. Bernie Ecclestone, then owner of the Brabham Formula One team, persuaded Alfa Romeo to supply this engine free for the 1976 Formula One season. Although the Brabham-Alfa Romeo’s first season was relatively modest, during the 1977 and 1978 World Championships their cars took 14 podium finishes, including two race victories for Niki Lauda.

Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo will reportedly strengthen its ties with Maserati, collaborating more closely in engineering and development activities and more closely aligning its sales and service operations. It will also use platforms shared with other Stellantis brands while maintaining its own Italian flair and dynamics.

Reuters reports the brand will launch a new model every year until 2026, an announcement by CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato.

From 2027, the brand will sell only electric vehicles and is targeting Europe, North America and China.

It has, however, committed to right-hand drive production and a continued presence in Australia.


  • Orson Whiels

    Orson Whiels has been a motoring writer for many years and was motoring writer at Queensland Country life in the 1960s-70s and then motoring editor at Australian Timberman.)


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