This is just the first step — the Tonale is a sure sign of what’s to come.
By 2027 (at least if all goes to plan), internal combustion will leave the Alfa Romeo brand for good. Over the next five years, though, we’ll see electrification make its way into the iconic Italian brand as a performance boost, and that’s what we have here. The 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale — a new sub-Stelvio crossover offering — is an Alfa first, the company insists. While you can drive this plug-in hybrid model on electricity alone, that extra electric motor makes the most of power and efficiency — with one possibly surprising caveat for die-hard fans of the brand.
So, what exactly did Stellantis bring to the table today? On the styling front, the new Tonale punches above its weight (as you’d probably expect) with a bold face and sleek character lines. In fact, the most crucial of those lines, Alfa says, is the “GT Line” (not to be confused with Kia’s eponymous trim level), a single line that moves from the taillights forward to the headlights and defines the car’s profile and stance. Beyond that, the “Triobo” 3+3 light cluster design draws from cars of old, including the three-decade-old, iconic SZ and even more modern examples like the Brera hatchback.
In terms of size, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale befits a compact (C-segment, for Europeans), with dimensions ever so slightly smaller than that of its larger Stelvio brother. This car comes in at 178.3 inches long, 72.4 inches wide and 63 inches tall, falling roughly in line (though Alfa’s car is a few inches longer) with the Audi Q3, BMW X2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The powertrains make the difference
At the beating heart of the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale — again, for the next few years, at least — is a turbocharged engine. Which turbocharged engine you get, however, depends on which market you’re in and where your priorities (and budget) lie. The North American market will see the two most potent options at launch: a 1.3-liter-based plug-in hybrid and a conventional 2.0-liter turbo mill.
The former, despite the smaller gas engine, is actually the most potent among Alfa’s latest crossover lineup. In total, you’ll get 272 horsepower by way of the 180 hp four-pot paired to a 90 kW electric motor. Similar to other PHEV crossovers, internal combustion drives the front wheels, while the electric motor and its 1,844 lb-ft of torque drives the rear wheels. From 0 RPM, that punchy rear motor draws from a 15.5 kWh battery pack for its energy, and can power the car on electricity alone for up to 37 miles. Mind you, that figure is according to the overseas WLTP cycle, so the all-electric figure could (and probably will) change once we see official EPA numbers over here. Thanks to the layout, the Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV is all-wheel drive only, and comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The 2.0-liter engine, for its part, puts out 256 horsepower, and comes with a 9-speed automatic — a gearbox that’s par for the course among Stellantis’ small to midsize crossovers these days. Here you’ll get a similar mechanical Q4 all-wheel drive system to the Stelvio and the Giulia sedan. European customers, for their part, will get two front-wheel drive hybrid offerings in place of the 2.0-liter turbo (with 130 hp and 160 hp, respectively) as well as a diesel option — none of which are coming to America, naturally.
What about a Tonale Quadrifoglio?
Unlike it’s siblings, you’ve probably already noticed an omission in the Tonale’s lineup. By and large, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale will follow its stablemates with the trim walk — covering Sprint as the base model, followed by the mid-range Ti and the top-end Veloce. What you won’t find is a high-strung, hardcore Quadrifoglio, and there’s no such model in sight, at least in the near-term.
Why? When I spoke to Alfa Romeo about that subject, the decision came down to a matter of intent (figuring out just how to position the Tonale to potential customers) as well as the limitations of the smaller, Alfa Romeo-specific platform. Cranking out anything close to what the bigger Quadrifoglios offer with their 505 horsepower, Ferrari-derived 690T engines just isn’t in the cards for this particular application.
Still, 272 horsepower in a car this size is substantial enough for most, and should hustle it along just fine. Although, just how quickly it will do that remains a question mark until we can actually test it out.
More on the Tonale’s driving dynamics
In “Alfa Romeo first” style, the Tonale does pack some performance hardware befitting a sporty offering as an alternative to the German competition. The PHEV Veloce, as you’ll see here, packs Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers and ventilated discs up front, as well as solid rotors in the rear. Engineers gave it a quick 13.6:1 steering ratio, making it one of the most responsive setups in its class. MacPherson independent suspension gives the crossover fully independent control both front and rear, while drivers can tune the damping though Alfa’s “DNA” drive mode system.
This time around, the “A” stands for “Advanced Efficiency”, tuning the Tonale for better fuel economy in everyday driving conditions. “N” is the Normal mode that most drivers will stick with by default, while keen drivers will immediately kick it over to “D”, or Dynamic mode. On the suspension front, Alfa Romeo stuck with a “Comfort” setup for the two more efficient drive modes. For Dynamic or when you set it to ESP OFF, though, the damping will stiffen up to its Sport setting.
Bringing tech to the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale
As you’d expect with a new model, Alfa Romeo pretty much throws everything Stellantis currently offers at the Tonale. Getting in, you’ll encounter a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, as well as a 10.25-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment screen (at least in top-spec Veloce trim). Both are tuned toward Alfa’s unique flavor, from styling and font on the cluster to match old-school, 20th century models like the 1960s Giulia, and especially the GT Junior — a car from which the Tonale also draws that character line.
On driver assistance tech, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale remains competitive with the class, offering “Level 2” semi-autonomous capability. Features like adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, blind spot and rear cross path detection, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, driver attention assist and traffic jam assist (where the car will accelerate, brake and steer in slow-moving conditions) are all baked in. As ever, these are “hands-on, eyes-on” systems, though, where the driver will have to remain engaged for the duration they are enabled.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard fare, as is Amazon Alexa compatibility. Owners can interface with their Tonale to some extent through the Alfa Connect mobile app, and the car is set up for over-the-air updates when necessary.
Alfa Romeo also brings NFTs into the mix
Zooming out from the car itself, Stellantis is pushing toward being a software-focused company, as much as it is an automaker. In a first for the Alfa Romeo (and an early adopter in the automotive space, no less), NFTs will debut with the Tonale as a sort of digital keepsake to maintain through the Alfa Connect app.
Non-fungible tokens, as they are, will record vehicle data — with the owner’s consent — to create a digital certificate that’s unique to that specific car and owner. The NFT uses “blockchain” technology to record this data and keep a non-modifiable record of what Alfa defines as “the main stages in the life of an individual vehicle”. That token will ostensibly add some residual value to the vehicle, as the certification adds a sort of digital fingerprinting that outlines the life that car’s lived up to the point it winds up on the used car market.
In practice, will it play out that way? Only time will tell, but Alfa Romeo nonetheless will include this technology as part of the Tonale’s ownership experience. We’ll have to see how it plays out and how NFT transactions affect the car’s residual value (if the folks who buy Tonales take part).
When will the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale go on sale?
Europeans will be the first to see Alfa’s latest crossover, as it’s set to launch in that market this summer. We in North America will see the car roughly six months later, with orders set to open in the back half of this year. However, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale won’t actually start reaching order holders or dealer lots until the first quarter of next year, so we’re still in for a bit of a wait.
Pricing is not available yet, but we do know the trim walk based on what the company’s given so far. The base Sprint will only be available with the 2.0-liter turbo, while the Ti will top out that engine’s range and serve as the base version of the Tonale PHEV. While both variants will share the Ti trim, only the plug-in hybrid will get the top-spec Veloce option.
For its part, Alfa Romeo and its marketing team are focusing more closely on customer satisfaction with the Tonale, in hopes of delivering a “premium experience” and a more comprehensive alternative to the German brands. While the Stelvio has served the brand’s sales charts well over the past few years, the brand needs to enter the smaller space as soon as possible. Conquest from those brands is a major objective, and the company could see a majority of would-be buyers actually spring for the new plug-in hybrid model.
From here, the brand will launch its first dedicated EV in 2025, before phasing out internal combustion entirely two years later.