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Alfa Romeo Tonale kicks off a tech-centric ‘metamorphosis’

Alfa Romeo is a classic automotive brand that’s once again looking to reinvent itself. The 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale crossover SUV is the first model in what Alfa calls a “metamorphosis” that will take the automaker in a more tech-focused direction.

Scheduled to launch in North America in the first quarter of 2023, the Tonale aims to combine the style and sportiness of the current Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV and Giulia sedan with a greater array of tech features, including more connectivity, an NFT for vehicle data, and an available plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s the first step toward Alfa’s goal to go all-electric by 2027.

A plug-in hybrid Alfa Romeo SUV would have once been considered sacrilege, but the Tonale represents a rational reading of the market. To be more of a mainstream brand, Alfa needs to embrace SUVs, and stricter global emissions are pushing most automakers to invest in hybrids or EVs. Alfa has traditionally emphasized emotion over logic, but with the Tonale, it aims to balance both.

Profile view of the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale.

Design

The Tonale is based on a 2019 concept car, and a good amount of the concept’s design seems to have filtered through to the production version. With so many crossover SUVs on the market, it can be hard to stand out. Alfa’s design team hopes copious references to past Alfa models will accomplish that.

Designers tried to keep the exterior as clean as possible, with few defining lines beyond the main “GT Line” running horizontally from the headlights to the taillights. Alfa says this shape references the 1960s Giulia GT Junior, while the headlights are a nod to the more recent Alfa Romeo SZ and Brera. The Tonale also wears a modern interpretation of Alfa’s signature “teledial” wheels, in 19-inch or 20-inch diameters, depending on the model.

Under the sheet metal, the Tonale shares some DNA with the Jeep Compass and Renegade. The basic platform from those models served as a starting point, but was modified for some Alfa-specific design features like a wider track, Alfa Romeo products manager Daniel Tiago Guzzafame said in a briefing to multiple media outlets ahead of the Tonale’s launch.

Alfa said the interior was designed to focus on the driver, with most controls oriented around the driver’s side of the dashboard. The Tonale may be an SUV, but Alfa still considers it a driver’s car, just like its traditional sports cars and sports sedans. Hopefully, that doesn’t make life too inconvenient for front-seat passengers.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale interior view.

Tech

Alfa Romeo is the first automaker to attempt to cash in on the NFT craze. Each Tonale will get an NFT that, Alfa claims, will record vehicle data on the blockchain, helping to authenticate information such as mileage and maintenance records when cars hit the used market. This data will be recorded with the customer’s consent, Alfa claims.

The infotainment system includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch reconfigurable digital instrument cluster, with standard wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home Assistant integration, plus Wi-Fi and over-the-air update capability. The system is a version of Uconnect 5, which is used by other brands from Alfa’s parent company, Stellantis.

The Alfa Connect mobile app can connect drivers to customer service, automatically send SOS calls after a crash, allow owners to limits vehicle functions for valet parking or teen drivers, and track a stolen vehicle.

Alfa will offer adaptive cruise control and lane centering, as well as a traffic jam assist feature that combines both functions in stop-and-go highway driving. Other available driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a driver attention monitor, and a 360-degree camera system.

The 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale's digital instrument cluster.

Specifications

The Tonale gets an optional plug-in hybrid powertrain, making it the first Alfa production model with an electrified powertrain. The Tonale PHEV Q4 AWD model uses a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission to drive its front wheels, and an electric motor powering the rear wheels, enabling all-wheel drive. Total system output is 272 horsepower.

A 15.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack will provide over 30 miles of electric driving range, Alfa claims.

In North America, Alfa will also offer a non-hybrid powertrain consisting of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 256 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and mechanical all-wheel drive. Other markets will get a mild-hybrid powertrain with front-wheel drive, as well as a diesel option.

Past Alfas have been distinguished by sporty driving dynamics, and the automaker claims the Tonale will be no different. The Tonale does get adaptive suspension and robust brakes with calipers from high-end supplier Brembo, but we won’t be sure if it lives up to Alfa’s reputation until we get behind the wheel.

Side view of the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale.

Rivals

The Tonale will sit below the Alfa Romeo Stelvio in size and price, meaning it will compete with the smallest premium crossovers, like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and Lexus UX.

While this is a fairly crowded market segment, Alfa may still have an opportunity to make its mark. The models listed above are near the bottom of their respective manufacturers’ lineups, meaning customers often get a watered-down version of luxury. If Alfa can deliver on its promises of sporty driving and a premium experience, the Tonale could be a winner.

Alfa hasn’t released pricing, but the Tonale will have a fairly streamlined lineup consisting of just three trim levels: Sprint, Ti, and Veloce. It will be built at the Giambattista Vico Stellantis Plant near Naples, Italy.

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