Update: 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce EAWD, Great looking but too quirky.

I got a chance to drive the Tonale again. My impression hasn't changed except for one thing, something I have never seen before in a car. It's been hot the past few days, low 90s, but that isn't really hot where I live. During the hottest months triple digits are the norm. So imagine my surprise when I got into the Tonale after a few hours to find this:

I expect to see this kind of warning on my iPhone but on a car's screen? I can only wonder what happens if you park the Tonale in Death Valley!

If  there was ever a car I wanted to like this was it. I am not a dyed in the wool Alfista but I've driven a few that I liked a lot. The newer ones I've driven, although a few years ago, include a Guilia Quadrifoglio (505 hp!) and a 4C Spider. Now those were fun cars meant to be driven. 

Let me pose a question that isn't specific to Alfa; Why does every automaker have to build a SUV? What is wrong with building great sedans?

But back to the Tonale Veloce EAWD. First it is a PHEV, a Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle. It is what I would call a mid-size SUV at 178.3" long on a wheelbase of 103.8". It will seat five (four comfortably), and has 22.9 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats with a total of 50.5 cu. ft. with the rear seats down. This isn't an off-road SUV, it only has 5.6" of ground clearance. But really how many actually go off-road in their SUV?

Under the hood is a 1.3-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 180 hp, and an electric motor that makes for a combined horsepower of 285 and 347 lb-ft of torque. That's more than enough to get the 4,133+ lb Alfa to 60 mph from zero in around 5.5 seconds. 

The power goes through a 6-speed automatic. An electric motor powers the rear axle. Towing is limited to 2,000 lbs.

The brakes were a bit of a conundrum for me. The rotors are massive 13.53" in front and 12.08" in the rear with Brembo calipers front and rear. They stopped the Tonal very well but the pedal felt soft to me. I quickly got used to them but I prefer a firm pedal.

At first I wasn't taken with the Verde (green) Fangio Metallic paint but it grew on me, in fact I really liked the styling of the Tonal Veloce.

I don't drive test cars hard, it's not my style. I want to know how a vehicle behaves in real life, not on the track. Generally I would say I was pleased with the overall performance of the Tonal - ride, handling, acceleration, braking, comfort, and ease of access. With the "ALFA DNA" switch in "n" (for normal) position the ride was stiff but not harsh (except for speed bumps). I put it in "d" for dynamic once and let's just say in the real world it was unacceptably harsh; track only in my opinion.

This is the button for the Alfa DNA. From the top we have ESC off, Dynamic, Normal, Advanced Efficiency. Just leave it in "n" and you'll be fine.

I have a thing about having to use an owner's manual. Maybe it's a guy thing. With so many of today's cars and all the tech stuff I find myself thumbing through the manuals of many of the cars I drive. Such was the case with the Tonal Veloce. Except the manual isn't easy to use. It is fairly thick so I thought "Wow there's a lot to read here." But that wasn't the case - it's written in four languages! Espanol (Spanish), Portugues (Portuguese), English, and Arabic in that order. Around four pages of the English section is devoted to explain the warning lights - Four pages!

To its credit the climate control and sound system was pretty easy to use. Almost everything else was a head scratcher.

You have to reach around the paddle shifter to use the turn signal stalk.

Take the paddle shifters. I rarely use paddle shifters; I guess they are nice on a sports car with an automatic transmission but do they have to be so big that the hide the turn signal and wiper stalks when the steering wheel is straight? With a set up like the Alfa's I understand why drivers don't use turn signals. 

When I got the Tonal the tachometer and speedometer were not visible, just the digital speed readout. I looked through the manual but couldn't figure out how to get the gauges to show. Then while trying to turn on the rear wiper they magically appeared! Lo and behold the button I pushed in error restored the gauges! I peeked around the paddler shifter and saw that it said "Menu View".

Okay maybe I'm a little dense but c'mon nothing should be this difficult to figure out.

I don't like wearing bulky winter gloves or mittens so steering wheel heaters really appeal to me. Strangely the heated sections of the Tonal Veloce's wheel ae not where your hands should when driving - at 10 and 2. The very top and the two lower sections got nice and toasty but my hands, not so much.

Another little confusing item is the fuel gauge, or gauges if you include battery power. The gas gauge is at the bottom of the speedometer. You can tell it's a gas gauge by the little gas pump.

And the battery charge level is at the bottom of the tachometer, it is identified by the little battery. The problem is the little icons are hard to see with a quick glance. Yes you'd get used to it but why make them so similar?

Everyone always wants to know how far an EV, or a PHEV, will go on battery power. The answer for plug-in hybrids is not that far. Alfa leaves it open-ended (vague) at "More than 30 miles." That isn't much but for around town driving it's fine, in fact the MPGe (miles per gallon gasoline equivalent) is an impressive 77. 

I realize that Alfa, and most auto makers, offer vehicles like the Tonal to satisfy governmental regulations. I'm not sure how many Tonals Alfa will sell, after all Alfa is known as a builder of sports vehicles. Yet I saw a Alfa Rosso (red) in a parking lot while I was in the test Tonal Veloce.

A Tonal Sprint starts at $43,845, a Ti @ $46,500, and the Veloce @ $51,040. There is $9,900 worth of options on the test car including $2,200 for the green paint (opt for the Alfa Rosso for only $500 in my opinion). 

Maybe the biggest drawback to buying a new Alfa of any model is the scarcity of dealers. There are three dealers in my larger San Francisco Bay Area. One each in Livermore, San Jose, and Marin. 

If you want something with some Italian flare at a relatively reasonable price I would look at the Stelvio SUV or Giulia sedan. They may be quirky but they have the Alfa soul you want.

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