The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale is a charming and confusing hybrid – Ars Technica
I don’t think Jeremy Clarkson was right when he said you can only become a real petrol driver after owning an Alfa Romeo, but the rude TV presenter wasn’t. completely Wrong. I’ve just spent a week with Alpha’s latest creation, unfortunately named Tonale, and it has left me scratching my head. Surrounded by gremlins and not exactly cheap, it nonetheless charmed me in a way I don’t really think it would have if I were driving, say, a Dodge.
Once upon a time, Alfa Romeo was Ferrari before there was really a Ferrari, building grand prix-winning race cars and stunning road cars. That seems like a very long time ago now. The planned revamp, which began while the brand was under the control of the late Sergio Marchionne, fell well short of the original ambitious sales targets – 100,000 Gelea a year, we were told at the time.
But the brand is still there, and it has a completely new model. The Tonale is a smaller crossover than the Stelvio, and here in the U.S. it’s only available with a hybrid powertrain. It combines a 180 hp (135 kW) 1.3-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine driving the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with a 121 hp (90 kW) electric motor driving the rear wheels, feeding 15.5 kW of power. Lithium-ion battery.
Total combined output is 285 hp (213 kW) and 347 lb-ft (470 Nm), although there’s a 44 hp (33 kW) integrated starter motor that can add some torque to the engine’s crankshaft if the car’s mind thinks it’s necessary. .
There are three driving modes, as there are now with Alfas. Mode A uses the electric motor only, and you should go about 30 miles (49 km) on a full charge. Recharging the battery takes about 2.5 hours when connected to a Level 2 charger, or about seven hours if you only have access to a 120V socket.
D, or dynamic, is where most Alfas feel their best. Not Tonale — that mode keeps the MultiAir four-cylinder engine running at all times, and the 1.3-liter small-block isn’t the most resonant thing in the world. No, confusingly, this Alfa sounded much better in N mode. This mode will start under electric power, feeding into the combustion engine when necessary. It’s a little slower away from a stoplight, but it’s also smoother.
The N (and A as well) also gives you the softer of the two settings for the suspension dampers. You can manually switch to the softer setting once you reach D, and on most American roads you’ll probably want to. Regardless of engine mode, the Tonale provides direct steering that helps mask the car’s 4,133 lb (1,875 kg) curb weight.
Sadly, real-world fuel efficiency fell several mpg below the EPA estimate of 29 mpg (8.11 L/100 km), but we also didn’t start every day with a fully charged traction battery.
I mentioned gremlins earlier, and there were many. Immediately after picking up the Tonale, we had to drive it through a fairly heavy rainstorm, which caused some of the Advanced Driver Assistance System sensors to fail, canceling out forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, which remained unavailable at random times throughout the year . The next three or four days.
The blind spot monitors once failed to warn me of a fast-moving SUV that suddenly appeared in my blind spot. At other random intervals, the car sounded some sort of alert that I was… He thinks It may have been an audible blind spot warning, though each occasion occurred when the Tonale was the only car on the road, so I’m still in the dark about that car.
Recently, when I went out to take pictures of the car this morning, the digital dashboard decided that it would no longer show me the tachometer or speedometer. The car’s speed was still prominently displayed in Arabic numerals, so it’s an annoyance rather than a critical safety issue, but either way, the Tonale test was likely due for a diagnostic check.
All those electronic weaknesses should have made me hate Tonale. I’ll admit I’ve shouted at it more than once after hearing a random beep, but the cars’ Android-based infotainment system doesn’t have Google Assistant that can respond to me. I was a little sad when I saw the bright green car return this morning, it had mesmerized me. I liked the way the car maneuvered around town, being nearly silent until the engine buzzed. I liked the large aluminum shift paddles, even if I rarely got to change gears myself. I liked the big alloy wheels, although the $2,000 price tag is an option I could live without.
I liked the effect the Alfa had on other people too, arousing far more interest from random passersby than any other modern press car I can remember. The large triangular grille up front is unmistakably Alfa, and the 3×3 headlights remind me of the Alfa Romeo SZ supercar from the 1990s.
But the Tonale will also remind a lot of people of the Dodge Hornet, which will likely be a problem for Alfa. You see, both Dodge and Alfa are owned by Stellantis, and the company’s bosses decided that Dodge could put its badge on Alfa’s recent hard work and sell its own version. Even worse for Alfa is the fact that we first drove that car, called the Dodge Hornet, back in March.
There’s little difference in price – the Tonale Sprint starts at $42,995, which is about $1,500 more expensive than the entry-level Hornet R/T, although that gap is smaller between the top-spec Tonale Veloce ($47,495) and the Hornet R/T Plus. ($46,400). Anecdotally, I’ve heard that there are better lease deals for the Alfa, however, leasing is probably the best solution with this Italian-made hybrid model, as it means the car qualifies for the Clean Vehicle Tax Credit, which is not the answer if you Buy one right away.