2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV First Drive Review: An Italian SUV Worthy of Mainstream America

Track-tested, nonna-approved.

byJerry Perez|
Alfa Romeo Reviews photo
Jerry Perez

I peeked at the speedo right before he flicked the steering wheel hard to the left and into a blind corner. It read 141 km/h or 87 mph. Two seconds later, I flew forward after a brutal stab of the brakes heading into the track’s slowest corner, a hairpin taken at about 30 mph. I heard the tires scream for another while and my helmet smack the B-pillar a few more times before he finally said a word: “This is a copy of Curva Grande, from Monza, but we added this next chicane while developing the 8C Competizione.” Downshift, downshift, brake, turn right, turn left, full gas. The car? The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale plug-in hybrid crossover. The driver? Domenico Bagnasco, head of Alfa’s high-performance vehicles. The track? The brand’s own test track nestled in the mountains between Milan and Turin.

It’s not often that an automaker includes dedicated track time when showing off a brand-new crossover, especially the affordable kind. In fact, I don’t recall it ever happening before. Yet, for the launch of Alfa’s new entry into the premium compact crossover segment, I drove and was driven on the same tarmac where Italian legends were born and raised. In many ways, it tells you everything you need to know about Alfa’s attitude toward the new Tonale. No, it’s not a sedan or a hatchback. Yes, it’s another crossover whose main objective is to convert as many Americans into Alfa Romeo-ism as possible. But most importantly, it’s still 100% an Alfa Romeo—for better or worse.

Jerry Perez

Before my track outings, I drove the Tonale in the way most people will drive their Tonales. Some twists and turns outside of the city, some highway driving, and perhaps more realistically, lots and lots of city traffic. I wish I could tell you that I went all the way to Italy to drive exclusively through gorgeous vineyards and charming villages, but that wasn’t the case. We keep it legit here at The Drive, so when I got stuck at the toll booth because I couldn’t understand what the recording of a woman speaking Italian was saying, I did it just for you. And for what it’s worth, she sounded super rude.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce PHEV Specs

  • Base price (Veloce trim as tested): $44,590 ($55,290)
  • Powertrain: 1.3-liter turbo four-cylinder aided by an electric motor | 6-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 285 combined max horsepower | 164 hp (gasoline) | 121 hp (electric)
  • Torque: 347 lb-ft
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Curb weight: 4,133 pounds
  • Cargo volume: 22.9 cubic feet (50.5 with rear seats folded)
  • Ground clearance: 5.6 inches
  • 0-60 mph: Under 6 seconds
  • Top speed: 125 mph
  • EPA fuel economy: TBA
  • Electric range: More than 30 miles
  • Quick take: A well-rounded crossover that, should consumers allow it, could not just stay afloat, but actually shine within its segment. Oh, and it packs more track chops than any other compact crossover without a Porsche badge.
  • Score: 8.5/10

The Basics

The Alfa Romeo Tonale is all new for 2024. It’s been on sale in Europe since late last year in a variety of trims, but the plug-in hybrid, the only kind that’ll be available in the U.S., is just now ready for prime time. The Tonale sits at the bottom of the Alfa Romeo hierarchy, meaning below the Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover. Like its siblings, it’ll be offered in three different trims—Tonale, Sprint, and Veloce—which share the same drivetrain but feature several equipment and styling tweaks to differentiate them from one another. The base Tonale will start at $44,590 including a $1,595 destination fee.

Living up to its Italian heritage, the Tonale’s exterior design is what will separate it from its competition. It’s glam, it’s luxe, it’s Italy in a bottle. Smooth lines give way to sharply-defined lighting elements in the front and rear that hark back to a long lineage of Alfa models. The iconic Scudetto grille and five-hole 20-inch wheels proudly tell you this isn’t another gray car, even if you were to buy it in gray. Look at it from a distance, and the Tonale has a slightly more hatchback-ish profile than most crossovers, though that being said, it wears its bubbly rear-end with pride. And speaking of gray cars, my tester was not that—it was a gorgeous Verde Fangio Metallic that, quite frankly, is the one to buy.

The cabin has a sleek and modern look and feel to it. The new 10.25-inch, horizontally positioned infotainment touchscreen is all new, as is its Uconnect 5 operating system. The 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is very nice and displays sharp, vivid colors through various cool graphics. Only one interior color is offered, but Alfa does enough with seat and dash accents and mood lighting to make up for it. Despite most of the car’s features being operated via the touchscreen, Alfa retained hard buttons for all HVAC functions, as well as audio volume and driving modes. The steering wheel is the same unit shared with the rest of Alfa’s models, meaning it’s pretty great, retaining that wheel-mounted engine-start button. On the other hand, some of the secondary buttons that aren’t always in plain view (mostly around the shifter and in the door cards) look and feel quite cheap. However, given the Tonale’s starting price, it’s clear that designers prioritized the more premium materials for more important areas of the car.

At the heart of the Tonale is a plug-in hybrid drivetrain capable of 320 miles of combined range, of which roughly 30 miles can be accomplished purely on electric power. Doing so won’t be a bore, as the system will keep the combustion engine off even during hard acceleration and up to a speed of 81 mph. The 1.3-liter turbo four and electric bits produce a total of 285 horsepower, of which 121 are derived solely from the 90-kW electric motor mounted in the rear and 15.5-kWh battery pack sitting under the cabin. AWD is standard, further differentiating it from its competitors. This will be the only Tonale offered for the time being, as a possible Quadrifoglio high-performance model isn’t currently in the cards, according to Alfa Romeo North America boss Larry Dominique.

Driving Experience

I was thoroughly impressed by Bagnasco’s willingness to attack the track’s aggressive curbing. Even more impressed by the fact that the Tonale’s suspension didn’t just fall apart right then and there. These were serious hits, and none of them appeared to upset its trajectory or balance. He was clearly confident in the product and knew the track like the back of his hand, at least that’s what I kept telling myself as he pitched the Tonale into corners so hard that at times I imagined he’d barrel-roll the thing. I thought I had pushed fairly hard during my own hot laps, but I was realizing I had merely tickled the Tonale’s capabilities.

On public roads, however, my experience was very different. Like other Alfas, the Tonale is equipped with the company’s “DNA” drive mode system. D stands for Dynamic and sets the car to its most aggressive form. N stands for Natural, and puts the car into hybrid mode, toggling between the combustion engine and battery as needed. A stands for Advanced Efficiency, and it focuses mostly on electric power, letting folks commute up to 30 miles on battery power alone. I experienced all three during my time with the Tonale, and I was pleased with how different they were from each other.

Driving on city streets highlighted the Tonale’s comfort qualities, with a light steering wheel, easy-to-modulate pedals, and a smooth drivetrain. The same dual-stage valve active suspension that had stiffened up to keep the crossover shiny side up on the track had become surprisingly plush. The first time I went over a speed bump I expected to feel a bigger hit, but it never came thanks to electronically controlled dampers. In N and A drive modes, it’s easy to confuse the Tonale’s relaxed nature for a lack of character, but that’s inaccurate. Engineers explained that while the crossover retains the Italian sportiness of Alfa, they know what the model’s target audience is looking for, and that’s not to feel like they’re driving a sports car 24/7. There’s flexibility built into the software and hardware.

When it was time to step on it and make a pass or shoot down a country road, the hybrid system’s extra juice made the Tonale feel much brawnier than it really is. You really feel the extra power flowing from the battery and electric motor under acceleration, making you realize that while the crossover would handle a little better without a 276-pound battery strapped to it, it would be missing a fairly big punch. That big punch is fun. The six-speed transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, though can feel clunky when reversing or maneuvering at low speeds. Overall visibility out of the cabin is good, and the seats are firm and supportive. Personally, I’d do with a bit less bolstering, but the driver’s seat adjustability is great—and so is the steering wheel. 

The rear seats can comfortably seat two adults or three kids, though headroom will vary depending on their height. At six feet, my hair was grazing the headliner, so anyone taller might not be too comfortable. The trunk is a bit on the smaller side, though my guess is designers favored giving second-row passengers more legroom over a few extra cubic feet of cargo space.

Alfa Romeo Tonale Features and Options

A base Tonale priced at $44,590 includes most of today’s common tech, comfort, and safety features as standard. These include LED headlights and taillights, auto high beams, a wireless charging pad, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, a six-speaker audio system, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a suite of advanced driver assist features.

Priced at $55,290, the Veloce model I tested enjoyed many bells and whistles, though two of them alone triggered a hefty $4,200 premium: the $2,200 Verde Fangio Metallic paint and $2,000 20-inch wheels. Other options included the Active Assist Advanced Package for $2,000, which includes Level 2 ADAS, adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition, 360-degree cameras, and park assist with parking sensors. 

Value and Verdict

A couple of hours behind the wheel were enough to get a good feel for the Alfa Romeo Tonale’s character and most important traits. The drivetrain shines as the heart of the crossover, offering a fun, efficient, and technologically advanced driving experience. The styling, well, takes all of that nerdy stuff most consumers don’t care about and wraps it up in an attractive package that dazzles the eyes—the way Italians do. Plus, Alfa’s given it a competitive $45K starting pricing to convince lots of buyers to bring one home.

Will this be enough to make Americans overlook the brand’s less-than-stellar reputation? It might be. As the man tasked with making this happen, Alfa’s North American boss feverishly stresses that vehicle reliability has been completely turned around under the watchful eye of Alfa’s current CEO Jean-Phillippe Imparato, who religiously visits all assembly plants every month.

The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale plug-in hybrid is how Alfa penetrates the American market, there’s no doubt about it. Not doing so could have disastrous consequences. And, frankly, it has the chops to right the ship—but only if buyers give it a shot.

Email the author at jerry@thedrive.com

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