Test – Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4: the savior?

IN SUMMARY

Plug-in hybrid version

280 hp, 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 s

69 km electric range

From €51,000

Let’s first address a very subjective aspect to talk about this Alfa Romeo Tonale: given our test specimen, which is painted in the same “Montreal Green” shade as the flamboyant Giulia GTA, it’s difficult to resist the gearbox pencil line entirely to remain insensitive. We’re talking about a compact family crossover, a far cry from the Alfa Romeo canons dreamed of by the purists who so often speak in the columns of our comments. But in a world teeming with German SUVs in all sorts of shades of gray, this slightly swaggering Italian’s look has little impact. What a bite, this very dressed Transalpine? At first glance, one might think so, especially after reading the model’s recent tests on its mild hybrid petrol versions. With a Jeep Compass-derived chassis and engines that were criticized for their average performance, the Tonale had a sluggish media start.

At the Green Montreal, the tonal is excellent

However, Jean-Philippe Imparato, defector from Peugeot and boss of the Milanese brand since 2020, expected this new Tonale to be a true messiah. Barely arrived at the executive board of the manufacturer, he did not hesitate for long to delay the marketing for twelve weeks, only to refine the ground connections and more precisely the rechargeable hybrid version: the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 picks up the basic architecture of the Q4 Jeep Compass 4XE , with all-wheel drive and a rear axle that only meshes with the electric motor (without a real transmission shaft to connect the two axles). But the boss asked to change the battery, improve the electric motor and increase the tank size. Whose goal? “To offer a vehicle that meets Alfa Romeo’s dynamic standards and can travel at least 600 kilometers on a single electric charge and a single tank of fuel”. So, after the relative disappointment of our first tests, does this Tonale plug-in hybrid look any better? To find out, here we are at the wheel of the crossover in its high-end Veloce livery on the roads around Balocco before heading straight to the famous Stellantis Group test track.

The interior of the Tonale offers a sporty atmosphere and decent workmanship
The interior of the Tonale offers a sporty atmosphere and decent workmanship
Alfa Romeo prides itself on its shape
Alfa Romeo prides itself on the “cannocchiale” shape of the instrument cluster

A sporty interior presentation

Once installed at the controls of the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid, the display hardly changes compared to the thermal versions already tested. In the category of premium compact SUVs, for example, we find a very sporty overall atmosphere, digital screens of a deliberately reduced size and a really not thankless finish. The Mercedes GLA and other Audi Q3s may retain a small advantage in terms of perceived quality (particularly in terms of the solid impression of the lower part of the center console) or the finishing of certain trims. But in this high-quality version of the Veloce (€56,000, after all), we have the feeling of sitting in an expensive vehicle. As with most premium models, the on-board navigation is showing its age and will benefit from being replaced by Apple Carplay or Android Auto via smartphone. We also note a digital interface, with sometimes average reactivity, but nothing really prohibitive in this area. The rear seats offer generous legroom and could only benefit from better roof protection. The only small problem related to the 15.5 kWh batteries and the electric motor under the rear floor, the trunk grows in volume from 500 to 385 liters. Luckily, there’s still enough to travel in comfort, even if some plug-in hybrid SUVs (premium or not) fare slightly better.

Rear seats are generous (but could do with more headroom)
Rear seats are generous (but could do with more headroom)
Because of the batteries, the trunk volume is reduced to 385 liters
Because of the batteries, the trunk volume is reduced to 385 liters

More graceful dynamic performances

The Tonale plug-in hybrid, which has been criticized for its lack of mechanical approval in its basic versions, logically has a better advantage with this powertrain. Consisting of a 1.3 liter small-block four-cylinder turbo and 180 hp coupled with a 122 hp electric motor, it still claims 280 hp cumulative power and a maximum electric range of 69 km according to the WLTP cycle . We recorded 51 km in “Zero Emission” mode on a road route unfavorable for energy savings, with an unrepresentative value of 4.6 liters / 100 km over a total journey of a few hundred kilometers, started with full batteries. If these batteries are completely discharged, the consumption of the internal combustion engine approaches 10 litres/100 kilometers (no wonder with an empty weight of 1,835 kg). By the way, on the road without “braking mode” there is a small amount of electric recuperation.

On the road, the tonal plug-in hybrid impresses with its comfort.  But the speed of its direction is confusing at first
On the road, the tonal plug-in hybrid impresses with its comfort. But the speed of its direction is confusing at first

The performances are at a good level, without reaching those of a 100% thermal model with performance similar to the Cupra Ateca. The mechanical character remains fairly unremarkable (banal sound and average engine response), but the Tonale’s dynamism comes more from its chassis development: agile but comfortable, it benefits from a bewilderingly quick steering. This steering is somewhat reminiscent of that of the Jaguar e-Pace with its lightness and low feedback and clashes with more conservative Germans. You get used to it quickly and on the very demanding track of Balocco, very unsuitable for such a vehicle, you even manage to enjoy driving thanks to a machine ready to turn when you put your foot on it lifts, and which maintains good stability at altitude speed despite the quickness of its direction and mass. The limit in these conditions remains the responsiveness of the six-speed automatic transmission and the general definition of the car tuned as a versatile SUV rather than a true ultra-sport model like the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 or the Audi RS.Q3. In this regard, Jean-Philippe Imparato rules out the possibility of adding a Quadrifoglio version to the catalog to compete directly with them, preferring to mobilize resources elsewhere.

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