Pros

  • A plug-in hybrid that makes sense
  • Exciting performance and handling
  • Loaded with high-tech and luxury features

 

Cons

  • Lane centering needs refinement
  • Expensive for a compact SUV
  • Tall, narrow design impacts cargo space

To design one vehicle to initiate the metamorphosis of an entire brand is to place massive expectations on that vehicle, especially when it’s a relatively humble compact SUV. More often than not, it would be something far more exotic with a supernatural connotation to it—a halo vehicle. We wouldn’t call the plug-in hybrid 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale a wow-factor superstar, yet it’s serving as the bellwether vehicle of Alfa’s transition to an all-electric future, and that’s hugely significant in its own right. After the new Tonale, every successive Alfa model is expected to be fully electric powered.

With its understated Italian styling, you might not notice the Tonale at first, but once your eyes catch the roto-dial-inspired wheels, “3+3” headlight design, and “GT” line body sculpting, it stands out in impressive form outside, as much as its vegan leather, Alcantara suede, and aluminum accents do on the inside. It’s not quite the rolling amalgamation of Milan fashion week, but it is impressive. So does the Tonale live up to “la metamorphosi” that Alfa Romeo tasks it with delivering? We had one in for testing in an effort to find out.

Plug-In Hybrid Powertrain and Modes

A plug-in hybrid electric powertrain (PHEV) serves as the sole means of motivation for the 2024 Tonale in North America. A 1.3-liter turbocharged I-4 rated at 180 horsepower is supplemented by a 121-hp electric motor on the rear axle to make a combined 285 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission does the shifting up front. Because of gearing differences between the front engine and the rear motor, the Tonale often dispatches torque with a rear-drive bias. A 15.5-kWh battery stores enough energy for a reported 33 miles of electric-only range, and the combined 29-mpg EPA rating stretches the 11.2-gallon fuel tank to 360 miles of range. Fully charging the battery should take about 2.5 hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charger.

Natural mode, the baseline hybrid setting, automatically manages the combustion and electric powertrains. The electric motor gets the Tonale rolling and the engine joins in at second-gear speeds or as-needed in low-traction situations. The eSave button on the center console can be customized through the Hybrid Pages app to prioritize saving the electric range for later or charging the battery, letting drivers fine-tune their hybrid experience.

The Tonale omits the engine completely in Advanced Efficiency until the kickdown switch is engaged on the accelerator or the battery runs out of juice (unless AWD is needed). Once the battery is depleted, the gas engine kicks on and the Tonale behaves like a typical hybrid, but with a greater bias toward using the electric motor than in Natural mode.

Dynamic mode wrings maximum performance from the hybrid powertrain, with an aggressive exhaust note to remind us of the Tonale’s Italian performance roots. To achieve absolute peak performance, the battery must be above 80 percent charge. The BSG charges the battery (about 4 kW at highway speeds, according to the power flow monitor) while the gas-powered front wheels handle cruising duties. A lot of PHEVs on the market don’t make saving range easy or possible, and charging the battery might not even be an option, but the Tonale tackles both in two drive modes. To keep performance up, Dynamic mode will charge the battery whenever the electric motor isn’t driving the wheels. The range accumulation seemed to be more effective than with eSave, but you’ll burn a bit more fuel.

Performance and Handling Is on Par

Hold the brake with the throttle to the floor, and the digital gauge on the Tonale’s center screen hits 17 pounds of boost (a welcome surprise considering its 2023 Dodge Hornet GT cousin had a disappointing launch). As soon as the brake is released, the electric motor lights and the turbo engine screams as the Tonale Veloce launches with the determination of a track dog that’s too excited to realize the rabbit it’s chasing isn’t even real. The hybrid setup hauled 4,296 pounds of Italian luxury SUV to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, completing a quarter mile in 14.3 seconds at 94.3 mph. The Tonale didn’t yield the quickest numbers given its segment-topping horsepower, but it did make for one of the more exciting launches we’ve experienced in this type of vehicle. Acceleration under pure electric power is on par with other compact PHEVs, taking 11.9 seconds to hit 60 mph and 16.5 seconds to 70 mph.

The Veloce trim with the Koni Dual Stage Valve suspension offers sport and comfort modes; toggle between them with ease using the center button on the DNA selector switch. Although there is a noticeable difference between the two, the sport suspension mode is plenty tolerable on city streets. Combined with the eAWD system, it makes the Tonale feel both predictable and exciting around our figure-eight course, where it set a lap time of 26.7 seconds at an average 0.68 g. On the skidpad it achieved a respectable (for its class) 0.84 g.

Alfa says its brake-by-wire system can reduce stopping distances by up to 9.8 feet thanks to a quicker response. It’s designed to simulate a natural pedal feel through the use of a load-simulated cylinder, while sensing the pedal rate to apply the brakes electronically. The fixed four-piston Brembo front calipers also help the Tonale come to a stop from 60 mph in only 109 feet—about 5 to 10 feet shorter than its competitors. That’s especially impressive given the Tonale Veloce’s hybrid equipment makes several hundred pounds heavier than most of the compact SUV class.

Brand DNA and the Latest Tonale Tech

Alfa wanted to create a driver-centric cabin inspired by its racing history with all the controls within easy reach. Grabbing the steering wheel and hitting the start button in the lower left quadrant with a thumb adds a distinct racing flair—it’s certainly more interesting than the typical locations on the dash and center console. The brand’s familiar DNA selector switch makes changing the Tonale’s dynamics easy; no CRISPR needed. Controls for all three drive modes, suspension tuning, and traction control are mounted on the dash just to the right of the driver’s knee so they can be changed without digging through buried menus.

There is a duality to the column-mounted paddle shifters, though. The sturdy, laser-cut aluminum paddles add a sporty and elegant touch, tucked perfectly behind the profile of the steering wheel. But the focus on their accessibility and performance experience places the left paddle directly between the wheel and the turn signal stalk (arguably the more necessary of the two controls). It’s easy enough to get used to, but it takes a deliberate reach around the paddle to engage the turn signal.

As the top trim level of the Tonale line, our Veloce was loaded with tech that should appeal to the younger millennial audience it’s marketed to. Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless phone charging come standard. We loved the text confirmation on the center screen to show charging was initiated—no need to hunt for an LED somewhere. Heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding heated mirrors, a surround-view camera system, ambient interior lighting, automatic high-beams, and parallel and perpendicular parking assist all added to the premium feel.

The new Tonale is also the first of Alfa Romeo’s offerings to use the Uconnect 5 interface that’s making its rounds through the Stellantis brands; here it’s given the Alfa Romeo treatment in all its graphics. The 12.3-inch cluster houses completely digital gauges with retro styling from Alfas of the 1960s and 1970s, with a 10.3-inch screen mounted in the center.

With enough ADAS equipment to classify it as a Level 2 autonomous system, the Tonale competes at the top of its class. Its traffic sign recognition was noninvasive, offering a prompt to consent to a recommended speed in the cluster instead of automatically adjusting. Traffic jam assist made stop-and-go traffic an easy and seamless experience, picking right back up to highway speeds once traffic clears. If you haven’t experienced the luxury of letting a vehicle navigate heavy traffic for you, the Tonale Veloce is a great introduction.

A Couple of Cons

Our 2024 Tonale Veloce left us short on complaints, but the steering rack and some of its related controls could use some work. We intermittently felt a light pulsing in the steering wheel at idle. It’s minor, but it’s not something you’d expect to feel. The lane centering has a hard time recentering after bump steer on the highway. It tended to overcorrect and slalom in the lane if left to its own devices. It was easy to manually stop but aggressive enough to catch you off guard. We wouldn’t call it dangerous, but it’s something we became aware of once it started happening. On hard acceleration we also detected some torque steer. It seems like all three of these oddities are related to software refinement and could theoretically be corrected in a future OTA update.

Other than that, the seats could be described as overstuffed, leading to a feeling of sitting very tall in the cockpit, though this is probably only an issue for taller drivers looking for the seat to lower more than it does. But other than being moved forward due to, say, a rear car seat (ask us how we know), most drivers should be able to find a comfortable enough position.

The Tonale has 22.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, which is impressive for its class, but its narrow and tall design can make the Tonale’s usable space feel small at times. A stroller barely fits, but luggage or other cargo that can be stacked will likely utilize the space just fine.

The Tonale Veloce Verdict

The Tonale Veloce eAWD starts at $49,090. Our test model came in at $57,300 after adding premium interior and sound ($2,500), Alfa’s Active Assist advanced package ($1,850), 20-inch wheels ($2,000), a power moonroof ($1,200), and Grigio Ascari metallic paint ($660). This may seem expensive for its class, but keep in mind that the Tonale’s a plug-in hybrid, and a good one at that. Its top competition—the Audi Q3 and Q4, BMW X1 and X2, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and Volvo XC40—aren’t offered as plug-in hybrids. Comparing it to all-electric models like the Q4 E-Tron or XC40 Recharge makes it more competitive and a great option if you’re not ready to commit to an all-electric vehicle. If you can do without options like wireless charging and Brembo brakes, you could look at the Sprint or Ti trims, starting at $44,590 and $47,250, respectively. All three trims are eligible for a $7,500 EV incentive for a lease.

Anyone looking for a fresh take on a luxury compact SUV should find favor with the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce eAWD. Its styling is understated but upscale, with premium materials throughout the cabin. It has dual personalities that make it exciting to drive but efficient when needed. And we really liked both its versatility as a hybrid and its day-to-day livability. If the new Tonale is a sign of what’s coming from Alfa Romeo, from what we’ve experienced of it so far, it lives up to its billing as the vehicle leading the charge for the storied Italian brand’s electric revolution.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce eAWD
Base Price $49,090
Price as Tested $57,300
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 1.3L turbo direct-injected DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus AC induction (fr) and permanent-magnet (rr) electric motors
Power(SAE Net) 180 hp @ 5,750 rpm (gas), 44+121 hp (elec); 285 hp (comb)
Torque (SAE Net) 199 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm (gas), 37+184 lb-ft (elec); 347 lb-ft (comb)
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R dist) 4,296 lb (53/47%)
Wheelbase 103.8 in
L x W x H 178.3 x 72.5 x 63.2 in
0-60 MPH 5.7 sec
Quarter Mile 14.3 sec @ 94.3 mph
Braking, 60-0 MPH 109 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.84 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 26.7 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Economy 29/29/29 mpg (gas); 77/77/77 mpg-e*
EPA Range, Comb 33 miles (elec), 360 miles (gas+elec)
On Sale Now

*EPA blended-PHEV (charge-depleting) mode testing, with vehicles set to their default drive and brake-regeneration modes.

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