Alfa Romeo’s makeover includes its first-ever plug-in hybrid

The Tonale enters the crowded but lucrative premium crossover segment.

Photo Alfa Romeo

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Alfa Romeo calls it “La Metamorfosi”, the metamorphosis of its brand into one with respect for tradition, but also for electrical outlets. The first car in this offensive is the Tonale, a premium small crossover SUV with two versions, including a plug-in hybrid with over 30 miles of electric range. No price is yet available.

The 2023 Tonale is due to be introduced in Europe on June 4, with US orders in Q4 2022 and deliveries in Q4 2023. It is Alfa Romeo’s first plug-in hybrid.

The Tonale Q4 AWD plug-in hybrid is the top of the range. It offers all-wheel drive and 272 horsepower from a combination of a 180 horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine (front axle), 90 kilowatt electric motor (rear axle), a 15.5 kilowatt-hour battery, plus a six-speed automatic transmission with three drive modes.

The two-liter Q4 AWD is the gasoline-only option and uses a turbocharged four connected to a nine-speed automatic. The powertrain is rated at 256 horsepower with 295 lb-ft of torque. The latter is a very low emission vehicle (SULEV 3.0).

The Tonale will have a wider palette globally, with five versions including the PHEV, two hybrids, a petrol-only variant and a diesel. Diesels are dead in the US now, and the hybrids we won’t get might be considered underpowered on US roads, with 130 and 160 horsepower (both mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and to a 48 volt transmission of 15 kilowatts electric motor). The 160 horsepower version gets Alfa’s own variable geometry turbo.

Tonale will have five versions, but the plug-in hybrid and gasoline iterations are the ones coming to the US

Photo Alfa Romeo

“We have to be efficient in our product line. If you pay attention to volume, complexity can kill you, says Larry Dominique, senior vice president and director of Alfa Romeo and Fiat North America. “We need the right number of models and powertrains, and with the choices of plug-in hybrid and gasoline engines, we have the most capable versions of the Tonale, and the most environmentally friendly too.”

The Tonale uses front and rear Alfa-tuned MacPherson suspension and frequency-selective damping that can change damper settings based on wheel speed.

Alfa Romeo’s world premiere took place at the company’s museum in Milan, with the camera panning over 100 years of enticing road and racing models. Obviously he wants to bake in the brand’s epic history (starting in 1910), although there’s a lot of ultra-modern stuff about the Tonale. There’s even a “world-exclusive” NFT (non-fungible token) digital certificate that accompanies every car. At the launch, CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said: “Alfa-Romeo’s future begins with Tonale.

Buy a Tonale, and it’ll be tied to a certificate that’s updated as the car reaches mileage milestones and is serviced. Everything is stored in a “digital wallet” which could be transferred to the next owner. The NFT will not track the data if the owner opts out. Some of this information, including accidents, is already collected by private vehicle history companies like CARFAX, but the data is not freely available.

The interior has a 22.5 inch digital screen.

Photo Alfa Romeo

The Tonale also lives up to its dash data, with two configurable full TFT screens totaling 22.5 inches in diameter. Over-the-air updates are enabled, and other technologies include semi-automatic parking, a 360-degree camera, auto-braking with brake-by-wire technology, and Level 2 autonomous driving available.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Amazon’s Alexa assistant is on board, and (unfortunately for Europe only) a ‘secure delivery’ feature means Amazon parcels can be secured in the Tonale’s trunk, rather than left on your porch. Safety technology includes adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, blind spot recognition and forward collision warning.

Typically, Alfa offers a top-level “Quadrifoglio” version of its models, but none have been announced with the Tonale. Corn speak with an australian magazine, global product manager Daniel Tiago Guzzafame said there could be one and it could have a gasoline engine or be an all-electric battery model. Getting Alfa-like acceleration from an EV shouldn’t be a problem, as Tesla and Lucid have shown.

Dominique says any Tonale Quadrifoglio would have to offer a significant power boost over existing models to justify the name. “We’re looking at it,” he said. “There has to be that magnitude of difference in performance.”

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