2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV: Setting the Tone for Electrification at Alfa Romeo

Published on May 11, 2023 in First Drives by Louis-Philippe Dubé

Operating under the Stellantis group, Alfa Romeo had only two vehicles in its North American catalogue until the Tonale. With this limited choice, an uncertain reputation for reliability and a limited dealer network, the small manufacturer doesn’t quite have all the artillery needed to take on big euro players in the premium segment.

On the other hand, this predicament has its own advantages. One of them of singularity – if you own an Alfa, chances are you’re the only one on the block – which helps with brand appeal. Another is the fact that the manufacturer can develop strategies very swiftly – it can be quick on its feet. Therefore, electrifying its entire lineup will be an easier when compared to rivals. The automaker wants to carry over the "emotion" and driving pleasure it claims to generate into its new models at all costs, and it has Stellantis' expansive parts and technology bin to make it happen.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

The Car Guide headed to Milan, Italy to drive the 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV, the one that will set the tone for the Italian automaker’s plans of being 100% electric by 2027.

An Italian-American Powertrain

The Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain that uses a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor at the rear connected to a 15.5 kWh battery. The total output is 280 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain is one of several components shared with the Dodge Hornet R/T - both vehicles are assembled at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant in Naples, Italy.

This configuration gives the Tonale PHEV standard all-wheel drive, without the need for a mechanical link between the front and rear.

The Tonale's behaviour is largely influenced by the DNA drive mode selector, which is a kind of a key pillar at Alfa when it comes to driving dynamics. It offers three modes (Natural, Advanced Efficiency and Dynamic) and it tweaks the Tonale’s character quite drastically, unlike other selectors in the industry that are limited to throttle response modulation and a change of colours in the instrument cluster.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

In Dynamic mode, the 6-speed gearbox is very well calibrated, with good response from the throttle and quick shifts through gears. The suspension also does a good job at keeping the Tonale on its axis, while the steering tightens up for enhanced precision and feedback.

In Efficiency mode, the Tonale PHEV relies strictly on the electric motor until the battery runs empty. On paper, Alfa Romeo says it will happen after 50 kilometres, but during our drive, we managed to cover 57 kilometres without driving like a cautious “electromobilist,” which is good news all around. There’s also a hint of sportivity here, thanks to the fact that the mode uses the rear electric motor exclusively.

In Natural mode, the driving experience lacks a bit of flavour in our opinion, with a more disconnected steering feel and a transmission that seems to be looking for the right gear at times. But it is indeed more comfortable.

The thing that stands out the most with the Tonale is the on-point communication between the combustion engine and the electric, which is not always the case with this type of configuration. The transitions are seamless and make the most of the instant torque from the electric motor and the turbocharging courtesy of Mopar, which is quick and without lag, even considering the small engine displacement. The Tonale’s breaking system also stands out in terms of performance.

Unpretentious Interior

While the Tonale's cabin shares some similarities with the Dodge Hornet R/T in terms of layout, there is one notable difference in the selection of materials. Without going overboard with luxury, it displays a good mix of sporty and premium elements. The driving position is well adjusted, but the comfort provided by the seating is not quite there – it doesn’t lack lateral support, but we found the seats to be a tad too firm.

The infotainment system is displayed on a 10.25-inch screen and is based on Stellantis' popular Uconnect5. This one loses a few points in terms of ease of use, as it felt a bit cluttered.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

In terms of cargo, the Tonale deploys 648 litres of volume behind the rear seats, which is not bad considering there’s an electric motor and a battery under there. But the Tonale's rear "coupe" configuration may limit the height versatility of this cargo area.

The Final Word

All in all, we think the Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV is well put together, and sets the tone for the Italian manufacturer's electric transition. It would be easy to label it a “Hornet R/T with an Alfa Romeo badge,” but the reality is quite different. While it shares many features with the latter, it offers its own signature Alfa Romeo engineering in terms of aesthetics, but more importantly in terms of driving dynamics.

Financially, the Tonale PHEV has a starting price of $54,995 plus $2,095 shipping and taxes. You can deduct $5,000 from the federal government and up to $5,000 of provincial subsidies, depending on where you live in Canada.

Test drive report
Test model 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale
Trim level Veloce PHEV Q4 AWD
Price range $44,995 – $57,495
Price as tested 57 495 $
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) N/A
Options N/A
Competitive models Audi Q3, BMW X1, BMW X2, Buick Encore GX, Cadillac XT4, Jaguar E-PACE, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Mercedes-Benz GLB, MINI Countryman, Volvo XC40
Strong points
  • Signature Alfa Romeo driving dynamics
  • Seamless pairing between gas engine and electric motor
  • Unique styling
Weak points
  • Firm seating
  • Reliability has yet to be proven
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 4.0/5 We haven't been able to test Tonale PHEV's different modes long enough. But the all-electric range is better in real life.
Comfort 3.5/5 Seating is stylish and supportive. But it could be more comfortable.
Performance 4.5/5 More performance than rivals.
Infotainment 3.5/5 The system is very complete. But some pages feel cluttered.
Driving 4.5/5 Signature Alfa Romeo driving dynamics.
Overall 4.5/5 Alfa Romeo's first shot at electrification is a technical success.
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