The reincarnation of Alfa Romeo in the U.S. has consistently produced fun-to-drive cars and even some bonkers performance machines in the forms of the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV Quadrifoglios, but until 2020, Alfas have always had something of a weak point: a frustrating, hard-to-use multimedia system. For the 2020 model year, both the Giulia and Stelvio get new multimedia systems with a larger screen that can actually operate as a touchscreen. Is it the fix Alfa wanted it to be?
First, something odd: Despite being a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Alfa Romeos have not used even a gussied-up version of FCA’s Uconnect multimedia system, which every other FCA brand — even Maserati — uses. The new Alfa system is no different; it’s a unique design that doesn’t seem to crib at all from Uconnect, at least in terms of aesthetics and user interface.
Fortunately, however, the aesthetics and user interface are much improved. The old system had a pixelated, grayscale look; while the new one doesn’t abandon the gray tones, there’s more color to be had, and the graphics are crisper and more modern. Making the 8.8-inch screen a touchscreen — older Alfas relied exclusively on a dial controller — is also a significant improvement, though the dial is still there for those who prefer it.
Response time feels significantly improved with this latest iteration, which makes navigating through the tiled menu options simple. The tiled design of the various pages is also straightforward, not burying the needed information or settings in a succession of pages as other luxury automakers are prone to do (looking at you especially, BMW).
Though the volume and track forward/backward controls have been unified into one dial controller instead of two separate ones, there are still physical controls for those important functions as well as climate controls. Alfa hasn’t tried to outsmart or out-tech itself the way Audi or Jaguar-Land Rover’s dual-touchscreen systems have.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility are both standard and, importantly, both use the entire 8.8-inch display. We’ve seen other displays across the spectrum of luxury and mainstream manufacturers where one of the two — usually Android Auto — or both use only a portion of the display. Android users will even be able to see turn-by-turn directions from their smartphone navigation app of choice in the instrument panel, which not many automakers currently allow.
One of the weirdest and most problematic features of Alfa’s previous system was a backup camera display that not only had poor resolution, but also used only a small portion of the available screen real estate, devoting another portion to a virtual display of the parking sensors.
The new system follows the same basic plan, unfortunately. The camera view seems larger, but it still takes up only a portion of the screen and still has poor resolution. One editor complained that he couldn’t even see the camera view in a dark parking garage.
Various advanced safety features are also too sensitive for some drivers, which can be annoying and intrusive, but fortunately they’re easy to adjust or turn off.
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Is It Better, Then?
Yes, without a doubt. This new multimedia system is a significant improvement for Alfa Romeo despite the continued shortcomings of its backup camera. It makes the Giulia and Stelvio much more pleasant to live with and feels appropriate for vehicles in their respective segments.
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