Alfa Romeo's expanding US fleet includes sleek SUV

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Italian automaker Alfa Romeo is expanding its horizons and getting into the SUV market. (KABC)

Italian automaker Alfa Romeo is expanding its horizons and getting into the SUV market.

Alfa Romeo's return to the U.S. has been a slow one with fast cars - fast, pricey cars.

First came the small 4C sports car, which has a price starting at $55,000. Next came a sedan to rival the BMW 3 Series, the Giulia.

But Alfa decided that the expensive high-performance Quadrifoglio model would hit our shores first. Sure, it's impressive. However, with a price starting at $72,000, sales of Alfas went from a trickle to a slightly bigger trickle.

Now, Alfa is ramping up for some much bigger volume. It will start with much lower priced versions of the Guilia to go head-to-head with the popular BMW 3 Series and other small premium sedans.

The $38,000 starting price means a smaller engine than the Guadrifoglio, but still making good power.

Specification-wise, it goes toe-to-toe with the BMW 3 Series and offers a distinctive style. Traditional Italian racing red suits it well inside and out, if you dare.

The Guilia has a lot of positives, but it also has one thing that can be considered a negative, and that's the trunk - because it's a sedan. And fewer car buyers are shopping for sedans these days.

That's where the Stelvio comes in. Yes, an Alfa Romeo SUV, just in the nick of time.

Alfa's European competitors have seen U.S. buyers go crazy for their sport utility offerings, and the Stelvio will likely be their hottest seller.

The Stelvio is named after a famous mountain pass in Italy and offers car-like handling along with the obvious utility. It also has a good dose of sleek style, which isn't easy to pull off with an SUV.

As with other vehicles it competes with, it's easy to send the sticker price well beyond the base of $42,000.

And soon, it too will get a Guadrifoglio model with the twin-turbo V-6, in case you want some high performance to go with your high functionality.

We haven't seen many new Alfa Romeos on U.S. roads yet, but that's about to change, and you're likely to see the Alfa grille leading the Stelvio SUV around most often.

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