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Road Trip! This Is How the New 2024 Alfa Romeo Fared on a Journey to the Las Vegas Grand Prix

Alfa's smallest car tames the Mojave

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale front
  • We borrowed an Alfa Romeo Tonale to join the automaker at this year's Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.
  • It proved to be well-suited for the drive.
  • Most Tonale shoppers won't be affected by the issues I had with the car.

It's quite a sight, opening your blinds to a sporty SUV painted in one of the most brilliant shades of green you've ever seen in your life. That was me a couple of weeks ago when reps for the Italian automaker kindly dropped off the keys to a 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale in Verde Fangio (well worth the $2,200 charge, in my opinion), to be used as transport to this year's inaugural Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix. The reason for choosing the Tonale over several Giulias — including a Quadrifoglio — that were also offered? I've never piloted a Tonale but have already driven the 2.0-liter Giulia, knew that I wouldn't be able to use the Quadrifolgio for its intended purpose on the straight shot northeast, and remembered that I'm simply too tall to avoid brushing my hair against the Giulia's headliner. That last point will be important in a moment.

The Tonale heads north

I hop into the Tonale and my first impression is positive. I like the overall aesthetic, and the materials feel more upscale than those used on many of its luxury competitors. Elements like the tall, metal column-mounted paddle shifters and start button on the steering wheel immediately differentiate the Tonale's interior from those of rivals, even though the all-black color scheme feels a tad severe. Thankfully, there's plenty of ambient lightning at night (including behind the passenger dash area), giving the little SUV a cool nightclub vibe without going full Mercedes disco insanity.

The only downside is that, again, this Alfa doesn't quite fit my 6-foot-4 frame. That might not surprise you — this is a subcompact crossover, after all — but I'm able to comfortable sit at the helm of the Honda HR-V, Kia Soul and a number of other pint-sized SUVs. In the days leading up to my departure, I found myself constantly shifting in the driver's seat, trying to find the perfect placement. I had to compromise, giving up some thigh support so as to be lower to the ground, and sitting uncomfortably far away from the steering wheel as I tried to follow the curvature of the roofline. I think I might have been OK if my tester hadn't been equipped with the panoramic sunroof.

But my carryon fit in the cargo area, and that's really all you need for a road trip, right? I saved a seat configuration that more or less worked, then pointed my viridian chariot to California Route 60, where my trip would begin in earnest. I traveled these first few miles in silence, as the Alfa tenders had thoughtfully recharged this plug-in's 15.5-kWh battery pack. I left the Tonale in its default driving mode — neither running in EV-only mode, nor forcing the engine on to save the battery for later. Driving at highway speeds quickly depleted the battery's range, and it was the turbocharged four-cylinder's turn to do the work.

Displacing just 1.3 liters, the Tonale's engine is surprisingly relaxed at steady higher speeds. It doesn't churn with reckless abandon when you're just keeping up with traffic, making longer road trips an easy affair. It does exhibit less than ideal qualities when you need to climb a hill (winding up the Cajon Pass elicited a raspy drone from underhood) and later when I got into Vegas, I noticed that with the engine fired up, the powertrain felt odd around town. The trasmission is slippy off the line, almost like the Tonale employs a dual-clutch transmission — but the six-speed is actually a traditional automatic. It's not bad, really, but something to be aware of if you're expecting a smooth driving experience.

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2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale view out the front window

Avoid Barstow breakfast burritos

Back to the road. After clearing the Cajon Pass, I continued on through surprisingly construction-heavy Victorville and into Barstow for a quick pit stop and one of the most disappointing breakfast burritos I've ever eaten. Judging by the dripping orange flour tortilla, I expected a burst of rich chorizo flavor, but there was almost no meat to be found inside. Were the eggs and potatoes fried in heavy grease, with the sausage itself mistakenly left out? Thankfully I was exorcising the demons early, as this and the lack of headroom in the Tonale were the only true lowlights of the trip.

Even though my driving position was slightly compromised, the seats were comfortable and supportive during my journey, and the ride firm but with enough compliance that it didn't feel punishing. The reedy exhaust note only manifested a couple more times — notably while ascending to the Halloran Summit between Baker and the Nevada stateline. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing, especially with the Tonale's adaptive cruise control making easy work of the many miles separating home from Vegas.

An oddly calm race weekend

The relaxed nature of the trip surprisingly didn't abate as I actually made my way into town. I drove up on Saturday morning — the day of the race — and was shocked to not be caught in a snarl of traffic. I didn't know it at the time, but the high prices of the tickets and initially eye-watering flight and hotel rates had kept a lot of prospective vacationers away. The Eataly at Park MGM where I had lunch was characteristically busy, but I checked into the hotel right away and foot traffic around the rest of the property wasn't as hell-clogged as I had prepared for.

That changed a bit as race time drew nearer. Our group walked from Park MGM to the Aria, where Alfa Romeo had brought one of its F1 cars in Las Vegas GP livery, a merch stand (with apparel priced well below what we'd see at the booths at the circuit), a Tonale and a pair of Stelvio and Giulia Quadrifoglios, and a slick Batak training board where guests set their quickest time to complete the light program. From there, we joined the mob heading east across the section of the Strip that constituted the circuit's front straight.

Alfa Romeo Formula One Car front

Our seating area at Turn 4 didn't quite give us an angle of Turn 1 — a coveted turn on an unproven track, given the high likelihood of a potential ... incidents ... on the first lap — but we could see the new Sphere with a quick glance to our left, and our position proved to be a primo spot for hearing drivers hammer the throttle onto the back straight.

Unfortunately for our Alfa-aligned crew, the actual race didn't prove to be a smashing success. Both cars finished, but team leader Valtteri Bottas brought up the rear of the pack in 17th, more than half a minute behind Logan Sargeant ahead. Teammate Zhou Guanyu fared only slightly better by finishing in 15th. Of the race itself, there was plenty of excitement throughout — especially as the race wasn't totally dominated by Verstappen — and last-lap fireworks had Leclerc narrowly edge out Perez to finish in second and third, respectively.

I stayed in Vegas one more night, because I thought I-15 would be a parking lot of Sunday with the amount of traffic heading back home (I needn't have worried. The aforementioned dearth of non-F1 visitors meant the highway was green on Google Maps all day). It was on Monday, then, that I headed back to Los Angeles.

So what did I learn in my few days with the new Alfa Romeo Tonale? It's a little too small for me, but if you aren't a giant (or, maybe, if you don't opt for the sunroof), the amount of interior space probably won't be an issue. The powertrain behavior at lower speeds is kind of annoying, but I imagine I'd get used to the feel if I owned this car. Otherwise, the Tonale was a perfect road trip companion, with a compliant ride and interior materials that feel a step above others in the class. Now to find out how it does at our test track ...

Edmunds says

The new 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale exhibited excellent road trip manners on a journey from Los Angeles to Sin City for the inaugural Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.