Have you ever thought to yourself, "I'd like an Alfa Romeo Stelvio but it's a little too big"? Or perhaps you're in the market for a Mercedes-Benz GLC-type vehicle but would rather it be Italian? Well, Alfa has just the car for you in the form of the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale, the brand's new compact crossover and its second crossover ever. Measuring 6.3 inches shorter in length and three inches shorter in height, the Tonale slots underneath the aforementioned Stelvio in Alfa's lineup.
At launch, it'll be available with a choice of two powertrains: plug-in hybrid or gas-only. In PHEV form, the Tonale uses a 180-horsepower, 1.3-liter turbo-four paired to a 90-kW electric motor powering the rear axle to put out 272 total hp. Using a 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery, the plug-in Alfa is apparently good for more than 30 miles of electric-only range in the "Advanced Efficiency" drive mode. Alfa says this car will be the most efficient plug-in crossover in its class. The unelectrified version, meanwhile, houses a 2.0-liter turbo-four under its hood making 256 hp and 295 pound-feet. Both powertrains come with all-wheel drive as standard. The hybrid uses a six-speed automatic transmission while the gas-only Tonale uses a nine-speed.
Non-Fungible Service Records
Despite the plug-in powertrain and classically Alfa design (peep the SZ Zagato-inspired "3+3" headlights and taillights), the most, erm, interesting part of this car isn't actually a physical part of this car at all. According to Alfa Romeo, the Tonale will be the first car in the world to feature something called an NFT digital certificate.
Yes, those. As Alec Baldwin so eloquently put it in The Departed: "I don't know what they are, you don't know what they are, who gives a fuck."
"Based on blockchain technology and uniquely linked, the Tonale NFT certifies the car upon purchase, then evolves to represent its use during the car’s life cycle, with major benefits in terms of protecting residual value," explains Alfa's press release. For those scratching their heads right now, you're not alone but, as far as I can work out, it doesn't sound like Alfa is using NFTs to certify the Tonale against, like, counterfeit cars. Rather, the company is using the technology to digitize records of proper maintenance.
"The technology is based on the 'blockchain card' concept, a confidential and non-modifiable record of the main stages in the life of an individual vehicle. This distinctive off-board feature – immediately usable and sustainable – epitomizes the innovative nature of Alfa Romeo. With the customer’s consent, the NFT will record vehicle data, generating a certificate that can be used to assure the car has been properly maintained, with a positive impact on its residual value. On the pre-owned car market, NFT certification represents an additional source of credibility for owners or dealers to count on. In the meantime, buyers will be reassured in their choice of car."
So, think of it as a barcode attached to each Tonale that stores that particular car's spec and service records. But instead of a barcode, it is an NFT. No more keeping oil change receipts in a yellow paper folder. Now, you just have to figure out how to read the data on an Alfa NFT. Much simpler. Right?
Infotainment and Autonomy
As for pieces of technology that are way easier to understand, the Tonale will feature a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen (despite Alfa's boss recently saying he wanted "as few screens as possible" in his cars) running Uconnect 5 with a customizable home screen, wireless Apple CarPlay, and wireless Android Auto as standard. Wireless charging is also standard as is built-in Amazon Alexa.
Bundling in standard adaptive cruise control, lane keep, low-speed traffic jam assist, blind-spot monitoring, and traffic sign recognition, Alfa Romeo is claiming Level 2 autonomy with the Tonale, meaning the car is able to accelerate and steer by itself but still requires a human in the driver's seat, overlooking it all and ready to take over at a moment's notice.
Still an Alfa
When you do decide to take control of your Tonale, however, it sounds like it'll be a fairly good time because Alfa Romeo is also claiming "best-in-class driving dynamics" with segment-leading weight distribution and the most direct steering of any compact luxury crossover out there with a ratio of 13.6:1. Its aluminum shift paddles are fixed to the column like a Ferrari while an Integrated Brake System sporting Brembo calipers and ventilated front disks help the Tonale stop as well as it corners.
Frequency Selective Damping, meanwhile, constantly monitors the speed at which the tire is hitting the suspension system and adjusts damper stiffness on the fly to deliver sports car-like solidity through corners and luxury crossover comfort over rough pavement accordingly. If the wheel is hit hard and quickly like it would, say, going over a pothole, the system softens to keep the ride comfy. Long slow compressions, like ones that would happen as the Tonale goes through a sweeping corner, however, would prompt the dampers to firm up.
Available in three trims (Sprint, Ti, Veloce), the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale will be available in the first quarter of 2023 with orders opening in the final quarter of 2022. This means we all have about a year to finally figure out what this NFT business is all about.
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