Until last week, we were expecting the Alfa Romeo Tonale to be sold with two powertrains here. When the compact crossover greeted the world for the first time in February, Alfa Romeo told us our market could expect a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as the base option, putting out 256 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic to all four wheels. The premium choice would be a plug-in hybrid powertrain that paired a 177-hp, 1.3-liter four-cylinder turning the front axle with a 121-hp electric motor working the rear axle for a combined 275 hp. The PHEV would also be capable of 30 miles of pure-electric motoring in the U.S. Alfa Romeo boss Jean-Philippe Imparato told Automotive News Europe during the media drive that the non-hybrid 2.0-liter is no longer an option for the U.S. because Alfa Romeo needs to go especially aggressive on reducing emissions here.
In Europe, the Tonale can be ordered with both powertrains as well as a diesel. Here, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently proposed a new set of regulations that lay out tougher benchmarks for an automaker's CO2 emissions. If the regulations pass, 35% of an automaker's sales in the state will need to be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) by 2026 and 100% by 2035. California, by itself, is on the cusp of passing Germany as the world's fourth-largest economy, according to Bloomberg. Furthermore, 13 states and the District of Columbia adhere to CARB emissions rules, nine of those follow California's ZEV program, and three more states will join the ZEV regulations over the next three years. Alfa Romeo sold just over 18,000 cars here last year, and it needs plenty of Tonales to offset all those Stelvios. Across the Atlantic, the Euro 7 emissions giving carmakers public fits are slated to come into force on July 1, 2025. For these reasons as well as Alfa Romeo's commitment to going all-electric this decade, Imperato told ANE the PHEV is "an existential need" in the lineup.
An Alfa Romeo spokesperson in the U.S. elaborated to Car and Driver, "As a premium brand, the PHEV better aligns with what our customers want in this segment as it provides an elevated experience, greater performance, and more than 30 miles of electric range." The subtext here is that the Tonale's corporate twin, the Dodge Hornet, will offer both powertrains when it goes on sale next year. While one could dismiss the idea of Dodge and Alfa Romeo buyers cross-shopping in the segment, making the Tonale PHEV-only doesn't just avoid the issue, it saves the Tonale from having a lower-output version of the same 2.0-liter turbo powertrain as the Hornet — 256 hp vs. 268 hp — which was previously the plan.
The Tonale order books opened to U.S. shoppers November 17. Imperato told ANE 35,000 European buyers have already put their names on the list, a figure that could flummox all but the patient come 2023 when deliveries commence. Chinese battery maker CATL provides the pack for the Tonale and told Alfa Romeo it could only guarantee delivering 35,000 batteries next year. Meanwhile, it's said the Italian workers at the Pomigliano plant that builds the Tonale and Hornet are ramping up slowly to ensure the quality and reliability Imperato has made one of his missions for the brand.