Alfa Romeo finally appears to have got its act together. After years of failed attempts and collective sighs from the industry and customers, it has delivered two competitive and recommendable cars in the Giulia saloon and Stelvio SUV. We’ll even see the Alfa Romeo badge slapped on the side of a Formula 1 car from 2018.
Now the firm is tuning up the heat even further with this, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It has set a new lap record for an SUV at the famed Nurburgring race track in Germany, and is aimed directly at the Porsche Macan Turbo and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63. And it’s wading into a segment that’s only going to get even more competitive in the coming months – as engineers from Jaguar and BMW are busy putting the finishing touches to cooked-up versions of the F-Pace and X3 respectively.
The faster Stelvio follows on from the Giulia Quadrifoglio in Alfa’s performance line-up and makes use of that car’s 503bhp 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 engine and eight-speed auto gearbox. However, in the Stelvio it’s hooked up to Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel drive system to deliver maximum traction.
It’s a rear-biased set-up, and sends 100 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels in normal driving. However, it can also shuffle up to 50 per cent to the front axle when it detects slip – and as a result Alfa claims it can cover 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds and hit 176mph flat out. Those are serious numbers for a 1,830kg SUV.
Climb inside and there are several neat touches to remind you that you are in something a bit more special. The Alcantara and carbon fibre steering wheel, red decorative stitching and carbon-backed bucket seats set the tone without being over the top. Our only cabin reservation is perhaps some of the switchgear doesn’t feel or operate with the slickness you’d expect in a near-£65,000 SUV.
Alfa already has quite a driver focused SUV in the standard Stelvio, so it’s little surprise that a set of chassis tweaks and the addition of a thumping new engine has improved its dynamic makeup. The four-wheel drive powertrain ensures that all 503bhp and 600Nm of torque are fed to the road without any drama; deep chested wails from the engine are punctuated by violent pops and bangs from the exhaust.
We know the 2.9-litre V6 and eight-speed auto combination from the Giulia Quadrifoglio is an excellent paring and it’s the same story in the Stelvio. A wide spread of torque, sharp throttle response and thumping gear changes make it one of the best powertrains in the business. It’s clever, too, as it can shut down a bank of its cylinders without detection to reduce fuel consumption when cruising at steady speeds of up to around 80mph.
After the brutal acceleration you notice the steering, which is super sharp and accurate; the slightest twitch from your wrist is transmitted directly to the wheels. It instills the Stelvio with a greater sense of agility than its portly kerbweight would lead you to believe. Combined with the four-wheel drive system it makes for an incredibly fast and secure performance car.
Flick the Stelvio through the various drive modes and up to its most aggressive Race setting, and the reins are loosened on the stability control. This allows for a bit more movement at the rear end before the four-wheel drive system gathers it all up and launches you down the road, but even here it’s incredibly surefooted.
It’s a beautifully balanced SUV, but it has its limits. The Stelvio manages its weight shifting from side to side through high-speed corners, but you are always aware of the mass it’s hauling around – as it leans a little through corners.
Of course, being an SUV means it also has to come with a modicum of practicality. The 525-litre boot is larger than that on the Macan and you can drop the rear bench to maximize carrying capacity. Legroom is at a premium in the back, though, especially if you opt for the bucket seats as tested here, which nibble away at rear knee room, too.
UK buyers will have to wait a little while get to get their hands on one, too, as the Stelvio Quadrifoglio doesn’t arrive in the UK until next summer. Pricing and specs are yet to be announced but a figure around the £65,000 is to be expected, but if a performance SUV is on your wish list then this is one worth waiting for.