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Driven: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.

Driven: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
We’ll keep this brief: this is the sweetest-driving, most gratifying performance SUV we’ve ever driven.

 



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Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: the scintillating chassis, the mega drivetrain, the handsome looks, the Alfa Romeo frisson of desirability

Not so good: interior finishing is not up to snuff

Key Facts

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Price: Stelvio range from £37,745; Quadrifoglio from £69,510, car as tested £85,250
Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed ZF automatic, Q4 all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door performance SUV
CO2 emissions: 222g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,280 in year one, then £465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 24.6mpg
Top speed: 176mph
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
Power: 510hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 2,500-5,000rpm
Boot space: 499-1,600 litres

Our view:

We've said it before about fancy overseas drives where the roads are sensational and the sun is shining, but they can unfairly colour your judgment of a car. Take, for instance, the international launch of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It was held on the Jebel Jais mountain road in the United Arab Emirates and, if you were to take a peek at this location on Google Maps, you'll see what a stunning ribbon of tarmac this is. What the satellite imagery can't convey, of course, is that the surface is pristine-smooth and wide, while the road actually goes nowhere. On the map, it looks like it continues over the mountains and joins up with another arterial route, but we can tell you that it actually terminates in a very large, high-altitude gravel car park, complete (during our visit) with a fly-tipped melamine kitchen unit. The road itself is nothing more than a gravel trail beyond this point.

Therefore, when you've got a 510hp, Ferrari-engined, 176mph SUV at your disposal and what is essentially a closed road snaking away in front of you, you tend to drive quite hard. Which is tremendous fun, of course. Especially when it appeared, on that initial dynamic showing, that the Stelvio Q had taken almost everything that makes the Giulia Quadrifoglio such a blinding supersaloon and all-time great performance machine, and transferred it into an excellent SUV package. And as there's no Giulia Q Sportwagon, if you want a red-hot Alfa with a big boot, the Stelvio Quadri is it.

The thing is, this sort of hooning about on dusty mountain passes is hardly representative of what the car is going to do in real-life, day-to-day driving. And we're not ashamed to admit that the UAE thrash has affected our original verdict of the car. Worried about being too carried away with the surroundings and not focusing on the mechanicals, we gave the Stelvio four-and-a-half stars. Well, after a week with RX68 HKE, we're fully prepared to admit we're wrong. We should have given it the full house, because it's absolutely flippin' tremendous.

In fact, we're so moved to say it's the best performance SUV we've ever driven, and a key to understanding the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's unparalleled brilliance is that is clocks in at 1,830kg. Which is not exactly the sort of bulk that you'd want on a track-day machine, or any sort of figure that might qualify as 'lightweight' in the grand scheme of all cars, but - as performance SUVs go - it's like a bloody superleggera. It results in the Stelvio having a power-to-weight ratio of 279hp-per-tonne, and when you're anywhere in the vicinity of 300hp-per-tonne then you're talking about a seriously rapid vehicle indeed.

You'll not doubt that for a second when you're actually in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Cor blimey, it doesn't half shift with real ferocity when you want it to. The fast-acting ZF autobox and the Alfa's rear-biased Q4 AWD couple up to ensure that Alfa can use as much of its 510hp/600Nm as possible in almost every given situation. It goes snorting off into the middle distance with preposterous fervour as a result, the whole thing overlaid by a wonderful, snarling V6 soundtrack that, if we were being hyper-picky, is maybe slightly on the quiet side but which is nevertheless wholly acceptable for a vehicle as quick as this.

It's the handling, though, which marks this out as truly exquisite. There are plenty of mega-power SUVs that can rip your face off with monster acceleration, courtesy of powerplants with outputs that would shame a nuclear reactor, but very, very few of them can disguise their considerable mass in other regards, even with fancy active anti-roll bars and mahoosive brake discs. The Alfa has some of those, mind, a set of carbon-ceramics which are a meaty £5,900 option, but it's not just the organ-rearranging stopping power the Stelvio has which astounds, it's the rabid way it turns in with steering so pin-sharp and accurate that you momentarily forget you're in an SUV, it's the way the body of the Stelvio is never, ever allowed to get away from the chassis, even momentarily, it's the way it grips and tenaciously holds its line and feeds back a wealth of information to you via the seat of your pants and the tips of your fingers. It is, in a word, sublime.

It's also edgy. SUVs tend to be steadfast and four-square in their cornering attitude normally, but the Alfa is heavily rear-biased (it'll only send 50 per cent of torque forwards when it needs to, with 100 per cent of the grunt going rearwards ordinarily) and it feels like the back axle is doing all the work if you decide to take liberties with the grip. That's going to shock some people, who are going to look at its upright shape, fat tyres and Q4 badging, and assume it'll have near-endless adhesion, but it is this innate sense of a slight spikiness on the Stelvio's part which makes it such a rewarding machine to drive fast. You're always aware of it dancing into corners, light on its tiptoes, conveying the air of a proper sports car and rewarding the drivers who are prepared to invest just a little bit more in the Alfa's ability. This isn't just a phenomenal thing to drive by the standards of huge, galumphing SUVs; it's just a phenomenal thing to drive, full stop.

It's still a fantastic SUV to travel in if you're not driving it like you're halfway up the Jebel Jais on someone else's fuel ticket, of course, with a compliant ride boasting a slightly firm edge; a minuscule pay-off for the way the Quadrifoglio handles. Noise suppression is decent too, with perhaps a gnat's too much tyre roar but, again, nothing that's too unbearable for what those wide chunks of rubber do for the Stelvio's grip levels. It even managed to turn in 26mpg on a steady cruise up and down the A46 dual carriageway, although a weekly average of 16.9mpg across 265.7 magical miles rather tells the truer story of how, um, enthusiastically the Alfa was enjoyed.

Maybe we could make the point that the Alfa looks quite stunning value at sub-£70k, but is perhaps less tempting at £85,250 as tested. However, in its defence here: 1) it feels worth every penny of that money and plenty more besides, given how outstandingly talented its chassis and drivetrain combination is; 2) much of that £15,740 of additional costs has gone on the carbon stoppers, and we think we'd have them on our Stelvio Q, if we ever had the money to buy one; and 3) the rest of the cash has been disbursed on things which you can take or leave at your leisure, if you so want - such as £2,500 on the tri-coat Competizione Red paintwork, £590 on the 20-inch dark five-hole alloys, £595 for red brake callipers, £195 for the black interior with red stitching, £425 for a carbon-fibre, Alcantara and leather steering wheel (tick this box, at the very least), £950 on the Harman Kardon Sound Theatre (and this one), £1,250 on a panoramic glass sunroof and £85 on a cargo net in the boot. Therefore, the price tag's not a problem. And nor are the looks, despite some gapping in the wheel arches above the ravishing Teledial-esque rims, because this is an Alfa Romeo when all's said and done, and Alfa knows how to pen an attractive body.

So its one major weakness is the interior finishing, which is sort of six-out-of-ten stuff in the main, with a couple of outrageous highlights (THOSE paddle shifts, the thin-rimmed steering wheel, the magnificent front Sparco bucket seats with their carbon backs, which are another £3,250 option - order them, don't be a fool!), but it's spacious and comfortable onboard. And if, from this one chink in the Stelvio's armour, its rivals are imagining they can lever it open and score some points against the Alfa, then bad news: as of 2020, the Quadri will gain all the interior updates that have made the regular Stelvio range feel so much more upmarket within. So the only real obstruction to buying the Italian rocket will be removed in a few months' time.

Which brings us to the conclusion that we gave you in the standfirst to this piece: if driving enjoyment is your thing, there is no better SUV in history than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. And further, there are few modern-day sports machines of any shape and size which are more edifying, either. So our advice to you is this: by all means, don't mistake every single passionate dalliance you have on faraway shores as anything more than a holiday romance, but by the same token don't ever discount the possibility of meeting 'The One' under an overseas sun. We did with the Stelvio Quadri; it just took us a further week back home to realise this fact.

Alternatives:

BMW X3 M: has the new M Power engine that will go in the next M3 coming down the pipeline, so it has the show-stopping tech to match its aggressive looks. But the ride quality is firm beyond belief.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe: have this thing in its racier-looking guise and you've got a 510hp, V8-powered behemoth. Alfa is superior in the handling department, though.

Porsche Macan Turbo: we'll be driving the 440hp Turbo very soon but, on the showing of the facelifted 354hp S version, if anything can defeat the Alfa it will be the fastest Macan.


Matt Robinson - 4 Jun 2019









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2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio UK test. Image by Alfa Romeo UK.








 

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