With 510hp and all-wheel drive, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is as rapid around corners as it is in a straight line, but its interior and quality and infotainment system are less impressive
Alfa Romeo has a wonderfully colourful motor-racing history and some brilliant – not to mention beautiful – sports cars to its name. It’s fair to say, though, that in more recent times its high-performance models have proved lacklustre. Then the fantastic Giulia Quadrifoglio came along and marked a turning point, and we’re happy to report that the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio continues this new upward trend.
It’s an alternative to other swift SUVs such as the Porsche Macan, Audi SQ5, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 and Maserati Levante. They’re all great cars, but the Alfa is a class apart – which is why it won the Driver’s Award in the 2018 carwow awards. It’s not just the best high-performance SUV, it’s more fun than most pure sports cars.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio sits at the top of the Stelvio range and gets the same 510hp turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine as the saloon Giulia Quadrifoglio. Rather than that car’s rear-wheel drive, though, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio gets more SUV-appropriate all-wheel drive – although most of the time it drives the just its rear wheels, only firing up the front set when it needs more purchase on the road.
One of those times is during a standing start, where maximum traction is required and the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is able to blast to 62mph in just 3.8sec. Its standard eight-speed automatic gearbox with large column-mounted paddles is superb, too, proving razor sharp in response to manual gear changes. With enough (legal) Tarmac, the Stelvio carries on to a 176mph top speed.
But the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is just about going fast in a straight line – it’s also superb at cornering too. There are four driving modes to choose from; Advanced Efficiency, Normal, Dynamic and Race, with increasing levels of aggressiveness in terms for throttle response and gear changes, as well as heavier steering and stiffer suspension.
In its more relaxed modes the Stelvio is comfortable over craggy roads and its gearbox flicks between gears intelligently on its own and, but switch to Race mode and all hell breaks loose. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio props up its body through corners extremely well, while its light but quick steering helps it feel extremely light on its feet for such a tall SUV. Grip levels are high, too, so you can be confident it’ll tuck it nose into corners and hang on hard throughout them.
Give it the chance, though, and the Stelvio Quadrifoglio happily plays the hooligan. Race mode switches off the car’s traction control systems allowing it to move sideways under power, although never in an unpredictable way thanks to its clever four-wheel-drive system. All told, it’s every bit as engaging as a Porsche Macan to drive hard, and makes an Audi SQ5 and Maserati Levante look pretty reserved.
You’d assume that, as a sort of jacked-up Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio would feel a lot less fun to drive. The truth is, it’s an absolute hoot
That said, it’s frustrating that Alfa hasn’t given the Stelvio an Individual-type driving mode that allows personal configuration of its various driving modes. For instance, its exhaust sounds best in Race mode, but you aren’t allowed any electronic safety nets in place, so it’s literally all or nothing. Most of the Stelvio’s competitors offer more flexibility here.
And unfortunately the Stelvio Quadriofoglio’s alternatives offer more luxury and better infotainment systems. The Alfa’s dashboard is interestingly designed with carbon fibre trim, but things like its switches and air vents just don’t convey quality next to the likes of Audi. The same goes for its 8.8-inch screen and rotary dial between the front seats, which does have DAB radio, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included, but is visually disappointing and not particularly logically laid out.
Still, the car’s driving position is very good, its sports seats supportive and visibility for the driver good forwards, if more restricted rearwards by the cars large rear pillars – although the standard rearview camera will help with this. In the back space is comparable with alternatives: two adults will sit comfortably but three will be more of a squeeze. Boot space too is on a par with competitors’, offering enough room for a couple of large suitcases plus further soft bags.
Standard equipment includes leather seats, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, that rear view camera, automatic headlights and wipers. Safety-wise, Alfa Romeo includes automatic emergency braking as standard as well as blind spot detection and lane departure warning, which is enough for the Stelvio to have been awarded the maximum five star score in its crash test in 2017.
If you’re in the market for fun, then, but with some practicality to go with it, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio should be at top of your list of options. It’s similarly priced to a Macan, Levante and GLC 63 but is more exciting to drive than all of them, and is well worth the premium you’ll pay over the cheaper but more docile Audi SQ5.