Car reviews - Alfa Romeo - Stelvio - Quadrifoglio
Alfa Romeo models
Aggressive pricing, seductive styling, brutal acceleration, obnoxious exhaust, neck-snapping gear shifts, remarkable body control, premium cabin materials
Room for improvement
Not as playful as RWD Giulia Quadrifoglio, steering feels too light on track, yet to assess ride comfort on public roads, fast rooflines impacts rear headroom
Alfa Romeo expertly combines style, handling and speed in Stelvio Quadrifoglio
22 Mar 2019
IT STILL might not feel right, but even Alfa Romeo is making SUVs these days. Now before you pray for the resurgence of traditional passenger cars, just take this in: the Stelvio is a really good steer.
By no means is it flawless, but that Alfa Romeo magic is very much a key component of the Stelvio experience … but it’s been missing that true performance edge – until now. Enter the Quadrifoglio.
Performance SUVs still might be an interesting concept to wrap your head around, but as we found, few rise to the occasion like the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Its combination of style, handling and speed is frankly outrageous…
‘A face only a mother could love’… yeah, not here; the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is an absolute stunner. All of the good bits about the regular model are there, but even better parts have been added.
Take, for example, the six bonnet vents that are arranged like a V6 (hint, hint), or the imposing 20-inch ‘telephone dial’ alloy wheels, or the massive cross-drilled Brembo brake discs. It doesn’t matter, it’s all delicious.
If we had one complaint about the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s exterior, it would be that it misses out on the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s prominent rear diffuser, instead making do with a much subtler element that can easily go unnoticed.
Inside, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio asserts its flagship status with fine-grain leather upholstery for its dashboard, door shoulders, seats, kneepads and central storage bin lid, all of which is nicely contrasted with green and white stitching.
Thicker-grain cow hide covers the door inserts and armrests – as seen in the regular model – while shiny hard plastic frames the rest of the doors, although the genuine carbon-fibre trim featuring on them, the dashboard and centre console is – again – delicious.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s front sports seats are heavily bolstered, making for great support during spirited driving. Option the carbon-fibre-backed Sparco pews, though, and they become a little too rigid for our liking. Save your $5000, kids.
In the second row, a few inches of legroom are available behind our 184cm driving position, while the rear bench is wide enough to accommodate three adults at a pinch.
It’s just a shame that the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s fast roofline eliminates headroom, especially with the $2400 dual-pane panoramic sunroof optioned.
Measuring in at 4701mm long, 1955mm wide and 1689mm tall with a 2818mm wheelbase, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio provides a very handy 525L of cargo capacity with its split-fold second row upright, or an even more practical 1600L with it stowed.
Technology-wise, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio flaunts a 7.0-inch multi-function display and an 8.8-inch infotainment system that lacks touch support in preference to a rotary dial. The latter still isn’t the best in the business when it comes to ease of use.
Advanced driver-assist systems are numerous, with autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control the notable inclusions, but active lane-keep assist is not available, although passive lane departure warning is.
Alright, that’s enough of the ‘boring’ stuff. How does it drive? Well, we can’t fully answer that question because our first taste of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio was three laps of Albert Park a few days before the 2019 Formula One Australian Grand Prix.
Yes, we spent about 10 minutes behind the wheel, so we can’t comment too much on how it rides, other than to stay it glided over the buttery-smooth circuit and firmly maintained composure when clipping apexes and encountering rolling bumps.
What we can say with more confidence, though, is that the Stelvio Quadrifoglio staggeringly handles like the Giulia Quadrifoglio – for the most part. Its aforementioned dimensions and 1830kg kerb weight are certainly factors, but not as much as you may think.
Frankly, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s body control is remarkable for an SUV, with only some lean encountered when cornering at high speed. Allow us to reiterate this point again: it quite literally feels like a Giulia Quadrifoglio on stilts. Bravo, indeed.
In our time in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, we had it set to its Dynamic driving mode, which is one step down from the Race setting that ‘disables’ traction control. This is important to note because it makes several pieces of the puzzle more aggressive.
This includes the electric power steering, which we found to be very, very direct, enabling razor-sharp turn-in – perfect for when you’re navigating a circuit at speed. However, we found this communicative set-up to be very light in hand. More weight, please.
Aside from body style, the biggest difference between the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the Giulia Quadrifoglio is that the former is all-wheel drive while the latter is not. This inevitably means that some playfulness is lost, despite the grippy Q4 system being rear-biased.
Where the two don’t differ, though, is engine and transmission, with the same Ferrari-developed 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 and ZF-sourced eight-speed torque-converter automatic on offer, and this only means good things.
Simply put, acceleration is brutal thanks to a more than healthy 600Nm of maximum torque being developed from 2500 to 5000rpm. It’s no surprise, then, that Alfa Romeo claims the Stelvio Quadrifoglio sprints from standstill to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds.
During our brief stint, we made exclusive use of the transmission’s manual mode that, of course, can be controlled using the alloy paddle-shifters. Frustratingly, they are attached to the steering column and not the wheel, but being so large, it’s not hard to grab them.
It’s good that they’re within an arm’s reach, because the gear changes are absolutely neck-snapping. With 375kW of peak power produced at 6500rpm, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio whips through ratios like nobody’s business. If you find a long straight, top speed is 283km/h.
Another positive of the DIY approach is the ability to exercise more control over the throaty bi-modal exhaust system. When on song, the ‘whiplash’ sound heard when upshifting at the redline is something that you’ll never tire of. So, the paddle-shifters come in handy.
How much to get the keys for one of these bad boys? $149,900 plus on-road costs. When you consider that makes the more practical Stelvio Quadrifoglio only $4000 dearer than the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the case for the former grows even stronger.
In fact, the sub-$150,000 list price is so aggressive that it undercuts the rival Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S wagon by more than $15,000 – while packing more standard equipment – making the Stelvio Quadrifoglio a no-brainer on paper.
Given how positive our very brief first experience in it was, we now know that the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is just as competitive in reality. So, now it’s just a matter of taking the time to explore its potential on public roads. We can’t wait.
Model release date: 1 March 2019
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