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6 February 2024

Best Sports SUV: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Review

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio looks good in the photographs, but what struck me was how much better it looked in the flesh, or steel. It has a presence and style that most SUV’s fail to match and perfoms like a sports car. A genuine pleasure to drive and holds the road like no other SUV on the market. Better than many sports cars actually.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the top of the range SUV, with the four leaf clover emblem on the side, first used by Alfa’s race driver Ugo Sivocci in 1923 to bring him luck, which it did, winning the Targa Floria race. The Quadrifoglio symbol is Alfa Romeo’s badge of racing pride and lets you know that the car is extra special, sporting rear wheel drive, ultra light materials, 50;50 weight ratio and superior performance.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio has the 2.9 V6 bi-turbo aluminium engine with 510hp, that will go from 0-62 in 3.8 secs, designed by ex Ferrari engineer Gianlucca Pivetti. Add to that an 8 speed automatic gear box (plus reverse) that can change gear in 150 milliseconds in race mode!  It boasts a top speed of 176 mph with Alfa Active Torque Vectoring, Alfa DNA Pro, Integrated Break System and Alfa Active Suspension, all synchronised and managed by Alfa’s Chassis Domain Control system.
Other worthy features include a carbon fibre drive shaft, aluminium shift paddles, the ability to shut off three cylinders for more fuel efficiency and two electronically controlled clutches.
The Stelvio is eye catching in tri-coat Competizione Red with a narrow indented waist, an attractive sloping windscreen and cursive side windows. The rear is smooth and confident, whilst the front radiates a kind of animalistic intent with twin hood vents and the iconic Alfa trilobe. The sinuous blade shaped front headlamps add a rakish air and the overall appearance is muscular and extremely solid, with enough curves to subtly hint at its truly impressive sports nature.
The interior is understated luxury, with black leather and red stitching, carbon fibre panels, twin instrument dials and the Alfa 7” display screen that is seamlessly incorporated into the dash. The flat bottom sports steering wheel is a pleasure to hold and conveys the sports soul of this car with gusto. It is after all the main control that you interact with, so it has to feel right and I love the red start/stop button on the wheel, no hunting around the panel. Just flip your thumb over and bang, it starts. Another clue that this is no ordinary SUV are the Sparco sports seats, which are absolutely necessary in this high performance car, both comfortable for long tours and supportive when you have the space to let rip.
So really, how good can an SUV be on and off road? Incredible as it turns out. Just jaw dropping poise and stability. On the road it was like cornering from a video game armchair. The sports seats coddle you like a mama bear protecting its cubs. You are genuinely stable and secure, unlike the Tory cabinet. I could not believe I was in an SUV. The acceleration is phenomenal and Alfa have tuned the pedal response to perfection, so unlike other SUV’s you get immediate power at the lightest press of the foot. This bloody marvellous V6 bi-turbo engine delivers at every rpm, 0-62 in 3.8 seconds is no joke for a car this size.
The car is smooth and luxurious at high speeds, but most importantly it corners like a sports car. This is down to the superb chassis, designed by Philippe Krief, and the electronic stability control which maintains just the right independent wheel speed, active suspension and braking. Alfa Chassis Domain Control oversees all of this in realtime, so that a jacked up two/four wheel drive car feels like a low ride sportster, even in the corners. No roll, just cornering excellence.
This car takes all the problems normally associated with an SUV and simply does away with them. The Stelvio drives and handles like a track car, while giving you the all the comfort and high ride of an SUV. The ride, balance and handling are sports car standard, no more rolling around corners or limping along behind hatchbacks on the slip road to the motorway. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio brings real driving pleasure to a family friendly runaround. At last a car you can take the kids to school in and then enjoy going solo on the open road after. My natural antipathy towards them is much lessened, I obviously  just needed to meet the right SUV. Blast, three decades of taking the mickey out of Alfa fans and now I’ve joined the buggers, it’s all downhill from here, hopefully in a V6 with carbon ceramic brakes.
Another point to mention is the car sits up pretty high over the wheels, so it performs superbly off road as it does on road. Not sure a lot of people will be using it for that but it’s worth keeping in mind as a worthy contender for the Paris Dakar. It would keep up with the supercars, and leave them standing when it came to some of the trickier parts of the route, plus the comfort…and space.
The suspension has three modes, soft, medium or hard and I found it best in medium, which was enough to give you excellent road performance with comfort. The Alfa DNA drive selector knob offers Advanced Efficiency mode for fuel saving and wintry weather, Natural that combines acceleration and suspension for comfort, then Dynamic which turns this car up to 11, with thrilling engine response and lighting fast smooth gear changes. You will often be putting it in Dynamic for the engine sound alone, a gorgeous deep rumble revealing hidden power.
Right, let’s address the giant pachyderm in the room. Yes, Race mode, why the hell does an SUV have what is effectively a track mode… ridiculous. Yet every time I drive this Quadrifoglio it taunts me with its unbelievable performance. So good that I’m itching to throw it around a track, more than any other car, just to see what a sports tank like this will do. Nürburgring anyone? It would be exhilarating, plus you would actually see those corners coming from up on high, so have more time to adjust your line.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is already a Nürburgring champion with a time of 7.51.7 minutes,  beating cars such as the Lamborghini Gallardo (2004), BMW M4 (2015) and the Porsche 911 GT3 (2003). Seriously that’s amazing. See here:
This is a high performance supercar masquerading as a family SUV and as pleasurable as an Aston Martin to drive. As Vinnie Jones might put it, Alfa’s are emotional, they bring more excitement to driving than any other brand. Italians are obsessed with cars, young and old alike and can identify an obscure classic car from miles away. This passion is reflected in Alfa Romeo’s approach. “La Meccanica delle Emozioni”, indeed.
I enjoyed this car more than any other SUV I’d ever driven, mainly because it never felt like one, it did not roll, but cornered strongly and firmly. It certainly did not accelerate like one, leaping forward with almost obscene alacrity at the slightest encouragement. Most of all it never felt oversized on the outside, whilst being large and spacious on the inside. I guess it’s the Italian response to Doctor Who’s Tardis. Read the next line in an Italian accent: “Yes, but we make it really, really fast and look magnificent, yes, not like a postbox!”
Check out the limited edition NRing version of both the Giulia and the Stelvio (only 108 will be made).
Starting from £69,510, this model had £15,740 of extra options bringing it to £85,240.
Make/Model: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo 510hp
Engine Capacity (cc): 2891
Transmission: 8 + 1R
Mpg: 19.1 28.0 24.0
Fuel Type: Petrol
Fuel Consumption: Drive cycle
Urban: 19.1 mpg
Extra Urban” 28 mpg
Extra-urban Combined: 24 mpg
Carbon dioxide emissions (g/km): 227
Interior: Black Leather, Alcantara Sports Seats
Wheels: 20″ Dark Hole alloy wheels