New car test drive

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio test drive

Top-spec Quadrifoglio adds impressive performance and theatre to an accomplished package

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What is it?

This is the Stelvio Quadrifoglio – the range-topping SUV from Alfa Romeo designed to take on rivals such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz at the performance four-wheel-drive game.

It’s fast, loud and elegant to look at – just as any true Alfa should be – but it’s packing a host of on-board tech to help it stay as capable on the road too. We’ve headed to Scotland to see how this performance SUV can handle proper, craggy British B-roads.

What’s new?

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio QV engine

There’s a lot going on underneath this Alfa. Firstly, there’s a 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 under the bonnet – and we’ll cover this in more detail later – but there’s a more to talk about than brute force alone. Alfa has fitted the Quadrifoglio (or QV, for short) with its Q4 all-wheel-drive system, which transfers 100% of torque to the rear wheels during regular conditions.

If it senses that the car’s limitations are being approached, then it can transfer 50% of that power to the front axle to aid with traction. This is aided further by the inclusion of Alfa’s chassis domain control and active torque vectoring, both of which help to give the car as much grip as possible through corners.

How does it look?

We’d argue that the Stelvio is one of the best-looking ‘regular’ SUVs on sale today – and the added QV treatment only works to enhance these excellent visuals. Flared wheel arches, huge 20-inch alloy wheels and a variety of different air inlets give the car a lot of presence out of the road, and this is before you’ve even turned the key.

The rear of the car is close to as strong as the in-your-face front end in terms of design, with four aggressive exhaust pipes poking out from either side of a central diffuser section.

In our opinion, we’d opt for bolder shades – reds and blues work well on this car, with whites tending to wash out the whole look of the vehicle.

What’s the spec like?

Standard equipment levels on the Stelvio are good, as you’d expect for a range-topping model. Features such as dual-zone climate control and bi-xenon headlights come as part of the overall price, along with a full sports exhaust system and a complete sports bodykit.

There’s also Alfa’s standard-fit nine-inch infotainment system, the same as you’ll find on all of the brand’s cars. Although relatively clear, it’s lagging some way behind rival offerings in terms of usability. Even zooming in and out of the satellite navigation is a hassle.

What’s it like inside?

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The Stelvio QV’s interior is a mixture of good and bad impressions. The carbon-shell sports seats fitted to our test car looked beautiful and were immensely supportive — but then you’d want them to be, considering they’re £3,250 extra. The leather steering wheel feels good in the hands and the stitching on the dashboard is impeccably neat.

It’s just a shame that this is contrasted by hard plastics surrounding the switchgear, while the gearstick itself feels flimsy and has sharp edges along the back of it. It’s annoying, considering it’s a part of the car with you interact with each and every time you use the vehicle, and even more annoying when you remember the car’s near-£80,000 price tag.

What’s under the bonnet?

As mentioned, the Stelvio QV makes use of a 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 engine producing 510hp and 600Nm of torque. Designed and built by Ferrari, it’s the same unit as the one you’ll find in the Giulia QV saloon – though despite the increase in weight the Stelvio is no less potent. Reaching 60mph from a dead stop takes just 3.6 seconds, and flat-out you’ll be doing 176mph.

Power is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, and you get adjustable dampers too – a godsend on UK roads, as it allows you to soften the car off when the surface gets rough.

As you’d expect for an engine of this size and performance, economy figures aren’t the best – Alfa claims 24mpg on the combined cycle, though emissions of 227g/km actually aren’t too bad for this segment.

What’s it like to drive?

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Start off slowly in the Stelvio QV, and there’s little to tell you that this is a performance SUV. It’s relatively quiet, and the V6 under the bonnet makes little of its presence felt. Press on, however, and it soon becomes clear that this is no ‘ordinary’ four-wheel-drive.

That engine is impressively flexible; after an initial pause there’s low-down torque in spades but it’s just as happy to rev right the way up to its 6,500rpm redline. Gearshifts are fast and immediate, and the whip-crack action of the beautifully engineered one-piece aluminium paddle shifters is a delight each and every time.

It’s only let down a little by the ride. In regular modes, there’s a decent amount of pliancy but this is counteracted by a little too much roll; stiffen the dampers to their most aggressive setting and the car can quickly become unsettled by mid-corner bumps and road imperfections.

The steering is the stand-out star of the show, though. Direct, quick and full of life, it gives you the confidence to properly attack the bends – something you don’t often get the opportunity to do in cars of this size.

Summary

Sharp handling, a wonderfully responsive engine and a razor-sharp gearbox combine with excellent balance to help make the Stelvio QV an exciting drive on UK roads.

A rather harsh ride in firmer settings slightly spoils the overall effect, and the cabin quality does let it down somewhat.

However, if you’re after a performance SUV – or maybe fancy moving up a size from a quick saloon – then the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is easily one of the most dynamic performance SUVs on sale today.

Similar cars

Audi SQ5, Mercedes-Benz GLC 63, Porsche Macan

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Executivecondominium by the Press Association. They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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