By Nauman Farooq
SUV – that stands for “Sport Utility Vehicle” – but very, very few can even be remotely considered as sporty!
Alfa Romeo knows a thing or two about making sports cars, but it had never produced an SUV until the Stelvio hit the market in 2017. I tested one last year with the base engine, which is a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four, and while it wasn’t perfect, it impressed me with its style and comfort. While its performance was quite adequate, the one I wanted to try out was the Quadrifoglio version – the one that features an engine built by Ferrari. Well, good things come to those who wait, and I finally got to spend a week with the high-performance version of the Stelvio.
How was it? Read on to find out!
Styling: Making a good looking SUV is tough; it literally is like asking the designer to make a box look appealing! There are plenty of bad ones on sale, with some tolerable ones, but very few can be labelled as ‘pretty.’
You can certainly label the Stelvio as ‘pretty’ because this is –in my opinion- a very good looking vehicle. Every time I see a Stelvio, no matter what the trim level, it catches my eye, and the Quadrifoglio versions just make me smile. From the big “V” grille upfront to its 20-inch wheels, plus its sculpted bodylines, you do get the sense that the Stelvio Quadrifoglio (Q4) was done by a design team that was driven by passion, rather than just a job to finish off a product.
So, if you’re the type of person who’d buy a vehicle based solely on looks, then you’ll be impressed by the Stelvio.
Interior: You’ll also be impressed with the interior. Not only is it properly put together (no loose fitting lids or embarrassing panel gaps to be found here), it is also nicely styled.
The week I had this vehicle, I had a meeting with Dr. Paul Deutschman – who has a doctorate in design, and has designed some of my favourite cars. It is always fun getting his input on a product, and he doesn’t hold back if the design isn’t to his liking. He was in the Stelvio Q4 for an hour, and he kept complimenting on the design execution, especially of the interior. He loved the way the dashboard neatly integrates the infotainment screen – rather than looking like it’s been stuck on as an afterthought – and was also impressed with the mixture of materials.
The most surprising feature in the Stelvio Q4 has to be its optional sports seats. These manually adjusted, carbon-fiber backed buckets look like they’ve been taken out of a racing car (or at least, a supercar) and they hold you firmly in place for when you’re going around corners quickly – something the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is very good at. They aren’t the most comfortable seats in the world (carbon-fibre is very stiff, so it doesn’t flex, hence you’ll feel all the bumps), and while some luxury SUVs offer massaging seats, these aren’t even heated. For more comfort, save yourself $4,100 and stick with the standard seats, which are power operated and heated.
Comfort otherwise is fairly good, there is decent amounts of space in the front and back seats, and has more than enough cargo space for grocery shopping.
It does have an infotainment system, and thankfully it is not a touchscreen unit. It operates very much like BMWs iDrive controller, and that’s a good thing.
The screen is a little too small, the mapping detail looks like it was programmed 20 years ago, and inputting directions takes longer than I was hoping. Since I was testing the performance model, I was expecting for there to be a screen that has performance pages to measure acceleration and braking, but I didn’t find any.
Audiophiles won’t be fans of this vehicle, because while it did have a harman/kardon premium audio system, all that carbon-fiber (plus some cheap plastic bits) would vibrate uncomfortably if the song you’re listening to leans more towards base. However, maybe the vehicle is just telling you to turn down the volume, and enjoy its mechanical symphony.
Powertrain: If the styling and interior didn’t win you over, the engine surely will!
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio features a twin-turbocharged 2.9L V6, which is built by Ferrari specifically for Alfa Romeo. This motor produces 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, and sounds like a race car when being pushed. Power is fed to an intelligent all-wheel drive system via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Performance & Driving Dynamics: In any driving condition, the performance of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is impressive. In the right conditions, it blows your head off!
I’m talking here about an SUV that can top out at about 280 km/h, and sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.6 seconds – that means it’s quicker (although, not faster in the top end) than some legendary supercars such as the Lamborghini Diablo 6.0, the Porsche Carrera GT, and the Ferrari F50 (plus many others). In fact, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio can shame (or at least, keep up with) many performance cars made even today – the difference is, in this your family can come too.
You’ll never need to buy passes for an amusement park, if you have this vehicle, because it is more thrilling – and faster – than any roller coaster. Good thing than that the brakes are equally as good at bringing you to a halt! The optional Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes on my tester lacked feel, but they sure worked really well when you had to stand on them.
If the acceleration and braking doesn’t pop your eyes wide open, than its cornering grip certainly will. This vehicle – thanks to its active all-wheel drive system – goes around corners (as the old cliché says) like its on rails! It really does.
Sure, there is usually a price to pay for this kind of performance and handling, and that’s usually ride comfort, and yes, in its sportiest “RACE” setting, it is very, very stiff. Thankfully, however, it does have electronically adjustable suspension dampers, and by simply pressing one button, you can restore the comfort setting, which immediately changes the ride comfort. So, you can keep the engine working hard in its most dynamic setting, but still enjoy a comfortable ride – this Stelvio can do it all.
Fuel Economy: Activate economy mode and it offers reasonable fuel economy – although, Ferrari doesn’t really build engines that are the most eco minded!
In my test cycle (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving) the Stelvio Quadrifoglio averaged 13.6 L/100 km. Given that it’ll only drink the finest of premium fuels, this vehicle is not going to be cheap to run, but then, if you can afford one, fuel prices aren’t going to be of much concern to you!
Pricing: The base price for the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is $95,000. Factor in all the options on my test vehicle, and the as tested price came to $114,906 (including destination charge of $2,595).
So, not cheap, even when compared to other high-performance SUVs or CUVs.
Verdict: If you’re a logical, sensible person, than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio would likely not appeal to you. It isn’t the largest vehicle you can buy for the money, nor is it the most comfortable or tech savvy.
However, if you’re a defiant personality, and values entertainment over almost everything else, there might not be a vehicle more suited for you than this bonkers fast Italian box on wheels – 20 inch phone dial wheels to be exact!
I love it, and want one – jus ake mine with the standard seats, thanks!