If you read my review of the Maserati Levante SUV, I admitted to having an affair with an Italian. Well, that romance didn’t last long. Reason being, I grew very fond of another, more exciting Italian that gave me goose bumps among other sensations.
After spending a week in Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio Q4 AWD SUV, I fell in love with an SUV that thinks it’s a hot sports sedan. Not only does it have gobs of head-snapping acceleration, but handles like Alfa’s Guila’s potent sports sedan, despite its taller stance and 4,340-pound curb weight.
On the market for a little over a year, Stelvio’s design is totally different than other comparable SUVs. Its long hood and triangular grille called “Scudetto” (if you know Italian) begins a sweeping beltline that melds into a sloping rear roofline that gives the impression it’s going 65 mph standing still.
Offered in base Stelvio, Stelvio Ti and high-performance Quadrifoglio, the choice goes from tepid to hot and here’s why.
Base and Ti come standard with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline 4-cylinder producing 280-hp and 306 lb/ft of torque with EPA mileage ratings of 22/20 mpg in RWD and 22/28 mpg in AWD.
The Ferrari derived 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V6 in the Quadrifoglio puts out a whopping 505-hp and 443 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 17 city, 23-highway mpg with start/stop engine technology. Both powerplants couple to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission.
According to Alfa, the Quadrifoglio has been 0-60 timed in a blazing 3.6 seconds. And despite this, carries a tow rating of up to 1,000 pounds, enough for a small utility or boat trailer.
Hit the red ignition switch that is mounted on the left side of the flat bottom, carbon fiber steering wheel (that took some getting used to as I constantly looked for it on the right side of the dash), and the SUV vibrates deliciously. The engine idles at 1,000 rpm and has a 6,600 redline. Roll down a window and enjoy the music emanating from the quad exhaust tips. It gives goose bumps. And more so when the 8-speed trans shifts with even the slightest pedal pressure. Full throttle it and the trans shifts faster than you can swallow, while power and torque pushes the body into the seats. Those effects alone are worth the vehicles’ steep price.
An 18-inch step-in into the cabin treats front seat occupants with carbon fiber trim, and Recaro-type bucket seats are very supportive. But they do hold the torso ever so firmly in spirited driving. The heated/cooled, Alcantara leather front seats are Euro firm and the sueded seat inserts add an extra touch of class.
But that’s not all that grabs the eyes. An 8.8-inch rectangular display serves the 900 watt Harmon/Kardon audio system, rearview camera with bird’s eye view along with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto apps that are used in conjunction with a smartphone and Alfa’s Connect system.
The console holds a large rotary controller for accessing the display while the smaller mode dial offers four selections. The “d” or dynamic driving mode, quickens engine rpm to redline and trans shifts come sooner. The “n” mode is for normal driving while “a” represents Alfa’s Advanced Efficiency mode or Eco mode that maximizes fuel savings. Then there’s “Race” mode used for track/race driving that also changes suspension settings for more firmness. Yes, there are some well-heeled buyers who will take their Stelvio to the track as Alfa is noted for their Formula 1 race cars and other racing mediums.
When selecting modes, the Race mode is a diagram shows up on the 8.8-inch screen in red. Select “n” and the screen displays in blue, and green in “a” mode.
Back seat ingress/egress is easy thanks to wide opening doors. When in, leg room is ample for two adults, three in a pinch. Headroom is generous and the seats are also Euro firm.
Cargo area with the 60/40 rear seatbacks upright is 18.5 cubic feet, or more meaningful, measures 39 inches deep, 41 wide and 30 high. Flip the seatbacks and capacity expands to 56.5 cubic feet for 70 inches of cargo loading depth. The cargo floor has a pair of chrome strips that have fore/aft adjustable tie-downs. Beneath the floor is a sizable multi-compartment bin for small item storage along with a space for the large tie-downs. Unlike most compact and full-size SUVs, Stelvio does not come with a spare tire, but merely a tire inflator kit.
Stelvio is shod with high-performance Pirelli, 20-inch tires that are 7.5 inches wide. They have pronounced sipes to improve traction in inclement weather and provide a taut but assuring ride. With 7.9 inches of undercarriage clearance, Stelvio can traverse appreciable snow depths and some mild off-road trails that are free of large rocks and thick brush.
Electric power steering provides good road feel and by merely turning the wheel an inch, the nose points 15 degrees in either direction.
Handling is surprisingly nimble for a tall, 4,340-pound SUV and parking is easy. Body lean in sharp corners is well-controlled and maneuvers are positive, all thanks to Stelvio’s superior suspension characteristics. And with Alfa’s Vector Corrector system, it helps turn the Stelvio into a sports sedan.
Operationally, the outside heated mirrors fold in/out when locking/unlocking the doors and when selecting Park gear, the emergency brake automatically engages. But it has to be manually released when engaging drive or reverse gears.
Brembo brakes on all fours provide quick and sure braking. But the braking effort at slow speeds is a bit grabby. My wife kiddingly complained of forward head whiplash.
After all these fabulous traits, here comes the bad news. Stelvio Quadrifoglio is base priced at $79,795. And that is with a long list of standard features and safety items like blind spot and cross path detection. But options are pricey, some of which are standard on many lesser SUVs.
For example: Russo Red exterior paint adds $2,200; a Convenience Package is $200 and includes the cargo rail system, cargo net and 115V auxiliary power outlet; Driver Assistance Plus package ($1,500) includes adaptive cruise with stop/go, forward collision/lane departure warning, automatic high beam, black seats with red stitching; Apple CarPlay ($100); Android Auto ($100); carbon fiber steering wheel ($400) and delivery ($1,595), takes the bottom line to $85.890. That’s up there with Mercedes GLS, BMW’s X6, Porsche Cayenne and Land Rover/Range Rover Sport SUVs. However, all use V8 engines with similar horsepower ratings, give or take some, whereas Stelvio does it with a very small V6. The Land Rover/Range Rover, in particular, achieves the most output at 577-hp, but their big V8 needs a supercharger to achieve that number.
For those who can swing it, Stelvio is an SUV for driving enthusiasts who value true sporty traits.