Gareth Butterfield finds himself falling for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
WHEN it comes to choosing a car, you can either have something properly sporty, like a supercar, or you can have an SUV. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Or can you?
There’s a few cars on the market at the moment that bridge this previously yawning divide between high-performance and off-road functionality. My favourite has always been the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio – and that’s what I’ve been testing this week.
Let’s start with the looks. The standard Stelvio is quite a looker, with tight, pretty proportions and just enough of a dose of Italian flair. For the Quadrifoglio they’ve basically just beefed it all up a bit. Aggressive air ducts on the bonnet and bumper, a reshaped rear diffuser to wrap around the four exhausts and slightly flared wheel arches. Oh, and absolutely enormous wheels to cover the ridiculously large carbon-ceramic brake discs fitted to my test car. More on those bad boys later.
All this superficial nonsense means very little until we talk about the capability of this car, however. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio shares much of its underpinnings and its running gear with the marvellous Guilia Quadrifoglio. So that’s a 503bhp ferrari-derived V6 engine and 442lb ft of torque. It’s a 2.9V6 twin turbo unit and it’s a peach. Not the highest-revver, but a delight all the same.
It’s capable of charging from 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds and, if you’re brave enough, carrying onto 176mph. In an SUV, remember. Bonkers.
There are a few other SUVs, let’s not forget, that come with this sort of power, or even more, but it’s the theatre and personality with which the Stelvio delivers its madness that makes it so engaging.
Climb inside the interior and the driver and passenger are treated to huge, figure-hugging carbon fibre bucket seats, which are a cost-option, but well worth having. They’re lovely.
The rest of the interior is typical Alfa Romeo fare. It feels unapologetically sporty, but in a very natural way. As inviting and involving as the dashboard layout is, it just feels right. Effortless but lovely design. Spec it up enough and it can be absolutely draped in carbon fibre, which really suits the special feel of the Quadrifoglio.
My favourite touch in the interior, however, are the massive metal paddles that fire through the eight-speed automatic gearbox. They’re a joy to use, especially when you’re pressing on.
The back seats are cramped, especially behind the £3,250 bucket seats, but adults will fit. The pay-off for this, however, is a surprisingly good boot which, of course, has an electrically-operated tailgate.
On the open road the Stelvio Quadrifoglio really does live up to its looks. That hugely powerful engine roars away at you as you flick through the gears, and the adaptive exhaust system, which properly wakes up in race mode, gives off a series of carachterful barks, parps and pops – just to remind you that you’re in something really special.
If you’re used to Alfa Romeos – and Ferraris for that matter – of old, you might find the characteristics of a twin-turbo engine odd. Gear changes are demanded at surprisingly low revs, but the pay-off is torque. From around 3,000rpm it’s simply savage, there’s no other word for it.
The best bit though, as with the Guilia, is the steering. Its super-fast rack feels absolutely alive in your hands and cornering – even from such a high-up position and with a fair bit of weight to lug round is an absolute delight.
So it’s an absolute hoot when you’re having a play, but on bumpy roads its massive wheels, thin tyres and performance set up aren’t brilliant at ironing out the bumps. But you wouldn’t buy a car like this to relax in, would you?
Of course, the cost of all this Italian magic lies in, well, costs. This car costs an eye watering £69,000 in its most basic form. And don’t expect your fuel economy to better 20mpg very often if you’re even a little bit enthusiastic. The 58-litre fuel tank is a little small, too, for such a thirsty beast.
And then there’s those carbon-ceramic brakes. They cost nearly £6,000 as an optional extra and they are, let’s make no bones about this, astonishingly good. But it’s a lot of money to upgrade from what is already a pretty decent setup. Trackday fans will love them, but is there really any point? My biggest beef with them is the fact they basically don’t work when they’re stone cold. My house is at the top of a steep driveway so reversing out in the morning was quite a hairy experience.
But in just about every other way the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is absolutely magnificent. It’s so good to see Alfa Romeo is back on form. In an ideal world I’d have loved to have seen a Guilia Quadrifoglio estate, but that’s probably never going to happen. So this is the next best thing.
Importantly though, this is an SUV you can genuinely have some proper fun in. Sure, you’d have to be brave to take it off road, but it technically could ride across the rough stuff.
So it’s versatile, fun, practical, blisteringly fast and bursting with charisma. I absolutely love it.