► We drive the beefed-up Stelvio
► A true Macan Turbo rival?
► Priced from £69,500 in UK
We ran an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio V6 on our long-term test fleet, and it quickly became a staff favourite. Sure, it’s scared us with a few technical difficulties, but its style and that turbocharged 503bhp V6 bi-turbo underneath its carbon bonnet more than make up for it.
It’s an incredible formula, but is it quite so fabulous when saddled with four-wheel drive and another 200kg? We drive its cousin, the new, £69,500 Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV to find out. Read on for our full review
Read our guide to the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed here
This is just a tall Giulia QF, right?
Pretty much. Both are derived from the same platform and both use the same 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 in the same tune. That means 503bhp and 442lb ft of torque. Driving anything less than a supercar? Don't even think about it if one pulls alongside you at the lights...
You can read our review of the standard Stelvio here
To be fair, some of that cost can be accounted for by the Stelvio's four-wheel drive system. The Giulia is rear-drive only, remember.
And Alfa UK's Stelvio pricing in general is more competitive than other European countries', coming with a price tag of £69,500. This undercuts the Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package and Mercedes GLC 63 S but, at the end of the day, it's still a small SUV with a big price.
And what makes it think it can get away with that?
Perhaps the fact that at 3.8sec to 62mph the Stelvio wipes the floor with almost every one of its rivals.
For the record, that's a tenth quicker than the slightly lighter, but rear-drive Giulia, and a massive 0.6sec faster than the 70bhp meeker Macan Turbo Performance Pack. The standard non-Perf Pack Macan Turbo gets there in a comparatively 2CV-like 4.8sec.
The pricier Mercedes GLC 63 S is capable of matching this time, but is limited to 155mph and the upcoming Jaguar F-pace SVR will struggle to produce a sub-4.0 second figure.
You can read our review of the standard Stelvio here
Valves in the exhaust system open up around 5,000rpm, but you need the DNA selector in Race to keep them open and liberate the most noise. There are a couple of drawbacks if you do select this though: not only will you have to put up with a droney sound around town, but you’ll also have to be driving with the ESC safety systems switched off for you…
But surely you can drown that out with some epic tyre squeal?
Yeah, but it'll be the front rubber doing the squealing. Although the four-wheel drive system is rear-biased the majority of the time, it never manages to kid you that it is rear-wheel drive. In fact, in normal driving, it is fully rear-wheel drive, but a sniff of a decent corner brings the front end into play. Big smokey slides are definitely out, though you might have to stick on a little corrective lock if you're trying (unnaturally) hard.
So it's still fun, but given that we're now seeing companies like BMW and Mercedes fit four-wheel drive systems that can be switched into two-wheel drive (if not on their SUVs), it's a shame Alfa couldn't have done the same, maybe when Race mode was selected.
Also a shame is Alfa's decision to equip the Stelvio with standard Pirelli P Zeros instead of the much grippier P Zero Corsas you can have on the Giulia QF. On some European roads, we had to drive quite considerately on the deceptively wide, fast, open corners to avoid ending up with armfuls of squeally understeer; although this is not something you should notice in normal UK use.
On the plus side the handling benefits greatly from a kerb weight that's nearly 200kg lighter than rivals'; feeling light on its feet and giving little sensation that you’re in a bulky SUV - until you have to perform a low-speed manoeuvre, that is.
What's the rest of the package like?
You'll encounter the same pros and cons as you do in the rest of the Stelvio range and Giulia Quadrifoglio. The interior is spacious, and the dashboard handsome, but the quality of some plastics and the infotainment system feels off the pace. And we were struggling to forgive that at £40,000...
You can option-up a Quadrifoglio towards £90,000 but even then, you might notice the absence of a head-up display, a digital virtual-cockpit-like screen or fully power-adjustable, heated seats if you spec the Sparco carbon-shelled items.
The Stelvio isn’t the last word in refinement either, with too much wind and road noise, while the brakes can be a pain, too. Like the Giulia's they're electronically boosted and the feel is inconsistent and awkward at low speeds, even if the actual stopping power is excellent.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio QF: verdict
First thing's first: the Stelvio QF is great fun, but with more driven wheels and a stack more kerbweight it's not as much fun as a Giulia QF. That’s the obvious part out of the way.
Buyers looking for an SUV and its added security of four-wheel drive might be more likely to be looking at something like a Macan Turbo S than the Stelvio's saloon cousin. And with that being the case they might well be suckered by that headline 3.8sec 0-62mph figure and Alfa's assertion that the Stelvio can kick the Porsche's backside around any track.
But there's more to buying cars, even fast cars, than that. The Porsche is a strong product in so many areas, not least desirability, and good as the Stelvio is, it probably doesn't have the all-round appeal of the Porsche. The Macan still feels the more polished product, offering a sturdier cabin and better refinement for everyday use.
So, while the Stelvio Quadrifolglio does drive as well as its looks, there is another contender to look out for on the horizon: the Jaguar F-pace SVR…
Check out our Alfa Romeo reviews