Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio road test review
The Stelvio, Alfa Romeo’s first SUV, has already blazed a trail with glowing reviews and multiple awards. Now it’s time to road test the hot flagship version – the record-breaking Quadrifoglio…
A quick history lesson before we start, because it’s important to understand the significance of the ‘Quadrifoglio’ badge and the Italian brand’s rich sporting heritage.
In 1923, Alfa Romeo racing driver Ugo Sivocci wanted to break a string of second-place finishes. So to prepare for the legendary Targa Florio race in Sicily, he painted a white square with a “quadrifoglio” (Italian for four-leaf clover) on the front of his Alfa.
As luck would have it, he finished in first place. However, later that year, Sivocci crashed testing a new car that didn’t yet bear his lucky symbol. Tragically, he lost his life, but a legend was born.
Since then, all Alfa Romeo’s racing cars and exclusive models have carried the emblem and the first production car to sport the quadrifoglio was the Alfa Romeo Giulia TI Super of 1963.
Fast forward to 2018, and the launch of the high-performance version of the Stelvio SUV – the latest Alfa Romeo to sport the four-leaf clover.
Under the bonnet of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio (QF for short) lurks a mighty 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo Ferrari-derived petrol engine combined with a quick-changing 8-speed ZF auto gearbox.
Developing 510hp and 600Nm torque, it can hit 62mph from standstill in just 3.8 seconds and go on to a top speed of 176mph.
Raw power is one thing, but the beauty of the Stelvio QF is the way it delivers all that performance, perfectly demonstrated in September 2017 when it smashed the Nurburgring lap record for an SUV.
Driver Fabio Francia (who in 2016 also set the ‘Ring record for a saloon with the Giulia Quadrifoglio in 7 minutes, 32 seconds) hustled the Stelvio QF around the Green Hell in 7 minutes, 51.7 seconds – beating the previous record by 8 seconds (Porsche Cayenne Turbo S).
Combining 50:50 weight distribution with all-wheel drive, it’s packed with clever technology including Alfa’s Chassis Domain Control (CDC) unit, with differential Active Torque Vectoring as standard and an Active Suspension system.
All that adds up to an SUV with supercar performance that handles like a sports saloon. Thanks to its lack of body roll and athleticism, the uncanny Stelvio QF seems to defy physics.
Our road test of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio began in Glasgow, taking us north-west to the stunning Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and up to Ben Lawers – the tenth highest Munro.
Picturesque and packed with a variety of roads and surfaces, it was the perfect place to experience the adaptability of the Stelvio QF – a car that will happily purr along in traffic or snarl and aggressively lap up the miles when then terrain gets more challenging.
As with other Alfas, the Stelvio QF is equipped with a DNA Pro selector down on the centre console which instantaneously switches the car’s character. There are four modes – A for Advanced Efficiency (economy), N for Natural (comfort), D for Dynamic (fun!) and R for Race (hardcore).
Stick to the first two settings for long journeys, city driving and cruising along (the ride is more comfortable), but go for Dynamic and manually change gear using the giant steering wheels paddles if you’re looking for thrills – not only is the suspension firmed up and throttle and gear response sharper, but you start to appreciate the delicious pops and crackles of the quad exhaust pipes.
Naturally, the Race setting is meant for driving on track but it’s worth sampling in a straight line (don’t forget that the stability and traction controls are disabled) to hear the exhaust system in full song.
So, Alfa Romeo has nailed the Stelvio Quadrifoglio when it comes to driving experience. This is a car oozing torque that begs to be unleashed, and thanks to its all-wheel drive system and all that tech, there’s no shortage of grip, while traction out of high-speed corners is remarkable.
A special mention for the steering too, which is both sharp and precise, giving you the confidence to really make the most of this impressive SUV.
We tried cars fitted both with the standard steel brakes and the optional Brembo carbon-ceramics. Frankly, unless you’re planning a track day, the basic set will do just fine with more than enough stopping power.
Overall, it’s hard to forget that you are driving an SUV (due to its size and ride height), but Alfa Romeo has got pretty close to make it as satisfying to drive as its Giulia Quadrifoglio sister car.
From the outside, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is actually slightly understated. At the rear there’s a restyled rear diffuser with four sports exhaust outlets. The side profile is enhanced by flared wheel arches, huge 20-inch alloys and ‘cloverleaf’ badges on both front flanks, while the bonnet sports two sets of air vents.
Inside, there’s more leather and carbon-fibre than the standard car and there’s another quadrifoglio emblem on the 7.0-inch TFT instrument panel. Our fully loaded test car was fitted with Sparco carbon-shell sports seats (£3,250), which not only look cool, but are incredibly supportive.
Basic equipment is generous before you start ticking boxes on the options list with an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-ready 8.8-inch infotainment system, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera, keyless entry, blind spot detection, ambient lighting and a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel.
Like the Guilia before it, Alfa Romeo has taken a real step up when it comes to build quality, and though it can’t quite match its German rivals, it’s getting there.
The only disappointment is the infotainment screen which is modest with basic graphics and is not touch sensitive.
The Stelvio QF’s interior is spacious and well designed. In fact, there’s limo-like legroom for rear passengers. Up front there’s a commanding yet sporty driving position, while the two hooded main instruments directly ahead of the driver echo sporting Alfa Romeos of the past. Luggage capacity is a generous 525 litres, or 1,600 litres with the rear seats down, making it a practical daily driver.
With a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, it’s also very safe. Standard safety systems include Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Alfa’s Integrated Braking System, which significantly reduces braking distance on any road surface.
Veridct: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a performance SUV you can buy with your heart and your head. A real driver’s car, it delivers distinctive good looks and a fast, engaging drive, along with everyday practicality and a five-star safety rating.
ALFA ROMEO STELVIO QUADRIFOGLIO: SPECIFICATION
Engine: 2,891cc, twin turbocharged V6
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 510bhp @ 6,500rpm (503bhp)
Torque: 600Nm @ 2,500rpm (443 lb ft)€
Top speed: 176mph
Fuel economy: 24mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 227g/km