What Car? says...
Can a sports SUV, such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio that you see here, ever be considered a true driver's car? You know, one of those machines that has the magic ability to lure you out of bed on Sunday morning. A car that you don’t simply use to get from A to B.
Well, plenty of SUVs have the performance to make you smile. But they’re generally too heavy, too tall and – frankly – too blunt to be properly sporty.
But what if you were to base your sports SUV on a well-sorted performance saloon? That’s the route Alfa Romeo’s engineers took when developing the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. And the results look rather mouth-watering.
Based on the scintillating Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon, Alfa’s hot SUV benefits from using the same chassis and the same fire-breathing 503bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6 engine, while its four-wheel drive system is borrowed from sister company Maserati.
Add in a 0-62mph time of just 3.8sec and an eye-watering 176mph top speed, and the Stelvio Quadrifoglio certainly sounds promising. But of course, none of this tells you how a car performs in the real world. So, that’s what we’ll be investigating in this review.
We’ll be seeing how it compares with rivals such as the Audi SQ5, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 and Porsche Macan Turbo. And if at the end you decide it is the car for you, make sure you check out our New Car Buying service, because you could potentially save thousands on a new Stelvio Quadrifoglio, without having to go through the hassle of haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
It only takes a short stint behind the wheel of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio to realise that it benefits greatly from being based on the Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon. On fast, flowing B-roads, you’ll be amazed at how well it hides its weight. Plus, the steering manages to be super sharp, without making the car feel overly nervous in a straight line.
In addition, while the Stelvio has four-wheel drive, we’re pleased to report that Alfa Romeo has managed to retain some of the rear-wheel-drive Giulia’s sense of fun. For example, if you give the Stelvio a big boot of power out of tight corners, its rear end steps out of line nice and predictably, and then, as the four-wheel drive system shuffles power to the front wheels, you get dragged out of the corner at a right old lick. In short, this is a car that can be as precise or as lairy as you want it to be.
The 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine is another highlight of the Quadrifoglio experience; it delivers razor-sharp accelerator responses with hardly any lag, despite being heavily turbocharged. Meanwhile, the fact that every upshift of the slick eight-speed automatic gearbox elicits a delicious crackle from the quad exhaust pipes when you’re accelerating hard in Race mode adds further to its appeal.
Unfortunately, Race mode also dials the stability control system right back to a level where there’s not much of a safety net should you run out of talent. And even more frustratingly, the lesser modes leave the Stelvio Quadrifoglio sounding more like a three-cylinder hatchback than a 503bhp monster.
Alfa Romeo has also had to give the Stelvio firmer suspension than the Giulia, in order to keep its extra mass in check, meaning it isn’t as adept as its saloon sister at soaking up bumps. Both the Audi SQ5 and the Porsche Macan Turbo feel more supple, although the Stelvio is by no means brutally firm, dealing with potholes and sharp bumps better than the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Let’s start with what’s good, shall we? The Quadrifoglio’s interior truly feels like a step up from the regular Stelvio’s, thanks to the leather-wrapped dashboard, glossy carbonfibre trim and beautifully crafted aluminium gearshift paddles.
What’s more, the (admittedly pricey) optional Carbon Shell sports seats fitted to our test car look absolutely fantastic, offer loads of support and allow you to sit down nice and low behind the steering wheel and well-positioned pedals. Just, bear in mind that the only electric adjustment with these seats is for height.
A facelift in 2020 brought a higher-quality flat-bottomed steering wheel and a matching leather wrapped gear selector with an Italian flag motif at its base. More importantly, though, certain ergonomic and quality quibbles that blighted earlier Stelvios were addressed. For example, the rotary infotainment controller, which used to feel a little loose, now has a solid click to it, while the cupholders were moved farther back from the dashboard, allowing for a larger size of bottle.
That said, even in its latest, improved form, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio can’t match similarly priced Sports SUVs for perceived quality. Put simply, some of the materials used for parts like the air conditioning controls and drive mode selector wouldn't look out of place in an entry-level family hatchback, while none of the switches operate with the pleasing precision of those found in the Audi SQ5 and Porsche Macan.
The infotainment system was also treated to an overhaul in 2020, enabling it to be controlled by touching the 8.8in screen as well as via the rotary controller located between the front seats. In many ways this is a best of both world’s solution, because a dial is far less distracting than a touchscreen on the move, but the new functionality makes it easier to input sat-nav destinations when you’re stationary and allows you to customise the home page.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring are also included, and we like the ‘Performance Pages’ feature, which shows things like turbo pressure, a track timer and the temperatures of the main mechanical components in real time – all useful information if you take you ever take your Quadrifoglio onto a track. It’s just a shame that the display is a bit dim and muddy, and that it’s not as snappy to use as the iDrive system in the BMW X3 M Competition.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
As a sports SUV, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio may be capable of out-accelerating some supercars, but practicality is also an important consideration, and here it’s a mixed bag.
Four people of average height will fit easily enough. Plus, the optional Carbon Shell sports seats are slimmer than the standard items, so free up useful extra rear leg room. However, the curved roofline eats into rear head room, so six-footers may well find they have to slouch in their seats. And even this isn’t an option for a central rear passenger, because the centre console that runs between the front seats extends back too far.
In terms of in-car storage, all four door pockets are just about wide enough for a small bottle of water, and there are plenty of cubbies in the front for keys, phones and other paraphernalia. As a bonus, one of these includes a couple of sockets (one of which is a traditional USB port and the other the smaller USB-C type).
At 525 litres, the Quadrifoglio's boot trumps the Porshce Macan's but can’t quite match the X3 Competition’s or the GLC 63's. The load area is a usefully square shape, though, with no internal load lip; it’s just a shame that there aren’t more hooks for bags or eyelets to hold down loads.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
It’s unrealistic to enter into sports SUV ownership and expect it to be a cheap experience, but nobody wants to simply throw money away, either. Thankfully, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio costs less than both the BMW X3 M Competition and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S – the latter being its closest rival in terms of raw performance.
And unlike with the BMW and Mercedes – or indeed the Porsche Macan – there’s little need to go crazy on the options list: 20in alloy wheels, adaptive dampers, xenon headlights, leather and Alcantara seats, cruise control, sat-nav and Bluetooth are just some of the luxuries included. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are competitive versus those rivals', too, if far from low.
As part of its refresh in 2020, the Quadrifoglio was treated to a whole host of new safety features to bring it up to spec with rivals. So, as well as automatic city braking technology with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, and lane-departure warning all as standard, you can now add a ‘Driver Assistance Plus Pack QV’ that brings lane-keeping assistance, active cruise control (with traffic jam assist), traffic sign recognition, active blind spot assist and driver attention assist.
Euro NCAP awarded the standard Stelvio, on which the Quadrifoglio is based, a full five-star safety rating, and on closer inspection of the scores shows that it outperformed the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC in the adult occupant protection test, although there were a few issues noted that weakened the child occupant protection it offers – the likelihood of chest injuries, mainly.
The three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty that you get is no better than average. However, Alfa Romeo performed pretty well in our 2020 Reliability Survey, finishing 11th out of 31 brands.
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