With a century-long experience building cars, Alfa Romeo creates a super SUV that looks and drives like a million dollars. Alvin Thomas takes it out for a spin.
The recipe for a super SUV is quite simple: throw in oodles of power to a vehicle large enough to ferry anywhere between five to seven people and their valuable luggage (perhaps even a couple of dogs), plus a bit of light off-roading when the going gets rough.
It’s a market that remained relatively uninviting for the better part of the early 2000s, with only a handful of players even daring to take on the seemingly impossible challenge of figuring out how to keep their vehicle grounded on all four wheels and not topple over – let alone make it go fast.
Things have changed a lot since then – starting with how technology has made it possible for an SUV to go hard and fast in a stable manner – without any superfluous drama normally associated with supercars.
Today, the high-performance SUV market is flooded with competition; from the track-focused Lamborghini Urus and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, to the more practical Range Rover Sport SVR and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 63S Coupe.
But, when it comes to cranking things up a notch or two and crushing records – sometimes even those set by multi-million-dollar supercars – only one name comes to mind: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
The brainchild of the world’s darling car brand, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the Italian manufacturer’s first attempt at taking a crack at the lucrative market… but without the obnoxious looks or the price-tag this clique is normally associated with.
In fact, this might be the only SUV that dons a daring design language that works in its favour and attracts enough eyes and camera flashes.
Unlike the ostentatious (and a bit over-the-top) Lamborghini Urus, the Alfa flaunts a design-language reminiscent to that of its sedan sibling – the Giulia Quadrifoglio.
This marriage between sedan and SUV design leaves the Stelvio with a tasteful fascia. The long headlamps with adaptive bi-xenon projectors and wraparound LED daytime-running lights remain, as does the signature ‘Scudetto’ grille with a brushed-aluminium lip.
It also comes with a tall, aggressive bumper with large intake vents and a handful of cuts and sharp creases that distinguish it from the regular variants. There’s also functional vents on the bonnet that resemble shark gills to aid in cooling the engine.
Our top-spec tester even came fitted with a carbon-fibre bonnet to aid in weight reduction alongside aluminium panels that help keep the car a humble 1,800kgs.
At 4.7m x 1.68m x 1.95m (length x height x width), the Stelvio Quadrifoglio slots in between the larger Range Rovers and the smaller Porsche Macans. Nevertheless, with 20cms of clearance separating the bumper lip from the ground, it’s capable of light off-roading.
The side profile is rather understated but still unique with sportier side-skirts and flared arches distinguishing the Quadrifoglio from the ‘Veloce’ or ‘Super’ variants. Meanwhile, the rear end is finished up with a small diffuser, a menacing quad-exhaust setup, and a wider lip to house all the extra metal.
All variants of the Quadrifoglio also come wearing specially-designed 20-inch alloys that are wrapped around a staggered set of Pirelli PZero tires.
The best way to sum up the exterior of the car is as a Giulia Quadrifoglio on stilts.
It feels the part on the inside too.
Aside from the generous serving of carbon-fibre and additional stitching on the dashboard, centre console, and doors that help break up the grey from the alcantara on the seats and steering wheel, along with darker leather bits on the other panels, the car is incredibly driver-focused.
Case and point, the large multi-function flat-bottom steering wheel comes with excellent ergonomics for driving, while there are tall, milled aluminium shifters on the column behind the steering for shifting gears.
Even the 8.8-inch high-definition infotainment screen is angled towards the driver so that all the necessary information is available at their fingertips.
We found the screen to be user-friendly – but there’s a learning curve to dodge before you can go full-fledged with it while on the move. The accompanying knob that controls the screen, however, is easy to intuit and easy to use.
Our tester also came fitted with supportive carbon-fibre bucket seats. The seats, despite offering supreme levels of side support with bolstering and lumbar support, also remained quite soft and premium in feel with just the right mix of top-end leather and alcantara.
Space inside is apt for five adults. Head and leg room is plentiful in both the front and back, though middling in its class – but it’s quite sizeable when pitted against the likes of the Macan or the GLC 63 AMG Coupe.
This carries over to the boot as well. With a boot space of 525-litres – owing mostly to the sloping roofline and lower profile – there’s enough space for four large suitcases and three more smaller bags. Aside from that, you can also do a 40:20:40 split seating to make way for some extra room.
It’s practical by most means, and the standard-fit electric tailgate, coupled with the low and flat loading space makes for easy loading and unloading.
Where the Stelvio Quadrifoglio really takes the cake is in the safety department. Pre-loaded with just about everything (save for autonomous driving) technology currently on offer, the SUV can be rated as one of the safer ones out there.
Standard kit includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, hill descent control, and the usual traction and stability controls with additional help from the torque vectoring system.
For an added cost, you can also get adaptive cruise control fitted to the car for some added assistance while driving long distances.
From a trivial standpoint, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio blends the best of Italian design with modern technology and practicality – an amalgamation we’ve long waited for – to create what could possibly come close to being the perfect high-performance SUV ever made… that is if you set aside the frightful-looking Lamborghini.
It’s a hard and fast rule that every petrolhead must have driven an Alfa Romeo to know the real meaning of driving and sense the emotion behind it.
For more impressions on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, stay tuned for a follow-up test drive…
• Engine: 2.9-litre ‘twin-turbocharged’ V6
• Transmission: Eight-speed ‘ZF’ automatic
• Power: 503hp
• Torque: 600Nms
• Top Speed: 283kph (limited)
• Four-wheel drive
• Carbon-fibre trim
• 3 selectable drive modes
• 50:50 weight distribution
• Alfa Chassis Domain Control
• 8.8-inch infotainment screen
• Auto emergency braking
• Adaptive cruise control
• Harman/Kardon premium surround sound system
• Leather and alcantara upholstery