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Can you have a practical SUV that’s supercar quick without compromising on both requirements?

Alfa Romeo’s had a crack at it and it’s turned out quite well...

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£71,880

Pros:
  • Supercar performance
  • Sizzling styling
  • Sensational handling
Cons:
  • Disappointing brakes
  • Some quality issues
  • Not as practical as you might hope for

Introduction

What’s got more than 500 horsepower, can hurtle from standstill to 62mph in only 3.8 seconds and can change gear in just 150 milliseconds? You might start thinking of all sorts of supercars and sports cars, but this is a family SUV that can seat five people and a dog.

It’s a development of the Stelvio, a fine but conventional SUV that already appeals to more enthusiastic drivers thanks to its sporting nature, but Alfa Romeo has turned the dial to eleven to create the lava-hot Cloverleaf version. Of course, being Italian, they’ve used the more romantic Quadrifoglio name.

It’s not the first manufacturer to have a go - see Lamborghini and Porsche - but Is it really possible for a more mainstream manufacturer to turn a heavy SUV into a scorching hot hatch? We drive the Quadrifoglio through the wilds of Scotland rto find out.

On The Road

  • Performance
  • Ride Handling
  • Refinement
Alfa Romeo

If there’s one thing the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is about, it’s performance. Its 2.9-litre bi-turbo petrol engine was developed by one of Ferrari’s top engine people, and it’s managed to extract an impressive 510hp from the unit.

That translates to a supercar-rivalling 0-62mph time of just 3.8 seconds, and a top speed of 176mph. Slow, it is not. With no launch control, getting off the line and flying in 3.8 seconds is near impossible, but there are few that will be arguing over the decimal places.  

Four-wheel-drive helps control the power and keep traction though, so there’s little tyre-smoking drama.

Get the engine spinning and there’s a savage edge to the noise, reminding you that it’s been worked on by Ferrari. Keep the revs rising and it gathers pace alarmingly easily, before finding another metaphorical gear at 5,000rpm and kicking you in the all over again.

In terms of real gears, there are eight of them, and they’re automatic. Paddles are fitted to the steering column, allowing manual changes when you feel the software isn’t quite keeping up. Still, it changes gears incredibly quickly and gets it right most of the time, so there won’t be much use for them.

Optional carbon-ceramic brakes were fitted to the test model (at a cost of £5,900) but they didn’t seem to make a great deal of difference. Entirely brake-by-wire, the system lacks a delicacy and feel, while the ultimate stopping power wasn’t noticeably stronger than with traditional steel discs.

Alfa Romeo

Build an SUV and you normally aim for suspension that absorbs everything from cracks in the road to mud ruts, but that means handling can suffer. Alfa Romeo clearly decided that off-roading in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio isn’t something the average owner will be doing.

The Stelvio, already a fine driving SUV, has been enlivened in its transformation to a Quadrifoglio. The technical reason is that computer-controlled systems such as adaptive damping, torque vectoring, stability control and power steering all combine to maximise abilities at any one time, while the four-wheel drive system keeps things nicely balanced.

However, it’s how it feels that really makes the difference.Turn in is surprisingly sharp, the wide tyres gripping hard and setting the car up for a corner. There’s little roll from the bodywork, and the rear-drive bias balances corner entry well. Feed in the power and the car pushes more and more power to the front wheels, preventing nearly two tonnes of metal drifting dramatically sideways.

However, it does go sideways. Such is the ferocity of the power and the stiffness of the suspension that even the fastest computers can’t keep up. Fortunately the steering is rapid and it’s all easy to correct.

The ride quality? If the handling is as sporting as you’d hoped for, the ride quality will be as comfortable as you could expect. It is firm, with little compromise for imperfections in the road, but it’s never too rough. Just don’t expect to be venturing further off road than the polo club car park.

Alfa Romeo

At anything below moderately quick, the 2.9-litre engine settles into a mellow and smooth rumble, helped by having six cylinders to smooth vibrations rather than just four.

Slick aerodynamics help the bulky SUV cut through the air quietly, leaving little to no wind noise. There’s a fair bit of tyre noise, but you might expect that when the rubber is about as wide as the River Severn.

That does lead to some skipping and chattering when maneuvering around tight spaces though, as the tread blocks bend and release from the tarmac. It’s just physics at pay and doesn’t do any harm, but other manufacturers have managed to avoid that.

In The Car

  • Behind the Wheel
  • Space & Practicality
Alfa Romeo

There’s a definite improvement from the regular Stelvio to this Quadrifoglio. The dashboard is covered in leather, there are bits of shiny carbon fibre dotted around everywhere, and the aluminium shift paddles sit beautifully behind the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel.

But then you look lower down the cabin and realise that the plastics are a bit on the cheap side, and that the buttons wobble around a little in their mountings. On the test model, there was even a sharp edge to the plastic gear lever where the two halves didn’t quite line up, which all takes the edge off a car that costs significantly more than £70,000.

Still, the driving position is near-perfect, thanks in part to the optional Sparco Carbonshell sports seats installed here. It’s also well equipped with an 8.8inch infotainment system controlled by a rotary dial between the seats, and it now comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for up-to-date navigation and music. That’s good news as the system itself is a little dated.

Despite all of this, and the dark, foreboding colour scheme, it’s a purposeful and pleasant environment. Just don’t look at it directly after stepping out of a Porsche Macan.

Alfa Romeo

The standard Stelvio is up to standard for space, and there’s nothing about the Quadrifoglio that’s dented that at all. Sure, the carbon seat backs eat up a little space between the front seats, but that’s unused space.

Two passengers will happily fit in the rear, and be content with the headroom and legroom available, although add a third and people will start to complain. Better to stick to four seats in the car, fold down the rear centre armrest, and keep a civilised distance from your mate.

The boot, at 525 litres, is bigger than you’ll find in a Porsche Macan but smaller than you’ll find in a Mercedes GLC. access is easy, and there’s a near-flat floor once the seats are folded.

Despite the performance on offer, Alfa Romeo clearly hasn’t forgotten that this is ultimately meant to be a sensible and practical family SUV.

Ownership

  • Running Costs
  • Quality & Reliability
  • Safety & Security
Alfa Romeo

When you combine the words ‘twin turbo V6) and ‘Ferrari’ you should know that running costs won’t be the lowest they could be. The official figures suggest an average of 28.8mpg, but the reality is that anything that starts with a ‘2’ would be considered a success.

While the purchase price looks high, there’s little reason to keep adding options as, aside from a couple of features you may not consider essential, most things are equipped as standard.

CO2 emissions are well into the highest 37% band for company car tax payers, and private users will be hit with a high first registration tax and service bills. Still, large bills are to be expected on a car like this.

Unfortunately, Alfa Romeo still can’t quite shift its reputation for fragility so residual values suffer. That, in turn, hits leasing costs which are higher than some rivals.

Alfa Romeo

Despite a reputation for fragility, not helped by insisting on fitting some cheap and flimsy materials in the car, Alfa Romeo does very well for reliability. The Auto Express Driver Power survey placed the brand second overall, behind only Lexus. The Stelvio’s saloon cousin, the Giuulia, placed third overall, too. The Stelvio was too new for reliable figures but, given how much they sahe, results should be similar.

Alfa Romeo shows confidence in its product too, by offering a three-year warranty. Unlike many warranties, there’s no mileage limit to it.It’s possible to extend that cover to five years, for a fee.

Alfa Romeo

EuroNCAP tested the standard Stelvio and awarded it a full five-star rating for crash safety, with a near-perfect 97% score for front passenger protection.

Child occupants are also well looked after, as are pedestrians should one stray in front of you late enough to ask too much of the automatic emergency braking.

There’s also forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning as standard, amongst other safety kit.

Lights are adaptive bi-xenon at the front, ensuring a clear view of the road ahead.

More On This Car
Take one for a spin or order a brochure
Request a ALFA ROMEO STELVIO brochure
Request a ALFA ROMEO STELVIO test drive