If funds permit, this is a Stelvio that someone in search of the ultimate performance SUV shouldn't pass on. Jonathan Crouch looks at the latest version of Alfa Romeo's Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Ten Second Review
What might the fastest SUV you can buy be like? According to offer Alfa Romeo, this is it, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Rivals make similar claims but this Italian high performance SUV appears to have the firepower to match its bravado, offering the same Ferrari-derived twin turbo V6 that features in the glorious Giulia Quadrifoglio super sports saloon. This top Stelvio model was lightly revised for the 2024 model year. But its essential character hasn't changed.
It's rather refreshing in automotive world currently obsessed with electrification to come across a car like this. Proper sports cars might be a dying breed but proper sports car engines are still, for the moment anyway, alive and well. And the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio model we look at here absolutely has one; a turbocharged 520hp V6 bi-turbo shoe-horned in below its carbon fibre bonnet.
This powerplant was designed by former Ferrari engineer - Gianluca Pivetti. And another ex-Ferrari engineer, Philippe Krief, handled the team responsible for trying to make this big SUV handle somewhere in the same ballpark as the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon that shares nearly all this fast Stelvio's engineering. Which is quite a task given that this SUV is 200kg heavier. How does it fare in this updated form? Let's find out.
Alfa hasn't changed much about this car dynamically, though the brand has added a 'Race' configuration screen that brings together all the essential information for sporty driving: a tachometer, speedometer and shift-light for manual driving. The layout can be customised by placing additional information in the sidebars, including snapshots of performance. Otherwise, it's all as you were. This exclusive Stelvio model certainly has the stats to back up its bold performance claims - and these include a Nurburgring Nordschleife SUV lap record of 7 minutes 51.7 seconds. Under the bonnet, as with the Giulia Quadrifoglio, lies a 2.9-litre petrol V6 Biturbo powerplant that's essentially a cut-down version of the 4.0-litre V8 used in Maranello's 488 GTB. It now develops a thundering 520hp, 10bhp more than before and, therefore, 10hph more than a rival BMW X3 M Competition. This Alfa storms to 62mph in a 3.8s time that identically matches that BMW, this figure only slightly slower than that Ferrari we just mentioned. And should you find yourself a track or a stretch of unrestricted autobahn, it'll keep powering on up to 176mph.
Alfa's thrown all the performance technology it has at this halo model and on this top Stelvio, you get one feature not fitted to UK versions of the Giulia Quadrifoglio - the Italian maker's innovative Q4 all-wheel-drive system. 'Active Torque Vectoring' helps get the power down through the bends, 'Active Suspension' varies the damping and 'Alfa Chassis Domain Control' connects the different systems to deliver the best set-up as the car is being driven. There's also an 'Alfa Active Aero' system that alters the angle of the front splitter to help this model scythe through the air more cleanly, plus the 'DNA' drive modes system gets an extra 'Race' setting for tyre-smoking starts. An 8-speed paddleshift auto transmission is mandatory. Alfa's also added a mechanical limited-slip differential derived from the Giulia GTA.
Design and Build
Visual changes to the latest version of this Stelvio Quadrifoglio are slight. The main update lies with the addition of the brand's '3+3' headlights which feature adaptive Full-LED matrix technology that adjusts the light beam to suit different driving conditions and avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. The taut proportions of the Stelvio work well with the Quadrifoglio embellishment. Enthusiasts will most readily recognise this top version by its unique dark 5-hole 20-inch wheels, which are a little smaller than the bigger 21-inch rims previously seen on this model. At the rear, there's a potent lower rear air diffuser, plus gloss black-finished badgework, along with smart LED rear light clusters with dark lenses.
Inside, the main change lies with the addition of a fully digital 12.3-inch TFT screen where drivers can access key vehicle information, as well as navigation and driver-assistance features. In this Quadrifoglio variant, on top of the three layouts available across the Alfa Romeo line-up - Evolved, Relax and Heritage, an exclusive 'Race' configuration is also offered.
As before, the cabin is set apart with sports seats upholstered in either black leather or a leather-and-alcantara combination. The dashboard and the door panels are also wrapped in stitched leather and there are carbon fibre inserts around the fascia, plus you get aluminium kick plates and an ambient lighting set-up for a classy feel after dark. In the rear, there's a lot more headroom than the sleek silhouette previously led you to expect. Out back, there's a 525-litre boot. Pushing forward the rear bench extends the space available to 1,600-litres.
Market and Model
This Quadrifoglio variant, as you'd expect from its exalted price tag (which at the time of this test in mid-2023 was around £87,000), comes with its own unique specification. That encompasses 20-inch alloy wheels, '3+3' LED Matrix headlamps and dark-tinted rear windows. Plus black-painted aluminium brake calipers and quad sports exhausts poking out of the rear diffuser. Q4 AWD works with 'Active Torque Vectoring' to help get the power down through the bends, 'Active Suspension' varies the damping and 'Alfa Chassis Domain Control' connects the different systems to deliver the best set-up as the car is being driven.
Inside, the upholstery features either black leather or a lovely leather and alcantara combination, plus there's carbon fibre dash trim and a red starter button on the steering wheel, along with a 'Race Mode' you can access through the 'DNA' driving modes controller. You now get a fully digital 12.3-inch TFT screen. And there's also a new 8.8-inch 'AlfaConnect' centre-dash infotainment touchscreen with built-in navigation, 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and an 8-speaker DAB audio system. Plus you get a rear view camera and an alarm.
Finally, we'll tell you that this model includes various Advanced Driver Assistance Systems to offer level 2 autonomous driving. The main enabling technologies for that include Lane Keep Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Control, Traffic Jam Assist with Highway Assist and Driver Attention Assist. And, as before, there's an 'AEB' Autonomous Emergency Braking system with pedestrian detection, plus a Forward Collision Warning set-up.
Cost of Ownership
No one would expect this top 2.9-litre V6 Biturbo Quadrifoglio super SUV variant to be a paragon of frugality, but thanks to a cylinder deactivation system that cuts in under part-throttle loads, it actually doesn't do too badly. Its figures - 23.9mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and 267g/km of WLTP-rated carbon dioxide - are roughly equal to what you'd get in a rival BMW X3 M Competition. The figures quoted assume selection of the 'Advanced Efficiency' 'DNA' system driving mode, which softens off the throttle response to give better fuel consumption. There's a graphic fuel consumption display in the instrument binnacle TFT read-out. And there's an 'Efficient Drive' eco-coaching set-up on the centre-dash infotainment screen that grades the frugality of your progress based on three criteria - 'acceleration', 'deceleration' and 'gear changing'.
As for peace of mind, well you get the usual three year unlimited mileage warranty covering parts, materials and labour, plus 3 years of AA Contact support which includes 24hr Roadside Assistance, Home Start, Relay, Relay Plus, European Cover, Accident Management, plus access to travel information, legal advice and technical information. You can spread the cost of maintenance work by opting for an 'Easy Care Servicing Plan' that runs from one to five years. It includes the cost of all labour, parts and fluids, so you won't be landed with any unexpected bills. Insurance won't be cheap - rated up at group 50D.
There are other super high performance SUVs at this price point that you could certainly consider as alternatives to this Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the most obvious being the BMW X3 M Competition and the Jaguar F-PACE SVR. Both of these alternatives can offer a bit more polish than this Alfa, but in many ways, this Stelvio is a more uncompromising performance car. If that's what you're looking for, then that'll matter.
The Biturbo Ferrari-derived engine is worth the price of admission alone and you get the all-wheel-drive traction that is missing from this model's Giulia Quadrifoglio sports saloon stablemate. The 'Quadrifoglio Verde' four-leaf clover badge that sits over the front wheel arches of this SUV first featured on Ugo Sivocci's Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio, a car with which that driver triumphed in the race of the same name back in 1923. Unlike its rivals, this model feels like it has that kind of heritage. And for that reason, we like it very much.