Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
With some impressive stats, including a ‘Ring lap record on its CV, the alpha Stelvio has a lot to live up to
DUBAI is not exactly a place you’d expect to host the launch for a vehicle called the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The Middle Eastern nation is typically flat and sandy, while the Stelvio in the Italian Alps is one of the most celebrated mountain passes in the world.
Turns out there is a Middle Eastern equivalent. An hour north of Dubai is Jebel Jais; at 1 934 metres, the highest peak in the Emirates, and snaking up its flanks is 20 km of the finest asphalt you’ve ever seen. Billiardtable smooth, wide, traffic-free and a challenging combination of fast, sweeping corners and tight hairpins, Jebel Jais is the perfect location for what Alfa Romeo is touting as the benchmark for performance SUVS. The Stelvio QV appears to have the credentials to back that up, too, with a 07:51,70 Nürburgring SUV lap record and a best-in-class power-to-mass ratio.
Read our road test on page 74 and you’ll know how much we like the cooking Stelvio that, like the Giulia sedan with which it shares a platform, has a wonderfully supple ride quality, precise, sharp steering and suitably enthusiastic engine. What else, then, does this halo model bring to the party?
Like the Giulia QV, the Stelvio QV also boasts that jewel of a 2,9-litre, V6, twinturbo-petrol engine. It retains the Giulia QV’S peak outputs of 375 kw and 600 N.m of torque, and sends that to all four wheels via a revised version of the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox accessorised by sizeable alloy paddles that, in typical Italian style, are affixed to the steering column and not the wheel.
The Q4 torque-vectoring system – a part-time AWD setup – employs all-wheel drive only when the Pirelli P Zeros upfront start to request assistance. The rest of the time, 100% of the power is fed to the rear axle, allowing a degree of joie de vivre purism (especially in race mode) that we’re not accustomed to in
an SUV. Approach the limit in any other of Alfa’s trademark DNA driver-assistance settings and up to 50% of the cavalry hotfoots it to the front wheels.
And that limit is approached rather rapidly. It’s a 10th quicker than the Giulia QV to 100 km/h, says Alfa (3,8 seconds), and has a top speed just north of 280 km/h. That Nürburgring lap record, however, points to abilities beyond straight-line acceleration and there are a couple of contributing factors.
Mass is a big one. At 1 830 kg, the Stelvio QV is still a heavy vehicle but, thanks to some mass-saving technology and excellent weight distribution, it feels a lot more nimble than it ought to. Extensive use of aluminium in the chassis sub-frames and a carbon-fibre propshaft mean the Italian is still 80-100 kg lighter than the Porsche Macan Turbo and upcoming Mercedes-amg GLC63.
Like the Giulia, the Stelvio’s superb suspension setup is the other. Managing the front wheels is a double-wishbone system that works superbly well with the steering rack (at 12.1:1, the most direct ratio in the SUV market) to both smooth out bumps and deliver quick, precise responses to steering inputs. The rear wheels get Alfa’s patented fourand-a-half-link layout, with both front and rear sections controlled by the Alfa Active Suspension system.
Despite this automotive sorcery conjured by Alfa’s Ferrari-trained engineers, in performance car terms the Stelvio QV remains a relatively tall and heavy vehicle. That means it tends towards understeer when loaded up through tighter corners. Perhaps, though, that says more about the driver overcooking things than the Stelvio’s abilities. Delay your
clockwise from top Qv-specific black-leather-and-alcantara seats offer good support when cornering; side view shows the famous Quadrifoglio four-leaf clover on the wheelarch; in normal conditions, the Q4 system transfers 100% of the torque to the rear axle; interior finish the Stelvio’s only real problem.