So good, it war­rants more dealer queues

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO Q

Driven - - CONTENTS - Re­port by LER­ATO MATEBESE | Im­ages © FCA SA

Alfa Romeo de­serves to do well on the sales charts! Let me re­phrase that: Alfa Romeo should be a run­away suc­cess. Alas, it con­tin­ues to be plagued by per­cep­tive, pre-con­ceived ideas of un­re­li­a­bil­ity and poor work­man­ship. And while some of these are true, there are more mer­ited as­pects to the brand that will eter­nally be inscribed in the au­to­mo­tive an­nals.

In my hum­ble view, all that this brand need is to be un­der the cus­to­di­an­ship of a con­glom­er­ate like the Volk­swa­gen Group. This move would al­lay any re­li­a­bil­ity and qual­ity is­sues that are cur­rently present – thanks to pedan­tic Ger­man en­gi­neer­ing stan­dards – and thus let the Ital­ian brand con­tinue with its fever­ishly good-look­ing de­signs.

That said, the Ital­ian brand’s Quadri­foglio (for­merly Quadri­foglio Verde) arm rep­re­sents per­for­mance, panache and ul­ti­mate pres­tige. It is cur­rently spear­headed by the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV mod­els and, while I have had the priv­i­lege to sam­ple both, it was sur­pris­ingly the lat­ter that truly left an in­deli­ble mark of ap­pre­ci­a­tion in me. For some­one par­tial to sports sedans over SUVs it might come as a sur­prise, but sadly the Guilia Q I tested three years ago was plagued with elec­tronic grem­lins that left me rather cold at the end of the test ten­ure.

WHAT OF THE STELVIO Q?

Built on the same plat­form as the Giulia, the Stelvio can be loosely de­scribed as the SUV vari­ant of the Giulia boast­ing a higher cen­tre of grav­ity and all-wheel-drive trac­tion. In the in­stance of the Q ver­sion, it even shares the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 pow­er­plant that pushes out 375 kW and 600 Nm through an 8-speed trans­mis­sion. It takes the fight di­rectly to the BMW X3M, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S and Porsche Macan Turbo. Right through my test ten­ure, the Stelvio Q per­formed quite ad­mirably with no tech­ni­cal is­sues to men­tion.

HOW DOES IT PER­FORM?

The Stelvio Q man­ages to meld all the right in­gre­di­ents to ar­rive at one of the most sat­is­fy­ingly good per­for­mance SUVs I have yet ex­pe­ri­enced. For starters, the sit­ting po­si­tion is spot-on with the driver’s seat dis­play­ing a great scope of ad­just­ment, even af­firm­ing my pre­ferred low-seat­ing po­si­tion. That leather and Al­can­tara wreathed steer­ing wheel is nicely weighted and in­ci­sive in chang­ing the Stelvio’s di­rec­tion.

Then there’s the stu­pen­dous han­dling that sees this thing cor­ner with the verve of a hot hatch­back rather than a tow­er­ing SUV. You find your­self aim­ing for the apex of a cor­ner tighter than your pre­vi­ous at­tempt and the thing just tucks its nose in and oblige to your whims. Front-end grip in par­tic­u­lar is prodi­gious and body roll is some­thing not in the Stelvio Q’s lex­i­con.

WHAT RE­SIDES UN­DER THE BON­NET?

Pow­er­ing the Stelvio Q is the Fer­rari de­vel­oped 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo that traces its roots back to the 3.9-litre V8 twin-turbo en­gine that nes­tles un­der the Fer­rari Portofino, but with two cylin­ders lopped off. In the Alfa ap­pli­ca­tion, it re­mains a char­ac­ter­ful, chatty mill with oo­dles of shove in the mid to up­per reaches of its rev range. At low revs, it be­haves as an unas­sum­ing mo­tor that man­ages the mun­dane day-to-day ur­ban traf­fic with aplomb. How­ever, switch drive mode from the de­fault nor­mal to the more dy­namic race mode and the ve­hi­cle’s char­ac­ter swaps its brogues for spikey run­ning shoes. The mode also neuters the trac­tion con­trol al­to­gether, although the all-wheel-drive still man­ages high lev­els of grip, even in in­clement weather con­di­tions.

There’s also the gravel V6 ex­haust note that lay­ers a de­li­ciously fruity and mel­liflu­ous track that eggs you to make it sing while row­ing through the gears via the er­gonom­i­cally pleas­ing and ex­quis­ite metal pad­dle shifters. It is, un­equiv­o­cally, the best sound­ing mod­ern V6 en­gine in my small book. Even on stan­dard steel brakes, the Stelvio stops very well with a con­sis­tent brake pedal and very lit­tle fade ex­hib­ited. You could, of course, spec­ify the more

LAST WORD

Fol­low­ing my rather dis­ap­point­ing drive in the Giulia Q, I was ex­pect­ing some of that car’s tech­ni­cal grem­lins to rear their ugly head. But not this time around. The Stelvio Q is sim­ply one of the best per­for­mance SUVs I’ve driven – rat­ing right up there with the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S and Jaguar F-Pace SVR. In fact, so good it was, it sim­ply over­shad­owed the BMW X3M to an out­right eclipse. And that, if lit­tle else, speaks large vol­umes of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q’s im­pres­sive per­for­mance dis­po­si­tion.

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