2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: SUV Performance Set To 'Overkill'
Once upon a time, the idea of a 'performance' SUV was restricted to large displacement engines in traditional body-on-frame designs, hunks of metal that could rumble forward with reasonable alacrity but not mount any serious challenge to sport sedans or coupes.
Today, that mode of thinking has been outdated by the massive industry shift towards sport-utility vehicles at almost every possible price point. With so many drivers choosing crossovers as their daily conveyance, it's only natural that the concept of an enthusiast-oriented SUV would also evolve. This is particularly true in the high end segment of the market, where massive road-hugging rubber and advanced electronic driver's aides are already on the menu.
So it goes that in 2019 it's possible to find a trucklet with as much thrust and nearly the same levels of grip as supercars from a decade or so previous. The expectation that a full-zoot hot rod SUV be able to pivot like a pro, despite its towering center of gravity and typically ponderous weight, has lead to vehicles like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio—a crossover that stretches brand credibility to the max by way of its family-courting practicality and over the top go-fast feature set.
Surprisingly? It kind of works.
Ferrari's First Truck*
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio's green clover badge is also affixed to another American-market Alfa Romeo, the Giulia sedan. The two vehicles share the same beating heart: a 505hp, 2.9L V6 twin-turbo engine that was developed for the Italian brand by corporate stable mates Ferrari, which offers a similar V8 design in the California T convertible. Also capable of generating 443 lb-ft of torque, it leverages an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive to haul itself to 60-mph in an astonishing 3.3 seconds.
That latter number—aided and abetted by four wheels of grip—isn't just better than that posted by the Giulia Quadrifoglio, it's also capable of shutting down a wide range of high performance hardware no matter how many doors, passengers, or zeros in the price tag might be on hand. It's simply astonishing straight line speed.
Despite not being a fan of this motor in the Giulia, where I frequently lamented the accelerator's on/off switch behavior, tempered by the Stelvio's AWD it's a much more manageable experience when quickly pulling away from a stop. The rambunctious exhaust note is an added bonus when blowing past surprised slowpokes on twisting Adirondack roads, which served as my test course during a weekend away in the mountains with the SUV.
The Quadrifoglio's engine is also remarkable for transforming the character of the Stelvio itself, a crossover I have no affinity for whatsoever when found in standard form. The adaptive suspension system remains collected and calm until you find a seriously chewed up stretch of pavement, with response on gravel and heaving two-track lanes solid enough not to have to worry when leaving civilization behind.
Confusing Mission Statement
Things are decidedly less genteel on the inside of the Alfa Romeo. Although the Quadrifoglio does upgrade to a higher standard of materials as compared to the base Stelvio (particularly in terms of swapping plastic for leather), it's still hobbled by a beyond-basic infotainment system squished into one corner of an 8.8-inch non-touchscreen, which isn't particularly responsive or logically structured in terms of functionality.
Likewise, some other aspects of the Quad's cabin puzzle and perplex. Why would one want to swap in manually-adjustable carbon fiber front buckets in a luxury truck such as this one? The weight savings argument is laughable given the already-ponderous heft of the vehicle, and it feels distinctly poser-ish to lumber in and out of the tight-gripping thrones at the campground or mall parking lot.
Still, there's reasonable room inside the Stelvio for hauling gear, with a weekend's worth of food and luggage for two stowing behind the rear seats with ease, and a decent amount of passenger room available in the vehicle's second row. It's a practical enough setup that comes part-and-parcel with the over-engined truck's 19-mpg combined mileage. But hey, try picking up garage sale furniture from the roadside in your Porsche 911 or Chevrolet Corvette.
Fast, But Not Quite Fun
While the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is certainly competent in a corner, and absolutely absurd when hammered down a straight stretch of blacktop, it doesn't quite make a convincing argument that it's fun to flog.
One of the side effects of ground-tearing all-wheel drive traction and tires as wide as a man's outstretched arms is a near-complete disconnect from actual driving experience. There are simply too many layers between the left front seat and the road below, and whether they're made up of rubber, ones-and-zeros, or a thousand pounds too much mass, the net effect is the same.
Despite its eye-catching styling and its decent blend of performance and luxury, the Stelvio simply doesn't make that crucial connection between driver and the act of driving itself that is key to achieving a lasting bond with any vehicle. It's certainly a novelty to stand on the Quadrifoglio's loud pedal and listen to it deliver, but aside from that the overall experience serves to remind us why lunky muscle trucks are unlikely to completely replace sports cars among pilots whose blood is stirred by more than just an exceptional soundtrack and a catapult kick in the pants.
Does the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio need a V8 instead of its TT V6? Click here to find out.