First Drive: 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Review
Everyone makes an SUV these days, and therefore everyone who has been known for making fast versions of everyday cars is making a fast SUV. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is Alfa Romeo’s take, carrying all the style of the best-looking-in-class Giulia saloon and the practicality of the Giulia estate that sadly doesn’t exist. We fell in love with the Stelvio Q4 last year, but now there is a new one, is it still as enchanting?
- Big hot hatch feel
- Incredible exhaust note
- Confidence-inspiring handling
We don't like
- Still not top-notch infotainment
- Uncomfortable at manoeu
- Slightly unrefined for the cost
- Irritating safety systems
You’d be very hard pushed to work out the difference between the 2019 Stelvio and the 2020 Stelvio, and the same is the case with the Quadrifoglio. But that’s not a particularly bad thing. In a world of really mixed results from manufacturers trying to make their SUVs look interesting, the Stelvio always stood out as a stunner. There was no real point in messing with that for what is pretty much a facelift. There’s some new black detailing around the iconic Alfa triangular grille and a few other places, where once there was chrome, but for all that matters it’s the same.
Performance and Handling
The beauty of the first Stelvio Quadrifoglio was that it handled a bit like a hot hatch. The faster you drove it, the smaller the car seemed. Thankfully the new car has lost none of that feeling. The Stelvio is powered by exactly the same, Ferrari-derived V6, a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged unit that produces 510PS (375kW) and 600Nm (443lb ft) routed through an eight-speed ZF gearbox. That means a sprint to 62mph of just 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 178mph. Pretty impressive for a car that weighs about 1.8-tonnes. In fact, the sprint to 62 is faster than that of its lighter brother, the Giulia, and that’s entirely down to the Stelvio’s four-wheel-drive system.
Like the old car the Stelvio spends most of its life totally rear-driven, only bringing the fronts in when they are really needed through Alfa’s Active Torque Vectoring system. You can absolutely feel this when you drive the two cars back-to-back, the Giulia feeling at times like it doesn’t know what to do with all its power, while the Stelvio just gets on with it.
Also returning in the new car is the Alfa Romeo DNA selector, for driving modes. N is standard and D is Dynamic, aka Sport, and they’re really the only two modes you need. The damping in the Stelvio is quite stiff in both, not jarring. There’s very little difference, but the sharper pickup of the engine will make you want to stay in D more often. Above that there is Track mode, which sharpens the throttle response up more and makes the ride back breaking, but it also opens the sports exhaust at all times, so there’s swings and roundabouts. Unless you are on a track there’s really no need to ever kick it up to the top mode, but we’d love it if you could keep that sports exhaust open at in D somehow.
When you do get going, the only real sign that the Stelvio is anything other than a sports saloon is a touch of extra roll. You do notice from time to time that you’re perhaps hunched over to the side more than you might be, but that’s why the damping is stiffer. The Stelvio does ooze confidence through the corners, and you can really mash the throttle through mid corner without worrying about unsettling the car too much, as the fronts will come to the rescue at any sign of trouble. Braking is another area where you feel the weight, with the nose diving forward as the big Alfa tries to control the mass, but the stoppers on the Stelvio are powerful so it’s never an actual worry. The main problem is that the Stelvio’s hazard indicators come on at the slightest sign of heavy braking, making even the gentlest of country drives seem yobbish from the outside. The Stelvio’s standard iron brakes can be swapped out for carbon ceramics, saving 17kg, but as is so often the case, there’s no need.
Like the outside, the inside looks pretty much the same as the old car. There’s a new steering wheel, although it looks the same as the old one except for a cloverleaf logo, a new infotainment system and a new centre console. Again all three look the same, but there are a couple of subtle differences. The gear selector, which apparently some owners complained about being uncomfortable, is now covered in leather, the cupholders have been made larger (with a McDonald’s milkshake in mind, apparently) and there’s now wireless charging available. The charger is in the central compartment, but rather cleverly rather than having to open the armrest, there is a gap at the top where a phone can be simple dropped into the cradle.
Material quality feels a tiny bit higher than before, but a few bits of needlessly scratchy plastic still manage to shine through. For £73,195 without any extras you would probably expect a little better. Carbon-fibre can be found everywhere, and again the carbon-fibre bucket seats are available, and again they are an extra. These are fantastic to sit in, but will split opinions on the look, as it’s a full, in-your-face carbon-fibre weave rear shell. For me it’s too much, when added with the carbon-centre console and other carbon touches.
Technology and Features
The seven-inch screen, still positioned in the same place, is now a touchscreen, although it’s not the most intuitive design. The rotary dial also remains, and has actually been much improved, leaving you quite happy to flit through the menus with the dial rather than reaching forward to touch the screen. Navigation, Apple Car Play, Android Auto and in-car Wi-Fi are all standard as well as Level 2 autonomous driving through the automatic cruise control, lane assist, active blind spot assist and traffic sign recognition – Level 2 being the highest level currently allowed on UK roads. Annoyingly it’s quite baffling to work out when the systems are enabled. The dashboard doesn’t make it entirely clear, and it constantly sends you messages about what system is available, which is a little distracting.
Alfa Romeo didn’t need to do much to maintain the Stelvio’s position as one of the most desirable fast SUVs around. The new car is more about fixing a few niggles that people had. It’s still awful to drive at very slow speeds, but it’s a performance car, so we’re not so upset about how it responds to slow manoeuvring. The refinement in the cabin perhaps does not live up to the likes of the Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5, but in pure performance terms it’s hard to argue with what Alfa are doing. The Quadrifoglio is fun to drive at high speeds and perfectly acceptable in town. Its performance will frighten some much more expensive cars; the Stelvio’s 0-62mph time is just 0.2s slower than a Lamborghini Urus, it costs considerably less, looks considerably better and is more likely to be let out of traffic.
|Engine||2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6|
|Power||580PS (375kW) @ 6,500rpm|
|Torque||600Nm (443lb ft) @ 2,500rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed double-clutch, all-wheel-drive|
Reviewed by Ben Miles