GRR

GRR Garage: Stelvio Quadrifoglio – leave SUV scepticism at the door

13th October 2019
Will Bibb

Stepping through the pearly white doors of Team GRR’s steroid-chugging, muscle-bound Stelvio Quadrifoglio, I found myself strangely sceptical – even suspicious – of the exalted status it had acquired in our office. Yes, this is a two tonne, 500bhp, carbon-clad, Italian rocket with a Ferrari-developed engine – ticks all the boxes right?

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Perhaps it’s my insistent refusal to accept the reality that the market today overwhelmingly favours SUVs. Maybe it’s that I find it perplexing that nowadays even the deified institution that is Alfa Romeo has resorted to plonking their badge on one.

However, in the interest of journalistic objectivity I shelved my Chelsea Tractor prejudice… And wow, was I glad I did! The office praise was deserved. However, this raised a question that I had to answer: “How is Alfa’s über-SUV so over-the-top-Joker-laugh good?” My journey of discovery begins.

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The spacious cabin is almost underwhelmingly plain at first glance, though tasteful touches of carbon draw the eye: and don’t get me started on the thrones. Gorgeously manufactured paddles flank the steering wheel whispering for you to click through all eight of the Stelvio’s gears. The wheel for the media system seems dated but helps keep instruments well within arm’s reach. Don’t keep MPG stats up as it’ll only make you wince. First impressions of the Quadrifoglio: it reeks of a stripped back, race-focused supercar on stilts. I begin to warm to it.

The biggest revelation out on the road the top-of-the-range Stelvio? How obvious it is that Alfa Romeo has paid genuine attention to crafting a big car that handles like its saloon twin: the Giulia. Perhaps this is a result of the fact that Alfa developed the Giulia and Stelvio in tandem and that they share a platform (albeit modified), an engine, as well as most of the mechanics. Certainly, one quick glance at the technical manual reveals that a plethora of patented and trademarked Alfa Romeo tech has been crammed in too. From the unique Alfa Link multilink rear suspension to the car’s ‘brain’ known as Alfa Chassis Domain Control which controls the intelligent torque vectoring system, active suspension and braking system – more on these later. The interesting point Alfa hammer home in their literature is that both the Stelvio and the Giulia were developed from the “top-down” i.e. their ultimate Quadrifoglio models form the basis for both ranges with its research and tech applied to the lower models too. No doubt an interesting and unique philosophy in designing performance vehicles worthy of the marque.

It is clear there is a secret, almost magic formula Alfa has been working on and that is key to why the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is so impressive. Whilst one could get lost in a rabbit hole in the technical details of their patented systems let’s just skim over the main points.

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To begin, the near-50:50 weight distribution is noticeable in the sportscar-esque handling you can wring out of it on the road. Importantly the weight is fairly evenly spread between the two axles so the rear of the car never feels like it will pendulum on the driver.

Meanwhile the potent combination of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s all-wheel-drive Q4 and torque vectoring systems means you can push with little fear of losing traction or grip. This The “all-wheel-drive” is almost a misnomer though. Driven normally the car runs completely RWD but on demand all-wheel-drive is ready to dial in as you start to push it. This is courtesy of an active transfer case that monitors grip and can transfer up to 50 per cent of the engine torque to the front wheels through the front differential – crucially – before the ABS and stability system bogs the car (Race mode is a must to get rid of those meddling assists!). The ratio is altered and fluctuates intuitively with modulations of your right foot and steering angle. The fancy torque vectoring tech in the diffs then controls the speed of each wheel according to conditions on the road – effectively too.

Alfa’s damping and suspension focus is evident in the minimal body roll in a way that belies the car’s size and weight. And actually, while we’re on the matter: for an SUV, the car isn’t that heavy. Effort has been put into ensuring parts are as lightweight as possible where it can be afforded. The rear subframe is aluminium as is the engine, brakes, suspension, bonnet, door and wheel arches with smatterings of carbon fibre in the interior and for the driveshaft. The result? One hot power-to-weight ratio of 3.6 horsepower per kilo, giving it a fruity 280bhp per tonne.

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I was a little caught out on the brakes early in the test period forgetting it is a still a big car. And that is easy to do: especially if you care to have a taste of this car’s brute speed. The V6 really comes alive when you put your foot down, the exhaust farting and spluttering through a flurry of paddle-shifts. Acceleration from a standing start is unreal, helped by the big wide-boy tyres. The steering is light which admittedly is desirable in a car that, despite my earlier ramblings, could tip a rhino on a set of scales with ease. Though the overall lack of feel is a disappointment that doesn’t mean you need hold back. It’s a very capable car that begs to be pushed hard.

All-in-all I’m sold. The thought that has gone into creating the overall experience is as evident in the driver’s seat as on paper – a testament to Alfa Romeo. I hope the philosophy demonstrated in the Quadrifoglio reflects their future path. It was enough to get me to like an SUV at the very least. Still… I’d rather have a 105 Series GTV any day!

Photography by Pete Summers and Joe Harding.

  • GRR Garage

  • Alfa Romeo

  • Stelvio

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