The Stelvio SUV is barely two years old, but a much-needed commercial plant in the range for this glorious Italian marque. The heritage story for this model belongs to the Quadrifoglio, the four-leaf clover badge on the Stelvio’s rump, which turns this middling family SUV into an outstanding piece of engineering and one of the most desirable cars of 2018.
The Quadrifoglio emblem (“always on the side of those who dare”) started life in 1923, painted on the side of an Alfa Romeo RL raced to victory in the Targa Florio by Ugo Sivocci. Sivocci worked with Enzo Ferrari and the two went on to form Scuderia Ferrari in partnership with Alfa in 1929. Today, the badge signals rampaging performance, albeit in an SUV. How times change.
In electric blue, or Alfa red, there is no mistaking this car for anything other than an Italian. Our test car also had bright yellow calipers: excellent. Other than the Quadrifoglio badge, exterior changes signalling that his is a hot SUV are minimal, which is how we prefer it – the engine does all the talking on start-up, anyway.
Inside our car, matters were less subtle. We had the optional Sparco carbonshell sports seats which look quite clunky but are very, very hard to sit on and not recommended, especially at £3,250. But the rest of the interior is dark and smart, with Alfa’s fantastic long slivers of brushed metal for the gearshift paddles, and the great Harman Kardon audio system for an extra £950. There is plenty of legroom for four tall adults and a decent boot. The active cruise control and panoramic glass roof are welcome extras.
Absolutely stonking. You’ve really got to test drive one of these cars. The sound from the exhausts is unbelievably, gigglingly brilliant, as the transmission spurts through the gear ratios, throwing the box down a cog, chucking unspent petrol out of the back with bangs and gurgles and woofles.
The engine in question is Ferrari’s superb bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6 with over 500PS and 600Nm of torque, By gum, it feels and sounds faster than that though, as if 500PS wasn’t enough. It shows how important engineering is in the presentation of power; speed isn’t enough – you must also have soul, character and intention and, preferably, a little bit of Italian madness. The SUV manages 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds which is more than anyone needs, but the surge in the stomach alone makes the price tag for this car worthwhile.
The chassis’s set-up in clover guise is also a major winning point – for an SUV, this car turns it beautifully, with little body roll or lag while you wait for the mass of the machinery to catch up. The steering has that lovely Alfa weightiness, matched only by BMW, which increases the trust you have in the car’s handling.
See above, which says it all – cars rarely get their passion from their performance, but for Alfa, the two are inseparable and is why this brand remains one of the most loved brands in the car world. The styling, the noise, the speed, the leather inside, the connection between driver and road… it all combines to make this possibly top of our wishlist for Santa this year.