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Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio 2019 review: family test


The Stelvio is the SUV that's supposed to save Alfa Romeo and the Quadrifoglio is the meanest, fastest and priciest in the range. But is it too hardcore for a family? And does it do what a regular SUV should and actually offer proper utility? The Berry family had their way with it over the course of a week and found out.

But first a fairy tale involving a prince, a prancing horse and a company in distress.

The prince is Roberto Fedeli, well he's not a real prince, he was the chief engineer at Ferrari, but his colleagues held him in such high regard they called him The Prince. Anyway, the former big boss of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the late Sergio Marchionne, summoned Fedeli to Alfa Romeo with the task of turning the feted brand around with a new model.

Fedeli joined Alfa and, with a stack of money and a huge team, developed a new car called the Giulia in a top-secret underground bunker protected by sharks. I loved the Quadrifoglio version of the Giulia, with its screaming Ferrari-derived twin turbo V6.  Fedeli hadn't just given Alfa one new car, though. He had built the Giulia on a new scalable platform, so that Alfa could underpin half a dozen new cars. The gift that keeps on giving, then. What a Prince.

The Stelvio is built on that platform and, having loved the Giulia Quadrifoglio so much I had huge expectations as I walked across the carpark to the SUV version of that car.

Here's how that went.

Oh, by the way there was no bunker with sharks, but the rest of the story is true. Promise.

What does it look like?

I could describe it to you, but the next paragraph would just be full of words like Italian, oozing and sex. Instead, just look at the images. Yes, even in the extremely ordinary pictures I took myself, you can still get a good feel for the Stelvio's Quadrifoglio's styling.

What you should know is that being the fastest, meanest version of the Stelvio SUV, the Quadrifoglio makes itself known by the more aggressive front bumper and giant air intakes, the nostrilled bonnet, the 20-inch alloys and the quad exhaust.

Those yellow brake calipers you can see are optional and so is the Tri-Coat paint. Those yellow brake calipers you can see are optional and so is the Tri-Coat paint.

The four-leaf clover on the side? Fans will know instantly that this badge is only worn by the most athletic Alfa Romeos, and that it's a hat tip to the emblems worn by the brand's early racing cars. Quadrifoglio means four-leaf clover. Don't believe me? Type it into Google Translate.

Those yellow brake calipers you can see are optional and so is the Tri-Coat paint.

Also optional are the carbon-fibre Sparco front seats you should be able to see in my interior images, along with the leather, Alcantara and carbon-wrapped steering wheel.

The 20-inch wheels with 285/30 Pirelli P Zeros at the back and 255/45s up front provided stupendous grip. The 20-inch wheels with 285/30 Pirelli P Zeros at the back and 255/45s up front provided stupendous grip.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio's cockpit is sumptuous, modern and comfortable. I love the red start button on the steering wheel, Ferrari style, and the expensive-looking display screen, but the climate dials look a little down market in this sea of premium elements.

It's quite roomy in there, but more on that below. What I can tell you here are the exterior dimensions of the Stelvio Quadrifiglio.

While it looks large, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is more a mid-sized SUV, at 4701mm long, 1955mm wide and 1689mm tall. That's the same size as the Porsche Macan, but how does it compare on price? Keep on reading.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s cockpit is sumptuous, modern and comfortable. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s cockpit is sumptuous, modern and comfortable.

How does it drive?

Yes, this is a family review, but you wouldn't even be considering the Quadrifoglio in the Stelvio range if you weren't a bit of a petrol head. I'm one, too. So, what's it like to drive?

Well, I loved the sedan version of this car; the Giulia Quadrifoglio, but I have to say the same excitement that comes with driving that wasn't there for me in this SUV.

The good news is it's quick, and the handling is good, this is, after all, the same beastie that stomped all over the SUV Nürburgring Nordschleife record in 2017.

The not-so-good news is that unless you're in Race mode, that incredible Ferrari-derived twin-turbo V6 engine sounds uninspiring. Race mode disables safety tech, and that's not ideal for the road, which leaves you with Dynamic mode as the most edgy setting on the DNA rotary selector.

It’s easy to drive, thanks to light steering, good visibility and a fairly small size. It’s easy to drive, thanks to light steering, good visibility and a fairly small size.

While Dynamic sharpened the response from the eight-speed auto transmission and engine, I really had to accelerate hard and hold gears manually to hear the crackling and high-pitched exhaust note, which is  almost always present in Race.

You don't want to be driving hard all the time just to hear how good an SUV can sound. Other car makers such as Mercedes-AMG worked that out long ago and the throaty bellow the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's rival, the GLC C63 S, lets out even at a relaxed pace sounds like Armageddon arriving in car form.

Still, you can't argue with the figures. That Alfa Romeo by Ferrari 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 makes 375kW and 600Nm and can hunker down with its all-wheel-drive system to catapult the SUV from a standstill to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds. That's as quick as the GLC C63 S.

Washing all that speed off are some great brakes. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio' has superb stopping power, thanks to the 360 x 32 mm front and 350 x 28 rear cross drilled discs, but be warned they are also overly bitey. This hampers everyday driving and, until you get used to it, you'll be pulling up at traffic lights way too soon.

The fast and mean Quadrifoglio features a quad exhaust. The fast and mean Quadrifoglio features a quad exhaust.

The 20-inch wheels with 285/30 Pirelli P Zeros at the back and 255/45s up front provided stupendous grip, but also picked up every blemish in the road. This is a family review and ride comfort is more important here. In the same way that you sure-as-hell know it when you step on a piece of Lego in bare feet, those tyres are so low profile that driving over even cats' eyes has the same effect. Well, that's not true, nothing is as shocking as stepping on Lego without shoes in the night.

Combine this with dampers that feel a bit firm and springs which appear to be too, um, springy and the ride really does feel uncomposed, jiggly and uncomfortable at times. I swapped into a Porsche Macan one night after being in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the ride was far better. Just saying.

After 206km of driving, which included highways, commutes in traffic to the CBD and country roads, I used 33.66L of premium unleaded (98 RON) which comes out to be 16.3L/100km. The trip computer said 16.4L/100km by the way. The official combined fuel economy is 10.2L/100km, but it's fair to say I was giving the Stelvio more of a workout than Alfa Romeo did when acquiring its mileage figure.

The not-so-good news is that unless you’re in Race mode, that incredible Ferrari-derived twin-turbo V6 engine sounds uninspiring. The not-so-good news is that unless you’re in Race mode, that incredible Ferrari-derived twin-turbo V6 engine sounds uninspiring.

How easy is it to use everyday?

OK, we've established that the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is fast and athletic, but is it a pain in the four-leaf clover to live with daily? Well, apart from that uncomposed and (at times) uncomfortable ride, this is an SUV which does what all mid-sized SUVs do well, in that it's easy to drive, thanks to light steering, good visibility and a fairly small size. That makes it easy to park and to pilot through traffic, all while offering the high driving position that SUV owners like.

My four-year-old did have trouble climbing in with no side steps, but he also has that issue in a Mazda CX-5. On the plus side, he could see well out of his window once in his child seat, and those carbon-fibre seatbacks are pretty scratch resistant, and also wipe clean.

Even though this is a five-seater SUV, I wouldn’t want to be in the middle back there between two adults. Even though this is a five-seater SUV, I wouldn’t want to be in the middle back there between two adults.

My wife loved those seats and reckons they're some of the most comfortable she's ever sat in – and these are carbon-fibre Sparco race seats!

Proximity unlocking, an auto power tailgate and features such as Apple CarPlay are convenient touches that make everyday usage much easier. Wireless charging and LED headlights were the only things I wanted for as far as helpful features go during my time with the Quadrifoglio. You will find four USB ports and one 12V power outlet on board.

  • The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s 525-litre boot is large for the segment. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s 525-litre boot is large for the segment.
  • The standard cargo net was also good for keeping smaller items from rolling about. The standard cargo net was also good for keeping smaller items from rolling about.
  • The boot swallowed up our shopping easily, and has a wide opening with a low load lip, to make getting things in and out easier. The boot swallowed up our shopping easily, and has a wide opening with a low load lip, to make getting things in and out easier.

How spacious is it?

Surprisingly spacious. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with plenty of space for my knees, and headroom is also excellent. That said, even though this is a five-seater SUV, I wouldn't want to be in the middle back there between two adults – it's spacious, but only for a mid-sized SUV.

Up front there's plenty of space, even for somebody with my two-metre wingspan, although the footwell was a little tight and those pedals are quite close together.

I can sit behind my driving position with plenty of space for my knees, and headroom is also excellent. I can sit behind my driving position with plenty of space for my knees, and headroom is also excellent.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio's 525-litre boot is large for the segment (it's bigger than the Benz's boot) and swallowed up our shopping easily, and has a wide opening with a low load lip, to make getting things in and out easier. The standard cargo net was also good for keeping smaller items from rolling about.

Storage throughout the cabin is good, with two cup holders in the rear fold-down armrest and another two up front, while there are compartmentalised door pockets, which are on the slim slide, a fairly shallow bin under the centre-console armrest, and a small tray in the back of it for rear passengers.

How much does it cost to own?

The Quadrifoglio grade lists for $149,900, making it the most expensive in the Stelvio family. In comparison, the current-gen GLC 63 S lists for $164,529, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR for $139,648 and a Porsche Macan Turbo is $146,600.

In terms of standard features, you're getting everything the Stelvio range can offer. This includes an 8.8-inch display (it's not a touch screen), sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 14-speaker 900W Harman/Kardon audio system, leather and Alcantara upholstery and carbon-fibre accents, aluminium paddle shifters and sports pedals, dual-zone climate control, proximity unlocking, heated and power front seats, DNA drive modes, adaptive dampers, roof rails and Bi-Xenon headlights.

Now the options. Those comfy and cool-looking carbon fibre seats are $7150; the yellow brake calipers are $910; that Alfa Romeo Tri-Coat red paint is $4550 and the leather and carbon wrapped steering wheel is $650.

The four-leaf clover on the side? Fans will know instantly that this badge is only worn by the most athletic Alfa Romeos. The four-leaf clover on the side? Fans will know instantly that this badge is only worn by the most athletic Alfa Romeos.

What's the tech like?

Here's the good news: there's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The bad news is that the display isn't a touch screen and that makes using those great apps a bit of a pain.

There's no wireless charging, which is disappointing, considering you can get it on a most of the $30K hatchbacks I recently tested.

There's no head-up display which is disappointing seeing as its premium rivals have it and the function is incredibly useful.

Auto parking? Nope.

Digital radio? Yes it has it, but meh, this was once a big deal, but doesn't have the same draw to it any more.

How safe is it?


The Wrap

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio looks stunning inside and out, it's comfortable to sit in, practical and surprisingly spacious, plus it's fast and handles well. The downside is the uncomfortable ride. I also believe that anybody looking at getting a hi-po SUV wants the theatrics of a menacing soundtrack, and that's something the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is only happy to offer up if you're pushing it hard. Something you never want to do with a family on board.

Would the Stelvio Quadrifoglio be your first choice for a high-performance SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Likes

Gorgeous styling
Quick
Practical

Dislikes

Sounds best only in Race mode
Uncomfortable ride
Bitey brakes

Scores

Richard:

3.5

The Kids:

4

$149,900

Based on new car retail price

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