Judging from the less than overwhelming reception it has received since the brand was brought back to the United States by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., Alfa Romeo vehicles are likely to be something of an acquired taste for American motorists.
But there is a lot to like in the Alfa Romeo line-up, starting with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio with all-wheel drive – a utility vehicles with a great deal of style and panache that sets it apart from the very crowded competitive set of premium mid-sized SUVs.
In fact, the exterior silhouette of the Stelvio has done the entire industry a favor by re-defining the appearance of utility vehicles. On the outside, the Stelvio is lower, sleeker and brings elements of sports-car design, which are the foundation of Alfa Romeo’s historic identity, into a unique and distinctive package.
The appearance of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is enhanced by 20-inch wheels and specially designed grille, mirrors and badges.
(Image of Alfa Romeo’s 600-hp GTV Coupe leaks out. Click Here for the story.)
The sports-car theme is carried over into the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s cockpit, which has the luxury feel that you would expect from a vehicle that was carrying a manufacturer’s suggested retail prices or MSRP of $93,190, which included the $1,595 destination charge.
The leather wrapped dashboard is most impressive. The carbon-fiber trim pieces in the cabin, leather on the inner doors and headliner are all carefully crafted, adding to the richness of interior. The seats in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio with the four-way lumbar support, are as comfortable as any found in a vehicle today.
The interior of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio also comes with a leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel, a Harman Kardon Sound system, a 7-inch screen in the center of instrument cluster with vehicle information and 8.8-inch screen in the center stack with Bluetooth and the 3D navigation system.
Among the long list of features on the Stelvio Quadrifoglio are a backup camera, park assist, as well as blind spot alerts and a carbon fiber shifter. There is also an automatic liftgate at the rear to make it easier to stow luggage or packages.
But the heart and soul of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a 2.9-liter V6 engine with twin-turbochargers that produces 505 horsepower that can take the vehicle from zero to 60 in 3.6 seconds, according to FCA’s sheet of specifications.
I didn’t measure it myself, but I can say the vehicle is amazingly quick from a standing start or getting around slower moving traffic and the eight-speed transmission never seemed to miss a beat either as I accelerated or de-accelerated as the driving situation demanded.
(Click Here to check out the Alfa Tonale plug-in CUV concept.)
The all-wheel-drive system also did quite nicely in the slush of Michigan’s last late winter blast and also provided extra grip on semi-dry pavement and around curves. The new “Q4” all-wheel-drive system in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio was matched to Alfa Romeo’s most powerful production engine for the first time to provide the premium midsize SUV an edge in performance.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio I drove also was equipped paddle shifters for drivers who want to hold the revs for a bit longer than the automatic transmission might suggest as its climbs a hill more maneuvered through traffic.
The Stelvio takes its name from a demanding road through a famous pass in the Alps and most impressively the it has set a record at the fabled Nürburgring for the fastest production SUV with a lap time of 7 minutes and 51.7 seconds on the demanding course.
The top speed in the Stelvio is rated at 176 miles per hour. It also is equipped with a stop-start system that is virtually invisible and the combined EPA rating on the 505-hp Stelvio Quadrifoglio is 19 miles per gallon, which includes 23 mpg on the highway.
But FCA also taken pains in equipping the Stelvio Quadrifoglio with state-of-the-art technologies, including a torque vectoring differential, Alfa DNA Pro drive mode selector with Race mode and active electronic suspension.
The combination of power, technology and a sporty heritage and the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s terrific driving dynamics made it a great pleasure to drive even when the weather inhibited the vehicle’s all-out performance capabilities.
(Alfa bringing back 4C Spider for 2020. Click Here for more.)
Italy has a long history of making objects that inspire great desire and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, with its refined blend of performance and luxury, certainly is one of the most elegant vehicles available today. But it also up against German and Japanese machines that have pretty much shaped the American perceptions of luxury vehicles for the past 30 years and that is a tough challenge.