27 Mar 2019

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio 2018 Wagon Review

Alfa's hottest SUV lays it down.
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As the SUV market gets more and more crowded, it’s increasingly difficult for a new version of an existing model to gets its 15 minutes of fame.

Alfa Romeo would argue that the rip-snorting engine in the Quadrifoglio variant of its SUV makes it the best Stelvio variant by far. But is it the best of Alfa’s SUV contenders? Or does the useability and practicality of the SUV layout become consumed by the riotous driveline?

The Stelvio range raised plenty of eyebrows here when it launched in 2018, mainly among the Alfa faithful who openly questioned the concept of a heavy, high and bulky SUV bearing the famous badge.

But now, with the Q version, complete with its twin-turbo V6 and 375kW of brutal power, even the Alfisti can’t ignore the Stelvio. Think an SUV version of the Giulia QV and you’re getting the idea.

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Is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio right for me?

This version of the Stelvio is definitely not for the shy, retiring type, nor the buyer who is watching the budget.

So it will appeal to the SUV buyer who needs plenty of bling and values outright performance rather than the urban dweller searching for a family wagon that happens to have a prestige badge.

What does the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio cost?

At $149,900, the Quadrifoglio variant of the Stelvio costs a staggering 85-grand more than the entry-level car. At that price, the Stelvio Q is also right up there with some truly capable sporty SUVs, so even though it’s the prestige end of the market, the new Alfa hardly has things to itself.

Interestingly, however, Alfa has shown some restraint in the pricing of its optional extras, an area where some of the competition are infamous for gouging. That said, the painted brake calipers (yellow or black, your choice) at $700 seem a bit steep, and the carbon-fibre race front seats at $5000 are also a bit pricey. But the dual-pane panoramic sunroof at $2400 is good value and the carbon-ceramic brake package at $12,000 is much less than some brands charge for this technology.

What is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio's interior like?

As the range-topping variant, the Quadrifoglio gets a sumptuous interior with plenty of that Latin flair upon which Alfa has always traded.

There’s lovely soft leather, Alcantara (without which no sporty car could be complete in 2019) and splashes of aluminium and even (real) carbon-fibre. It sounds busy, but it does look high-end.

Like many other Alfas over the years, there remains a slightly weird relationship between the seat, wheel and pedals (the latter feel too high in the footwell) and the seats themselves will feel a bit on the small side if you’re a beefy-boy. They also lack a little lateral support when you’re cornering hard.

How much space does the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Wagon have?

This is the real elephant in the room with cars like this: They don’t always have as much space as their outward appearance would suggest.

The Stelvio is no exception with a rear seat that is a bit tighter than the competition.

The luggage space is hardly class-leading, either, mainly thanks to the sub-woofers needing some place to live.

What's the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio's tech like?

It’s tempting to think that, as well as understanding the importance of an SUV in its range, Alfa Romeo has also finally grasped the idea of making tech work properly.

And there’s a fair bit of it, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto connectivity with access via an 8.8-inch touchscreen. There’s digital radio, too, all played through a Harman/Kardon 14-speaker system and the sat-nav features a high-definition 3D display.

There’s also a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.

How reliable is the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio?

Far from being the standing joke it once was, Alfa Romeo’s quality control is much better these days.

The brand has a good grasp of making V6 engines although the Ferrari tie-up might sound alarm bells to some. That said, Ferrari’s own durability has improved out of sight in recent years, and its experience with turbocharging speaks for itself.

The Stelvio range has only been involved in one recall since the launch last year, and that was for a jack with an incorrect decal; hardly a deal-breaker.

How safe is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio?

The Quadrifoglio version of the Stelvio has not been independently crash-tested yet but other variants of the Stelvio have achieved five-star crash-safety ratings.

The bigger question mark is over the brake-by-wire technology, understanding of which seems bit thin on the ground even within Alfa Romeo Australia. But there is a fail-safe which, we’re told, would make the car feel like it’s lost brake assistance, but would still stop.

Driver aids include autonomous braking that will bring the car to a complete stop even form high speeds, adaptive cruise-control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

What is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio's warranty like?

While more mainstream Alfa Romeos carry a five-year warranty, the Quadrifoglio badge means that this version of the Stelvio is covered only for three-years or 150,000km. That seems like an importer that’s a bit afraid of the car’s long-term prospects, but also recognition that cars like this, driven as they were meant to be, will often be used up a little quicker.

What are the on-going costs for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Wagon?

Servicing intervals for the Stelvio Q are every 12 months or 15,000km. That’s nothing extraordinary these days but there’s capped price servicing depending on the service interval in question. What you can also be certain of is that the Stelvio, as a big, heavy, powerful car will consume its fair share of things like tyres and brake pads. Insurance, too, depending on your age and status may not be insignificant.

Is the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio value for money?

On a kilo-per-dollar basis, the answer is almost certainly no. Given that the Quadrifoglio is more than double the price of the basic Stelvio and almost double the next most expensive variant, there’s a steep curve leading to the Q in Alfa showrooms.

That said, you do get a lot of extra tech and driveline and chassis hardware for that coin, so it all comes down to how much importance you place on going quickly in an SUV.

What's under the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio's bonnet?

The twin-turbocharged V6 that powers the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is actually a Ferrari V8 with a pair of cylinders chopped off. So no surprises that it makes a huge 375kW of power and 600Nm of torque despite measuring just 2.9-litres.

It’s the same engine as seen in the Giulia QV and Alfa claims it can propel the hefty Stelvio from zero to 100km/h in under four seconds and on to an academic (in this country) top speed of 283km/h. Those are both big claims.

An eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is the only one fitted to the Stelvio Q and the SUV gets Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system which behaves like a rear-wheel-drive system until a loss of traction is detected and the torque is shared between the axles for improved grip.

There are three drive modes which varying degrees of aggression in terms of steering assistance, throttle input, suspension firmness, gear-shifts and even the stability-control mapping. The Stelvio gets adaptive dampers and a form of torque vectoring that uses a pair of clutches in the rear differential to maximise grip in corners and help the car turn.

The most novel technical aspect of the Stelvio is a brake-by-wire system that, instead of a conventional mechanical linkage uses sensors and a computer to apply the brakes. There’s a hydraulic actuator built into the system as a back-up in case of an electronic glitch.

How much fuel does the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Wagon use?

The Stelvio Q is compliant with Euro6 emissions standards (which aren’t in force in Australia yet) and the vehicle has recorded an official combined fuel-consumption number of 10.2-litres per 100km. That’s definitely nothing special in modern terms, but is countered by the huge performance potential. Although start using that potential, and 10.2-litres will be a pipedream.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Stelvio requires premium unleaded.

What's it like to drive the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio?

Full disclosure time: We only got to drive the new Stelvio Q on a racetrack, and even then, only briefly. So as far as ride quality, sound proofing and whether the parking sensors work or not, we’re still in the dark.

But some things about the Q did become very apparent. The first of these is that this is a proper performance car, regardless of what bodyshell is covering the hardware. The V6 engine has a real tremolo feel (in a good way) to it and it revs hard and with genuine enthusiasm. Bashing into the rev limiter is very likely if you’re not careful to keep an eye on the tacho.

And full marks to Alfa for endowing the Stelvio Q with the full-fat version of this engine, rather than watering it down in the bogus name of `torque’ or `flexibility’ (both of which it has ample, by the way).

The super-fast steering ratio is still apparent, too, and with it an ability to take a big bite out of corners (sometimes too big a bite if you’re being clumsy) and get the platform turned in to a corner. But physics is physics and the 1800kg-plus heft of the Alfa can still be felt when you start trying to shove its nose into corners with too much optimism. At that point, the all-wheel-drive system shuffles the torque around a bit and can actually bring the understeer back under control, but on a race-track, that’s already too late. Then again, nobody is going to buy a Stelvio for track-says.

The other curiosity is that brake-by-wire technology. At normal brake-pedal applications, the pedal seems quite natural. But stomp on it harder for a greater rate of retardation and it suddenly becomes a lot more arcade-game and a lot less progressive.

But is the car fun? Absolutely, and not just in an SUV kind of way.

How does the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio compare to the competition?

The Stelvio Q’s natural competitors are also high-end, high-performance SUVS, the likes of the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 and the Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Pack.

The Alfa undercuts the former by a full $15,000 but is about $2500 dearer than the latter. The even loopier Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, however, is a thought-provoking $15,000 cheaper than the Stelvio Q.

TMR's Verdict:

The addition of the turbocharged V6 to the Stelvio platform alone would have turned it into something special. As it is, the torque vectoring and suspension changes have wrought a huge transformation to the whole Stelvio concept and given it a much broader range of talents. It remains, though, a heavy car with a lot going on when you start to hurl it at a physics textbook.

It’s certainly an entertaining SUV, and one that is right at the pointy end of the pack dynamically. But whether a super-fast SUV makes any sense to the individual is the big question still hanging in the air over the Stelvio and all of its peers.

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