Test Drive: 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD

In the current automotive climate where blandly designed grey SUVs and crossovers have become ubiquitous, this Misano Blue 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio definitely stands out from the pack and makes a statement. The colour, the sound, the styling, plus the fact that Alfa Romeo hardly sells any vehicles in Canada, means that the Quadrifoglio seriously turns heads. In a good way.

Unquestionably a driver’s vehicle.

Named after the world-famous Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps, it makes for an eye-catching alternative to many of the humdrum offerings on the market. The Quadrifoglio edition does that but boasts even more aggressive styling inside and out, along with an aluminum twin-turbocharged 2.9L V6 churning out 505 hp. Along with the responsive race-inspired chassis, the performance of the Stelvio QF is matched by few SUVs and worthy of its legendary namesake.

Styling: 9/10

The QF is the synthesis of style and substance. It got attention and nods of approval wherever it went. Reactions ranged from “What is that?” to “I haven’t seen an Alfa Romeo in years, its gorgeous!” Regardless of what passersby knew of the vehicle or the brand, all of the unsolicited feedback was overtly positive. From the sculpted hood vents and the massive bright yellow brake calipers filling the 20-inch alloy wheels outside to the carbon fibre, contrast stitching, and Alcantara inside, it is obvious that this model is something special. It’s a vehicle that non-enthusiasts will appreciate and enthusiasts will salivate over.

User Friendliness: 7/10

The 8.8-inch infotainment screen is conveniently located and clear, however it is challenging to operate and the back-up camera was subpar for even an average vehicle in 2019. Otherwise it’s an easy vehicle to live with by design, certainly more than a sports car with which it shares most of its characteristics. Finding a comfortable seating position is easy and the power liftgate allows access to 538 L of cargo space or as much as 1,614 L with the seats folded down.

Features: 9/10

Ticking the Quadrifoglio option box gets you a direct-injection 2.9L twin-turbocharged engine piped through an active exhaust system featuring quad tailpipes, torque vectoring, a sporting chassis with active suspension, beautiful 20-inch alloy wheels, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, navigation, and sport seats. The Sparco race seats in our tester came with a $4,100 price tag and removed the heated seats and steering wheel. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard. The $95,000 base price offers a long list of standard equipment, with the opportunity to tack on big-ticket items like carbon-ceramic brakes ($8,250) or a power dual-pane moonroof ($1,595).

Safety: 8/10

The Stevlio Quadrifoglio comes well equipped with high-performance bi-xenon headlamps, torque vectoring, advanced brake assist, airbags integrated all over the place, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Active safety features – including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and high-beam assist – are available as part of the Driver Assist Dynamic package.

Comfort: 9/10

The Stelvio exhibits excellent road manners at all speeds and wasn’t upset by road irregularities. Regardless of settings, suspension is taught and firm, prioritizing handling over passenger comfort, so those expecting a soft and supple ride should look to lower trim options. The Sparco race seats are supportive and cozy for those of slimmer dimensions – coddling and embracing their occupants during spirited transitions from side to side with fixed bolstering. Ingress and egress may be challenging for those with mobility issues, but likely not for those who would choose such a vehicle.

Road noise is within acceptable and predictable levels and the exhaust can be quieted in less sporting modes should it become intrusive. Not me though, I intentionally lowered the windows and searched out every tunnel I could find to unleash its aural symphony.

Practicality: 8.5/10

As the priority is on driving engagement, storage space within the cockpit seemed to be at a premium. Italians don’t use travel mugs or takeaway cups. They order their beverages and enjoy them unhurried like the civilized people they are rather than rushing off. Therefore, they don’t understand the need for North Americans to have no fewer than five cup holders within reach at any given moment. The Stelvio does have two cup holders up front, but when they are actually being used to hold said cups, there isn’t anywhere to quickly store things like a wallet or keys that should stay within reach.

Power: 10/10

The tarted-up Stelvio’s 2.9L V6 engine is mated to an exclusive eight-speed automatic transmission putting power to the ground through the standard all-wheel drive system. The swiftness and timing of the shifts are dependent on the driving mode – ranging from calm and casual to brisk and brutish. Turn the dial from Eco-inspired to Race mode and the demeanour changes entirely, allowing all four Pirelli P-Zero’s to crack loose on demand thanks to 505 hp and a whopping 443 lb-ft of torque. Typically, I suggest that a vehicle can always use a little more power, but this isn’t the case with the QF. It has more power than can be safely (or legally) be used on the street and as much as one would require on most racetracks.

Driving Feel: 9/10

The QF is unquestionably a driver’s vehicle. It doesn’t just look the business; it can back up its appearance by bringing the goods. Sliding behind the flat-bottomed Alcantara steering wheel, you sit in the matching Sparco racing seats rather than on them. Thumb the push-button start and the engine awakens with an enthusiastic and exotic bark before settling in to a seething growl.

The massive aluminum shift paddles are of high quality and attached to the column rather than the steering wheel, so that they are always easy to access using proper hand placement. Gear changes can also be made with the shifter which engages manual mode the proper way – forward drop gears, back to upshift. Few manufacturers seem to get this right.

Opting for Sport or Race settings increase the volume and potency. It isn’t just about horsepower, the QF takes turns with precision and composure befitting a sports car rather than an SUV. The exhaust is exotic and playful without being obnoxious or droning. The carbon-ceramic brakes slow things down in a hurry but the firm pedal lacked feel and travel which took some getting used to.

Fuel Economy: 6.5/10

The fuel economy ratings of the Quadrifoglio AWD are 14.1 L/100 km in the city and 10.4 L/100 km on the highway for a combined rating of 12.4 L/100 km. I can’t say I saw anywhere near those numbers, but I also had it in Race mode most of the week and spent every on ramp and tunnel rocketing to the 6,500 rpm redline. There is a Start/stop function, but it intuitively deactivates when the sporting modes are engaged.

Value: 7/10

Brembo brakes and Sparco seats complement a fantastic chassis and a roaring engine that has power and personality in spades. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD excels in many areas, but it also falls short in others. There’s a noticeable delay when the stop/start function is in use. Perhaps only a fraction of a second longer than other systems, but long enough to be disconcerting when making a left hand turn on an amber light in heavy traffic. While some interior components are of exceptional quality, fit and finish, pieces such as the back-up camera, or the infotainment system and its operating dial fall below the industry average which is disappointing for a vehicle in the six-figures.

Conclusion

There has clearly been great attention to detail taken with the chassis development of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It has the most precise steering of any sports car I’ve piloted in recent memory, the braking is sublime and the handling is top-shelf. It’s boatloads of fun to drive but can be reined in to be more sophisticated; exhaust quieted, suspension softened, throttle response slowed. The interior is supportive, stylish, and comfortable but there are a couple of simple yet glaring compromises left over from the lower trim models which should have been rectified in order to be cross-shopped with the likes of BMW, AMG, Porsche, or Maserati, all of whom offer a stylish sporting SUV with personality.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD
Engine Displacement: 2.9L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 505 hp
Peak Torque: 443 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 14.1/10.4/12.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 538 / 1,614 L seats down
2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD
Base Price $95,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,595
Price as Tested $114,890
Optional Equipment $17,195 – Misano Blue Metallic paint $700; Sparco leather and Alcantara race seats $4,100; Driver Assistance Dynamic Package $1,500; Convenience Package $450; Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes $8,250; dual-pane sunroof $1,595; carbon-fibre steering wheel $600
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.2
9 Styling
10 Powertrain
8 Quality
9 Comfort
8 Practicality
9 Drivability
7 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
9 Features
7 Value