- Limited choice but powerful engines
- Astonishing Quadrifoglio performance
- Doesn’t sound as exciting as an Alfa should
In SUV terms, the Stelvio certainly places a priority on performance – there might only be a few engines to choose from but all pack plenty of punch.
The main petrol option is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 280hp and 400Nm of torque (pulling power).
The raw performance figures are 0-62mph in 5.7sec and 143mph flat out, and it’s certainly keen to get going on the road – helped by an impressively low (for an SUV) kerbweight of 1,660kg.
The eight-speed automatic – the same ZF transmission used by a number of other car makers, including BMW and Jaguar – provides snappy manual changes but also works intuitively when left to its own devices.
That said, the petrol doesn’t sound especially inspiring, and it lacks the high-revving zing you might expect from a sporty Alfa Romeo engine. So it’s fast, but not especially soulful. It is still the engine we would choose if running costs were no object.
A short drive with this engine showed it's even less interesting than the 280hp, which is technologically identical but with a higher state of tune.
Torque drops to 330Nm and as a result you can expect a slower 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds and a 133mph top speed.
The 210hp 2.2-litre diesel does 0-62mph in 6.6sec and has a 133mph top speed.
Despite this – and 470Nm of torque – we thought it felt a little slow. This probably wasn’t helped by the high-altitude Alpine test route, so we’ll update this impression after we’ve driven it in the UK.
At 1,659kg it weighs almost exactly the same as the petrol, and produces its performance smoothly enough. But it also sounds very thin and reedy, which becomes quite grating over time – especially as there’s more engine noise inside than you might expect from a car of this class.
The lower-powered diesel option is available with rear-wheel drive only, which offers the lowest-possible running costs, or all-wheel drive as with the rest of the line-up. It generates 450Nm at 1,750rpm, so only slightly less than the high-powered version.
We've driven this motor, which covers 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds with a top speed of 130mph, and if you have to have a diesel, this is the one we'd pick.
It doesn't suffer with the lower power output because it still has more than enough torque to accelerate rapidly, and will overtake on the motorway with ease.
As with the 210hp motor, it's a little noisy when pushed hard, but this is far more noticeable outside the car than it is inside.
Rapid Stelvio Quadrifoglio
If performance is your priority when buying an SUV, you won’t find another on sale in the UK quicker than the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Powered by the Giulia QF’s 510hp V6 and automatic gearbox and using a standard four-wheel drive system to deliver every one of those horses to the ground without fuss, the hottest Stelvio storms to 62mph in 3.8sec - that’s 0.6sec faster than the quickest Porsche Macan, the 440hp Turbo Performance Pack.
The engine masks its turbo lag (the delay in power delivery experienced on older turbocharged vehicles) quite well and while it doesn’t sound that exciting at low revs or in normal driving (where it can switch off, unnoticed, three cylinders to cut fuel consumption by 10%), it changes character dramatically when you start working your way around the rev counter.
Alfa Romeo's DNA drive mode control
Both the gearbox and the engine response can be fine-tuned to a certain degree by the DNA driving mode control, which offers a choice of Dynamic (sporty), Natural and Advanced Efficiency (slower but better on fuel) settings. These are adjusted using the rotary controller situated behind the gear lever.
- Sharp steering
- Flat cornering
- Keen responses
Alfa Romeo throws around all sorts of complex terminology – such ‘semi-virtual steering axis’ and patented ‘four-and-a half-link’ rear suspension – when describing the Stevlio’s chassis design.
All you really need to know is that for an SUV it stays remarkably flat when tackling even very tight corners. In fact, Alfa Romeo reckons it not only out-performs all its direct rivals in this regard, but that the Stelvio rolls less than some competitors’ saloon cars.
Certainly its resistance to lean is very impressive, and with the super-sharp steering – which is most definitely quicker than any alternative SUV – you can cut quite the dash along a mountain road.
Quick but muted
The steering is not especially communicative, however, as if holding you at slight remove. This means the Stelvio doesn’t feel quite as involving to drive as some rivals – notably the Porsche Macan.
Similarly, while the Q4 four-wheel drive system is heavily rear-biased – only engaging the front wheels when required – it’s not as dynamic as the Porsche system. The optional rear limited-slip differential may improve this, but we’re yet to try it.
The steering weighting changes not just with the DNA driving mode selector, but also the speed you’re travelling. We found this well-judged, creating little cause for complaint. Of the two, the petrol is the keener to change direction. Not that the diesel is any slouch in this regard.
Easy to drive
For all that this sounds quite aggressive in its appeal to keen drivers, the Stelvio is still an easy car to drive. With good visibility and very light steering at low speeds, it is straightforward to manoeuvre around town.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrofoglio handling
Unlike the tail-happy rear-drive Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Stelvio Quadrofoglio comes exclusively with a four-wheel drive transmission. But unlike many SUVs, this one operates as a rear-wheel drive car until slip is detected, when it can send up to 50% of the engine’s torque to the front wheels.
Combine that with a torque-vectoring rear differential and Alfa’s now familiar hyper-quick steering and you have a car that’s far more agile than you’d expect an SUV to be.
Fortunately that keenness to change direction is backed up by solid body control, though outright grip is lower than on the Giulia QF because of the extra weight and Alfa’s decision to fit the Stelvio with regular Pirelli P Zero tyres rather than the much stickier P Zero Corsas that come with its saloon sister.
- Cabin quality not up to premium rivals'
- Design is clear and easy to use, though
- Gorgeous aluminium paddleshifters
At first glance the Stelvio’s interior looks rather alluring – there’s what appears to be a large widescreen display for the infotainment in the centre and some interesting choices of aluminium and wood trim (the latter not to everyone’s taste, but still).
Get closer, however, and the quality sadly seems more supermini than premium exec – if at least on par with the Jaguar F-Pace – and you realise that the limited amount of button clutter is because it doesn’t really have that many toys. Plus the screen isn’t as big as it seems, as there’s a large bezel on either side of the square display area.
You really notice where Alfa has cut costs when you touch the large airvents on either side of the dash - they're constructed of very flimsy-feeling plastic that feels as if it'll break in short order.
Still, the rotary controller makes the infotainment system easy to navigate and the menu system is easy to understand. Shame the gloss top of the controller is a magnet for fingerprints, and the rotating mechanism doesn’t feel as premium as rival equivalents from BMW and Audi.
The uncovered – but illuminated – USB port positioned off-centre in the middle console seems haphazard as well. On a more positive note, the vast, column-mounted paddleshifters for the automatic transmission are gorgeous pieces of aluminium art, making an already great gearbox a pleasure to use.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrofoglio interior
Here’s where the Stelvio QF starts to stumble against similarly priced rivals.
The dashboard design is handsome enough and the huge metal gearshift paddles mounted behind the wheel look and feel fabulous.
But other materials fall below the standards set by its rivals. The eight-speed automatic’s gear selector looks like a BMW one but feels much cheaper.
Same for the infotainment control wheel, while the media system has a disappointingly low-resolution screen, and there are no trick options like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit instrument pack. This might all be forgivable at the low end of the Stelvio range, but its harder to overlook on a £70k+ car.
- Firm suspension
- Diesel comfort is best…
- …but its refinement could be better
This is where you start to pay the price for that keen cornering capability. To keep a big, tall car like the Stelvio upright in the turns you need firm suspension, and this does have an impact on ride comfort.
Diesel does it better
Driving on launch in Italy, the diesel we drove felt impressively well damped at first – especially considering it was fitted with larger 19-inch alloy wheels (17-inch and 18-inch are standard, depending on trim level).
However, on less pristine surfaces it began to exhibit a jiggling sensation that if not actually uncomfortable, certainly veered strongly towards the annoying. And we fear that such surfaces are similar to the kind you get far more commonly in the UK.
By comparison, the petrol – also on 19-inch wheels – immediately felt firmer, more uncompromising, and more unsettled at the back. The petrol is dynamically superior to the diesel, so this makes some sense. But it will be less comfortable in the UK.
We’ve already mentioned that the engines aren’t particularly nice sounding in the performance section – and that you can hear a little too much of the diesel for a premium car.
Both the Stelvios we’ve tested so far have also suffered for a high degree of wind noise, seemingly caused by poor seals around the windows. Road noise is well suppressed, though, even on the optional 19-inch alloy wheels.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrofoglio comfort
The QF’s standard, heavily bolstered seats offer a great blend of comfort and support, but deep pockets can opt for the Giulia’s sexy carbon-backed bucket seats. Be warned though: they look fantastic but are far less comfortable on longer trips.
Adaptive dampers are standard and the mode can be selected independently of the four (ECO, Normal, Dynamic, Race) driving modes. Switch the dampers to stiff mode and the otherwise good ride comfort deteriorates markedly.