Parkers overall rating: 3.7 out of 5 3.7
  • Limited choice, but powerful engines
  • Astonishing Quadrifoglio performance
  • Doesn’t sound as exciting as an Alfa Romeo 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.

Charismatic petrol engines

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.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio driving

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.

You can also opt for an entry-level 200hp version of this engine. 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 134mph top speed.

Economical diesel engines

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, and on most roads it feels more than up to the job of hauling the Stelvio around.

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.

2017 Alfa Romeo Stelvio rear driving

The lower-powered 190hp diesel option is available with rear-wheel drive, 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 and both cover 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds with a top speed of 130mph. 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. 

Ballistic Stelvio Quadrifoglio

If performance is your priority when buying an SUV, you’ll struggle to find many on sale in the UK quicker than the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Combining the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s 510hp 2.9-litre V6 and automatic gearbox with a four-wheel drive system as standard, this Stelvio delivers every one of those horses to the ground without fuss, storming to 62mph in 3.8sec - that’s 0.6sec faster than the quickest Porsche Macan; the 440hp Turbo Performance Pack. The Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S might be able to match this time but is limited to 155mph.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio race mode

The added traction from the four-wheel drive system means it even beats the Giulia’s time by 0.1 seconds, even if top speed drops down from the Giulia's 191mph to ‘just’ 176mph.

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, it changes character dramatically when you start working your way around the rev counter. There’s plenty of torque, too, with 600Nm available from 2,500-5,000rpm but it still requires revving towards the higher end of the rev range to experience its full potential.

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. 

On the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, there is an additional Race mode, This sharpens up the gearshifts and keeps the exhaust valves permanently open to liberate the most amount of noise. While this ups the level of entertainment, you’ll have to put up with the added drone around town and drive without any of the ESC safety systems on.

Is the Stelvio good to drive?

  • Sharp steering is very unlike an SUV
  • Agile handling and limited body roll
  • Keen responses for such a large car

Alfa Romeo throws around all sorts of complex terminology – such as ‘semi-virtual steering axis’ and patented ‘four-and-a half-link’ rear suspension – when describing the Stevlio’s underpinnings. The firm is proud to boast how balanced the Stelvio is with its 50:50 weight distribution front to rear, but all you really need to know is that for an SUV it stays remarkably flat even when tackling 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. The steering is not especially communicative like it is in a Porsche Macan, but it's certainly more engaging than the equivalent Volvo or Audi.

2017 Alfa Romeo Stelvio side profile

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.

A Performance Pack is available for standard models like you'll find on the Quadrifoglio, adding a more sophisticated suspension setup and adaptive suspension, making it a better blend of comfort and agility to make the Stelvio a better all-rounder.

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. 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.

Stelvio Quadrifoglio handling

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio action

Unlike the tail-happy rear-drive Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes exclusively with a four-wheel drive setup. 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. Some will like the quick steering, but others may find that it makes the car feel a bit twitchy, especially when trying to drive on a straight piece of road. That said, you should get used to it after spending some time.

Fortunately that keenness to change direction is backed-up by solid body control, thanks to adaptive suspension, 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; the saloon comes with much stickier P Zero Corsas.

On the plus side the handling benefits a lighter kerb weight than its rivals'; feeling agile on its feet and giving little away that you’re in a bulky SUV.

Can the Alfa Romeo Stelvio tow?

While the unbraked towing weight for the Stelvio is 750kg, the exhaust system on the Quadrifoglio prevents the fitment of a towbar altogether.

2017 Alfa Romeo Stelvio cornering