Well, my friend, welcome to the marriage of utility and fun. It’s called the Stelvio.
Or, using the name on its birth certificate, the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Whew, if a car ever needed a nickname . . .
Thus, we just say Stelvio, the name of an Italian mountain pass famous for its dozens of winding switchbacks. Those hairpin turns don’t usually scream “SUV,” but in this case it certainly works.
Alfa Romeos aren’t overly familiar in the U.S., but the car maker has been putting out sporty – and racing – vehicles since 1910. They know their way around horsepower. But even traditional automobile powers are caving to the demand for sport utility vehicles, and the Stelvio represents Alfa Romeo’s first SUV.
Nothing like hitting it out of the park in your first at-bat.
The Stelvio was built on basically the same platform as the Giulia sedan. There are three trim levels, ranging from the base model up to the Quadrifoglio, which is what I drove for a week.
My test model roared out of the parking lot with its 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V6. All it does is put out 505 horsepower. Will that get you where you want to go?
One thing to keep in mind is that the Stelvio, although a crossover SUV, has no pretensions whatsoever about being an off-road vehicle. Puh-lease. This machine is built for the road, and doesn’t care if Jeeps or 4Runners call it names.
The exterior is, of course, stylish and refined. You can tell it has power, and seems almost ready to pounce, but it also would shine in a beauty pageant.
Quality and luxury abound for driver and passengers. The seats are remarkably comfortable, although the materials aren’t always the kind of scrumptious you’d expect in an $80,000 car. Good, but not spectacular.
Controls for the driver are laid out well, and easy to understand. I’m a big fan of knobs and buttons over complex touchpads and wheels. Here the Alfa Romeo scores big with me.
The dashboard itself is pure simplicity, with a tachometer and a speedometer.
Visibility is one of the shortcomings, however. Those thick pillars, which crop up in a lot of SUVs, make for difficult viewing at times.
My biggest issue with the interior would be the lack of storage. Cargo space itself is behind many of the Stelvio’s competitors, but even personal storage upfront is compromised.
In particular, the center bin is pretty small for an SUV. I decided that the Italians just aren’t weighed down with as much extra crap as we carry around here in the States. And for that they’re probably much better off.
To begin with, those 505 horses will make sure you get where you’re going in big hurry. But on top of that I just loved the sound. It’s not a constant roar, but you get enough of an impressive growl to remind you that you’re behind the wheel of a machine made with a racing heritage.
Steering, handling, and braking were all exceptional. I’ve heard it described as a “spirited” drive, and that sounds about right to me. I enjoyed taking it out to the winding roads in the foothills to the southwest of Denver.
I’m not crazy about the way this SUV handles the stop-start of the engine at intersections, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
And, the cherry on top for winter drivers, you get all-wheel drive.
Nothing overly impressive here, but that’s not newsworthy. Alfa Romeo does a great job in the areas that matter to it, and tech just isn’t at the top of their performance list.
That’s not to say it’s bad; it’s just not segment-leading.
You will get lots of driver assist tools, but some of them, like the rear-view camera, are just a little short of pleasing. The camera view, for instance, is just a little small.
You will find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, but I hand a couple of instances where it was slow to connect. Again, not a deal-breaker, but a reminder that Alfa Romeo likes to build fast, sporty cars, not monuments to tech.
The Bottom Line
To sum things up, the primary reason you’d want to look at the Stelvio, and in particular the Quadrifoglio trim, is the power and handling. It’s an SUV that not only looks animalistic, but performs well.
It’s also not shy about fuel consumption; my combined experience came in just a hair below 20 mpg.
But I had a blast driving it all week. And, something else to consider: When you walk out to the parking lot, you sure will stand out. Not a ton of Alfa Romeos competing for eyeballs out there.
Check out the fun driving experience.
2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
2.9-liter, twin-turbo V6
8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 17/23/19 combined
As tested: $88,390
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer