There was a time when SUVs were purely workhorses. They did the job of carrying people and cargo, but they weren’t focused on luxury or performance. Over the years, SUVs have changed for the better with all the creature comforts found in a luxury sedan. Making SUVs into performance vehicles is a more recent trend and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the latest entry in the performance SUV marketplace.
Building performance cars is nothing new for Alfa Romeo. It’s what they’re known for so if anything, it’s more novel to see the brand building an SUV. The introduction of the Stelvio opened the world of Alfa Romeo ownership to a whole new group of buyers.
Earlier this year, the Stelvio went on sale in two trim levels, both with a 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and standard all-wheel drive. That engine produces 280 horsepower with 306 lb-ft of torque and is paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s a responsive vehicle with a smooth transmission and handling that works hard to make you forget it’s an SUV.
The final trim in the Stelvio lineup is the Quadrifoglio, which is squarely focused on being a performance SUV. It’s powered by a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that takes a huge jump to 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio will get you from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 177 mph.
Further proving itself, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio lapped the famed Nürburgring in 7 minutes 51.7 seconds making it the fastest production SUV in the world. This Stelvio is as ready to take a family road trip as it is to hit the track, so Alfa Romeo flew us to Texas to go for a spin at the Circuit of the Americas.
Our drive time was split up so we had the chance to experience the Stelvio Quadrifoglio on the road where most people will drive it and on the track, where everyone should try to drive it if given the chance. On the road, it behaves like the rest of the Stelvio lineup and tries to make you forget it’s an SUV. The big difference is its more powerful engine, which doesn’t need a heavy foot on the gas.
Acceleration is brisk so pulling into highway traffic is easy. If you need an extra bit of speed for passing, no need to mash the gas pedal. Press it lightly and there’s more than enough power, but it’s hard not to go heavy on the gas and feel yourself pressed back into the seat. It’ll make you want to seek out that track we mentioned earlier.
Outside there are 20-inch aluminum wheels, high-performance Brembo brakes, and chrome-tipped quad exhausts. Inside there is a leather-wrapped steering wheel, unique door sill plates, and 8.8-inch infotainment screen with 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. Even the seating gets special attention in the Quadrifoglio with leather and Alcantara sport seats that are 14-way adjustable for the driver and front passenger.
One of the challenges with sport seats is that they can be snug, especially on long drives. The adjustable bolstering makes these seats more relaxed and comfortable for longer drives while still letting them hug you tight in corners on the track. It’s still a snug fit, however, and those on the larger side may find them too narrow.
Unique to the Quadrifoglio is the Alfa DNA Pro drive mode selector with a race mode, torque vectoring differential, specially-tuned adaptive suspension, and a unique instrument cluster with a 200-mph speedometer. Much like the adjustable bolsters help the Stelvio Quadrifoglio easily move from roadway to track, so too does the drive mode selector. Choose the driving style you want for the conditions of the moment, whether you’re on the track or powering through snowy winter roads.
Further drawing on Alfa Romeo’s racing history is a Formula One-inspired steering wheel with a red push-button start and steering column-mounted paddle shifters. This is an SUV that looks and drives like a performance car, but with a comfortable and beautiful interior that make it a great daily driver.
Although most people won’t be hitting the track in this SUV, those who find a way to make that happen will be quite pleased. It’s a little hard to wrap your head around the notion this is a track vehicle. It’s not small and light and low to the ground. It’s big and tall and doesn’t look like it should be at home on a track at all, but trust us, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is quite happy on the track.
The handling that makes it so fun and effortless on the roads keeps it controlled and manageable on a track. And that engine, the one you can’t really take advantage of on public streets, can finally show you what it’s made of in the straightaways.
The base Stelvio starts at $41,995 with the Stelvio Ti starting at $43,995, so pricing isn’t low, but it’s within reach. The Quadrifoglio will stretch your budget with a starting price of $79,995. This is a luxury SUV and that’s reflected in its price tag, which is likely to keep many people from opting for this trim level.
If, however, you’re looking for an SUV that combines luxury, utility, and performance, and you have the budget, then the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a worthy SUV to consider.