If you are a true car enthusiast, you need to own an Alfa Romeo at least once in your lifetime. Driving the Stelvio Quadrifoglio really proves that the Alfa Romeo experience is still there. But, most importantly, the Stelvio feels special, and that really sets it apart from everything else. We spent a few days with the Stelvio and could not get enough, and that was just driving around town. If there was a race track around, we probably would not stop until there was no fuel or tires left. The Stelvio, at least in the Quadrifloglio configuration, is just a beautifully crafted machine that begs to be driven.

Background

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - Driven
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The Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the brand’s first SUV.

There are six different trim levels, but the one that is truly awesome is the top of the line Quadrifolio.

While the regular versions are powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, the Quadrifolio comes with an all-aluminum, twin-turbo, 2.9-liter, V-6. The direct-injected DOHC engine is basically a Ferrari engine with two cylinders chopped off. The monster engine puts out 505 horsepower and pulls to 7,400 rpm. There are lots of other SUV manufacturers with engines that put out more than 500 horsepower but they don’t sound like this engine. But more on this later.

Drivetrain

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - Driven
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The awesome engine, assembled in Termoli, Italy is bolted to an eight-speed automatic transmission and routes the power to the ground through a standard all-wheel-drive system. The transmission offers huge aluminum shift paddles that are attached to the steering column so that you can reach them easier. The transmission’s behavior depends on the mode selector, giving you a choice of response depending on your mood.

The Natural mode is best for comfortable daily driving while Advanced Efficiency mode is best for optimum fuel economy.

Dynamic really wakes things up with sharper steering feel and more aggressive throttle and transmission mapping. But go one notch more into Race mode and everything changes. In Race mode, the engine runs on more boost, the exhaust is opened up, the car is noticeably louder, and the stability control is turned off. You even get a notice on the dash that says Race mode is best in manual shifting.

Driving Impressions

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - Driven
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Put the car in Normal or Advanced mode, and you can drive around town and enjoy this car just like any other car. But in Race mode, and the personality of the car changes - it becomes an animal.

First off, the exhaust sound of the Ferrari-derived engine is so intoxicating that you want to drive with the windows down and the engine at redline.

The sound of this engine at redline brings a smile to your face, and the blat sound that occurs at every upshift is fantastic. The personality of the Stelvio can be defined by the message on the dashboard when you switch to race mode. It says “Best Race Experience with shifter in manual.” While most other cars want to take away the control from the driver, the Stelvio practically begs the driver to take charge. And, that’s part of what makes the Stelvio special. Something very few cars offer is that personality.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - Driven
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The Stelvio features double wishbone front suspension with an Alfa Link multi-link design rear suspension. The suspension uses composite and aluminum extensively throughout and is designed for great road holding. Throw the car in a corner, and the Stelvio will amaze you with its charm and capability. It is not just about ultimate grip. Lots of cars can produce lots of grip. A Corvette is great at huge numbers but it can’t produce the feel to the driver that the Alfa Romeo can produce.

The steering on the Stelvio has a quick 12:1 ratio and talks to the driver.

Grab the carbon fiber and suede steering wheel, and you can totally understand what the front tires are doing, enabling you to push the car comfortably in any condition. The magic has to be in the dampers. The tuning of the dampers in the Stelvio may not be noticeable to many drivers, but they are a work of art. The body control motions of the Stelvio are so incredibly well controlled mostly because of the damper tuning. Put the car in Race mode, and the ride stiffens up noticeably, but while the ride is always firm, it is never harsh. Very few cars can achieve that level of control. Get out of the Stelvio and get inside most other high-performance SUVs, and you feel like you got inside a car with a wet sponge for a suspension system.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - Driven
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Attack a corner in the Stelvio, and the car rewards you with great communications and great balance. Thanks to the limited-slip differential and the torque vectoring system, you can really drive the Stelvio with minimal understeer.

The Stelvio comes with standard iron brake rotors, but you can order full carbon brakes if you wish for an additional $8,000.

Our car did not have the expensive option, and you won’t need them unless you plan on racing the Stelvio. The Stelvio features a segment-first integrated braking system, replacing a traditional system of electronic stability control (ESC) and brake booster for even more instantaneous braking responsiveness. The innovative electromechanical system improves braking performance through a faster increase in pressure and makes it possible to vary brake feel jointly with the mode selector. This solution also saves weight, but it has received some poor reviews on brake feel around town. If you are a good driver and have a good feel for the brake pedal, you will not have any issues. Otherwise, stopping around town may be a bit jerky, but it will be on you, as the driver.

Interior

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Get inside the cockpit, and the special feeling continues. Our car did not have the optional sport seats, but Alfa Romeo’s standard seats are better than other manufacturers’ sport seats. The standard seats are firm but comfortable, and their range of adjustment was fantastic. They offer adjustable side bolsters that really hold you in.

If you order the $3,500 Sparco carbon fiber seats, you will lose some weight and the heated seats function, but you'll gain even more support.

Final Thoughts

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Alfa Romeo is doing well, and people are beginning to notice. Alfa Romeo sold 23,800 vehicles in 2018 - a 98% increase from 2017. Roughly half of those were the Giulia sedan and the other half the Stelvio. Interestingly, only about 10-percent of Stelvio buyers select the Quadriflglio.

The Stelvio is a very special vehicle that really appeals to the true enthusiast. The average driver will never appreciate or understand what makes this so fantastic, but we are just glad that it exists.

Further reading

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

2017 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Exterior High Resolution
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Read our full review on the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

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