by Karl Furlong
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is proof that labels can be awfully misleading. Just as "sugar-free" or "all-natural" may lead you to believe that you're making healthy choices in the grocery store, the reality is that you're probably being deceived. By the same token, even though the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's spec sheet describes this as an "SUV", nothing about this remarkable vehicle feels SUV-like. This is a sports car that just happens to have a taller body and back seats. The first sign that you've been misled is when you press the red starter button and that tuneful 505-horsepower 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 springs into life. It propels this all-wheel-drive Alfa to 60 mph in only 3.6 seconds. It's also blessed with a poised chassis and communicative steering that make this crossover even more fun to drive than a BMW X3 M. As further proof that this isn't an SUV in the traditional sense, the Stelvio isn't even that spacious at the back, while the trunk is smaller than rivals. Alfa Romeo has duped us and delivered an "SUV" only by name - and that's precisely why we're smitten with the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
For the 2022 model year, the name of the game is simplicity. To this end, Alfa Romeo has dramatically slashed the number of options and packages available by making the most important and popular features standard equipment and offering only a single package and a few standalone options for the rest. This year, additional luxury features seat heating front and rear, a wireless charging pad, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Additional driver-assistance features this year include active blind-spot assist, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Several colors disappear from the list of available exterior paint hues.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.9L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Alfa's reputation for agile, athletic chassis tuning remains firmly intact. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is an absolute blast to drive, and that's not only thanks to its remarkable V6 engine. The super fast steering makes the Stelvio feel lighter than it actually is. In fact, it can take a while to adjust to the Alfa's immediate responses. Of course, the Q4 all-wheel-drive system increases your confidence in less than ideal conditions. Under normal driving, all the available power is directed to the rear axle, with up to 60 percent sent to the front when absolutely necessary.
Regardless of what the AWD system is up to, the driver is always aware of the SUV's exceptional body control, even if its weight means that some lean is detectable through the corners. To customize the driving experience, you can toggle the DNA Pro drive mode selector switch, offering everything from the docile Advanced Efficiency mode to Race mode. The latter unleashes a fruitier exhaust note and reduced intervention of the traction control system. Naturally, you have to be more alert when driving the Stelvio in these settings. A powerful Brembo braking system efficiently brings the SUV to a stop from the high speeds it is capable of reaching.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
As a high-performance SUV with an emphasis on the driving experience, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a true class-leader. Every major element - the powertrain, the chassis, and the steering - not only excels in isolation but blends together with everything else beautifully. That V6 makes a special sound and turns this into an absolute tire-shredder, but thanks to AWD, there's no need to throw away money on tires while still leaving most rival SUVs behind. The playful, well-balanced chassis is a revelation, and the Alfa has looks to die for. If you want a well-rounded luxury SUV, both the BMW and Mercedes provide stonking performance with more space and better build quality at a cheaper price. But are they more memorable? We don't think so.
If you really want to impress the neighbors and prefer your SUV with an even plusher interior, the GLC 63 S isn't a bad way to accomplish both of those goals. It's got a different character to the Stelvio thanks to its 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 engine, but it is just as quick, getting to 60 mph in the same 3.6 seconds. Both SUVs have mediocre trunk capacities, but the GLC boasts a more comfortable and spacious cabin. The Merc's interior is crafted from finer materials and is more advanced, featuring an expansive 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch central display. Both SUVs have rorty exhaust notes and corner more quickly than they should, given their size, but the Alfa's awesome chassis and suspension tuning give it the edge in driving enjoyment. With its slightly lower price and a better reputation for dependability, the GLC seems like the smarter choice, but it's the Alfa that is even more beguiling.
The Alfa officially competes with the smaller BMW X3 M, so is it worth spending the extra money on something larger like the X5 M? At $105,900, the X5 M is comfortably pricier, but that extra outlay does get you a much more sophisticated interior, close to double the cargo space, and a 4.4-liter V8 engine churning out at least 600 horsepower. With the available Competition Package, the big BMW's specs are impressive; it makes 617 horses but will reach 60 mph just two tenths of a second later than the Alfa. Both SUVs have excellent body control and high cornering limits, and whether it's the X5's bassy V8 or the racy V6 in the Alfa, they each sound fantastic. The difference has to do with feel. While the X5 is astonishingly quick, it doesn't communicate much to the driver. It's effective without quite losing that veneer of luxury and isolation. The Alfa is more involving more of the time. If you need a family-friendly SUV with more space, get the BMW. If you want the most fun you can have behind the wheel of an SUV no matter how much space you need to sacrifice, go for the Alfa.
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