But it has a few foibles you should know about.
After traipsing around the 2019 New York Auto Show and reporting on all of the latest reveals, I decided to take a much-needed vacation in my home state of Pennsylvania. To make the road trip more memorable, I wanted a fast vehicle with lots of horsepower. But I knew I'd also have to carry around my luggage from the trip, as well as various friends and family members, hence the decision to borrow a 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
The Stelvio is Alfa's compact SUV, named after a famous driving road on the border of Italy and Switzerland. Quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover in Italian) is Alfa's performance division, akin to BMW's M or Mercedes-AMG. Before the GLC 63 S Coupe stole its crown, the Stelvio QV was the quickest SUV to ever lap the Nurburgring, making it the ideal cargo hauler for a car enthusiast on vacation.
The first leg of my vacation involved getting out of New York City, which was more difficult than I expected. Manhattan traffic is among the most tedious and aggressive in the US, so it was far from the perfect place to test the Stelvio QV's 505 hp 2.9-liter twin-turbo, Ferrari-inspired V6. Instead, I became familiar with the Stelvio's brakes, which are grabby at low speeds. Since I rarely exceeded five miles per hour on my 45-minute trek into the tunnel, the brakes felt cumbersome the entire way.
My tester did have the $1,550 Driver Assistant Package with adaptive cruise control but because of how aggressive New York City drivers are, the system left too much of a gap between me and the car ahead, leaving me to modulate the brakes on my own. Driving through Manhattan also gave me a great opportunity to become frustrated with Alfa's stop-start system, which has the grace of a 450-pound ballerina and the smoothness of a blender filled with rocks. As a city car then, the Stelvio QV is far from perfect.
While traveling out of NY, I also experienced what would be the first of two occasions where the Stelvio's infotainment system would stop functioning. Unlike any other FCA brand, Alfa Romeo does not use Uconnect, but instead developed its own system. Once I was properly acquainted with the system, I found it easy to comprehend and simple to operate. But it also failed spectacularly.
The first major issue was the radio playing static on all channels and the system refusing to connect to any Bluetooth devices. Not ideal in a city where driving with a phone in your hand is a $150 fine. The only way to solve the issue was to turn off the car and let it completely reboot over the course of an hour or so. This happened twice in just seven days with the car, so hopefully Alfa is aware of this and is working hard on a comprehensive solution.
Once I was finally out on the highway, I was able to experience the Quadrifoglio's massive power. Passing other cars was a breeze but getting the car to deliver smaller bursts of power isn't a simple task. The Stelvio loves to deliver its 505 hp in big gulps, with a deep roar emitted from the quad exhaust pipes. But aside from its gobs of power, the Stelvio isn't a remarkable highway cruiser. The ride is unbearably stiff for an SUV, though the soft suspension modes do slightly lessen the pain.
There is also a significant amount of road noise from the tires and the wing mirrors, so don't buy the Stelvio expecting a bank vault-style level of sound insulation. And while the precise steering would be perfect for blasting down a mountain road, it felt cumbersome on the highway. If the Stelvio is hit by a crosswind, be prepared to do some steering adjustment. Alfa's Driving Assistance Package includes lane departure warning but lane keep assist is not available.
Although the Stelvio isn't the most luxurious SUV on the market, my passengers and luggage didn't seem to have any issues during my vacation. With the second row in place, the Stelvio offers up 18.5 cubic feet of storage. The rear seats fold using levers mounted in the trunk and the rear seats to provide a generous 56.5 cubic feet of space, though my large suitcase never required me to fold them down.
My passengers were perfectly happy with the 31.9 inches of legroom in the rear seats but one of my larger friends noted that the bolstered front seats felt too tight. Even though I'm not a small person by any stretch, I was perfectly comfortable in the Stelvio's base seats even on longer journeys. The more aggressive Recaro racing buckets likely would have been too snug for my tastes.
At this point, the Stelvio QV had proved itself to be an average SUV with a Ferrari heart that was beginning to beat rapidly. I was eventually able to venture out to a more rural part of Pennsylvania where I could place the car into its Race Mode and truly experience why it is so great. On the winding back roads of the Keystone State, the Stelvio came into its own, practically fooling me into thinking I was driving a sedan rather than an SUV.
If you care about driving, the Stelvio should sit at the top of your SUV shopping list. Power is prodigious and the steering feels lightning quick. Even though those brakes are annoying at slow speeds, they do an excellent job bringing the 4,300-pound SUV to a stop. If all of this wasn't enough, the soundtrack from the Ferrari-derived V6 is sonorous enough to make a prison warden smile.
Although my time with the Stelvio was filled with a few technical glitches, I haven't been able to get the SUV out of my head. Part of me would have preferred to spend my vacation in a low-riding performance wagon like the E63 AMG but then I would have had to worry about scrapping it over bumps and driveways. The Stelvio QV's unique combination of Ferrari-inspired driving dynamics, practical cargo-hauling capacity, and high ride height make it one of the best vacation vehicles imaginable for a car enthusiast. I would like to see Alfa Romeo smooth out the ride and iron out some of the electronic kinks but as it sits, the Stelvio QV is an SUV I would be happy to take another vacation with.