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Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q 2019 review

By Alex Inwood, 22 Mar 2019 Reviews

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q 2019 review

Italy turns its hand to the performance SUV; passion and panache ensue

WHAT IS THE ALFA ROMEO STELVIO Q?

It’s Alfa Romeo’s first SUV, and this particular variant - dubbed Stelvio Q - is the one we’ve been waiting for. It’s the fast one (0-100km/h takes 3.8sec), the good-looking one, the one with the iconic four-leaf clover stuck to the side and ‘Quadrifoglio’ added to the name. Think of it as a Giulia Quadrifoglio with a jacked-up ride height, the same drivetrain, and a rear-biased four-wheel-drive system and you’re most of the way there.

Read next: 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio pricing and features

WHY WE’RE TESTING IT

Fascinatingly, Alfa says that if you break down the sales split of the Giulia sedan, a full 30 percent are for the high-performance Quadrifoglio variant. Even accounting for Australia’s love of all things performance, that’s a high number. It also bodes well for the Stelvio Q. Australia has gone SUV mad, so if the Stelvio can match or surpass the Giulia’s numbers, it promises to be a significant model for the brand.

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO Q REVIEW

A FORMULA 1 circuit is ideal for many things, except, you might think, for launching a new SUV. And of all the tracks on the F1 calendar, Melbourne’s Albert Park seems a particularly foolhardy choice. Wide, fast and flowing, its cocktail of high-speed turns and big, hard stops followed by fiddly chicanes is the kind of place to destroy an SUV; a cauldron of speed seemingly designed to expose the inherent dynamic flaws that come with a higher ride height and more weight.

NOW READ: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio review

But then again, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q (short for Quadrifoglio), is no ordinary SUV. It was a Nurburgring lap record holder (until its pesky rival from Mercedes-AMG stole it), and is actually quicker around the infamous German circuit than a Lamborghini Gallardo. 

This shouldn’t be a surprise, really, given what’s lurking beneath the Stelvio Q’s taut bodywork. The engine, gearbox and suspension are all lifted directly from the Giulia QV super sedan, and even the most significant addition – the four-wheel-drive system – has been tuned with performance in mind.

It’s a rear-biased set-up, and unless the car starts to slide or grapple for grip, 100 percent of the Stelvio Q’s 375kW/600Nm is set solely to the rear Pirellis. Nice.

Deploy all of this on a slightly damp Albert Park and the Stelvio Q is disarmingly fast. So potent is Alfa’s 2.9-litre V6 that it feels every bit as quick as the Giulia QV in a straight line, despite the fact that the Q is carrying an additional 245kg. Alfa claims it’ll rocket from 0-100km/h in 3.8sec, putting it on par with the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S as the quickest SUV in this class. 

Sounds good too, with a flamboyant, operatic howl that’s the polar opposite of the wet V8 rumble you get in the Benz. The same applies to the way they corner. Where the AMG bludgeons the laws of physics into submission, the Alfa is lighter on its feet with razor sharp steering, crisp throttle response and an inherent sense of balance.

It feels, it has to be said, like a Giulia, with the only real dynamic sacrifice found in the braking zones where there’s noticeable pitch when you deploy the impressively resilient steel stoppers (carbon ceramics are a $12K option).

Read next: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti performance review

As with the Giulia QV, you have four driving modes to play with, running from Advanced Efficiency, through Natural, Dynamic and Race. Get greedy with the throttle in Race mode and the Q’s rear-drive bias and lax electronic safety net mean you’ll need to be quick with your hands, yet this only contributes to the Stelvio’s sense of excitement and flair. It feels expertly engineered; created by people who understand a performance SUV shouldn’t only be fast, but fun too.

What Albert Park’s smooth surface doesn’t offer is any sense of how the Stelvio Q rides on large 20-inch wheels. And if you spend some time poking around the interior, it doesn’t take long to realise the material quality and fit and finish aren’t as convincing as rivals from Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-AMG. The seating position is also a little high and rear vision is compromised by the shallow rear glass.

Yet if you’re someone who cares about the sensation of driving, not only in regards to lap times but in the enjoyment that it brings, and you’re absolutely committed to buying an SUV over a sedan or wagon (we’d buy a fast wagon over a fast SUV any day of the week), the Stelvio Q delivers on both counts.

In the news: Mid-sized SUV surge as sports cars tumble

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO Q VS RIVALS

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S; Porsche Macan Turbo; BMW X3M

WHEELS’ VERDICT

Does anyone really need a 375kW/600Nm SUV capable of lapping the Nurburgring faster than a Lamborghini? The answer, of course, is no, but we’re glad the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q exists. It looks fantastic, sounds even better and delivers a degree of dynamic ability and personality that put it right at the pointy end of this class.

PLUS: Visual aggression and presence; one of the best V6s in the business; retains much of the Giulia’s handling prowess; unmistakably Italian
MINUS: Additional kegs compared to Giulia; good luck getting 10.2L/100km; seating position a smidge too high

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO Q PRICE AND SPECS AUSTRALIA

Model: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q
Engine: 2.9-litre V60 (90), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo
Max power: 375kW @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 600Nm @ 2500-5000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic 
Weight: 1830kg
0-100km/h: 3.8sec (claimed)
Economy: 10.2L/100km
Price: $149,900
On sale: Now