Key considerations

  • Available for Β£41,000
  • 2.9-litre V6 petrol turbo, all-wheel drive
  • Quicker over the 0-62mph than the Giulia Quadrifoglio
  • Hugely involving and rapid point to point
  • Infotainment improved post-2020 but still not great
  • Not especially cheap to run but reliability seems good

There’s no point in denying it any longer: the SUV has been fully absorbed into our motoring consciousness. Not just as load luggers that you buy because you have to, but now, thanks to significant advances in chassis design and technology, as versatile vehicles that can handle entertainingly without threatening to fall over halfway through a bend.

Even so, the sight of an SUV wearing an Alfa Romeo badge still came as something of a culture shock in 2016 when the Stelvio was launched at the LA show. Its name suggested suitability for mountain pass charging and the relatively lightweight construction backed that up. A year later you could buy the Stelvio in the UK with a 2.2-litre diesel offering up to 207hp, or a 2.0-litre petrol with as much as 276hp, but these models, while worthy enough in their own right, were of little import to the hardcore PHer who had eyes only for the 503hp/442lb ft Quadrifoglio.

This model was powered by the excellent all-aluminium 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 from the generally brilliant Giulia Quadrifoglio. It was bolted to a ZF eight-speed twin-clutch auto gearbox. Unlike the rear-drive Quad saloon, up to half of the Maserati-sourced Q4-equipped Stelvio’s torque could be routed to the front wheels, but that only happened in the case of rear-wheel slippage. The default setting was resolutely rear-drive. Slotted into that relatively light body, this drivetrain whizzed the Stelvio Quad around the NΓΌrburgring in under 7 minutes 52 seconds, a record for the class until the Mercedes-AMG GLC63S came along.

At the 2018 Geneva show an NRING edition was launched to celebrate the Stelvio’s achievement around the Nordschleife. The power and torque outputs were unchanged but carbon-ceramic brakes, Sparco carbonfibre seats, carbonfibre interior trim, a Mopar-branded gear shifter and Mopar floor mats all became standard equipment, as did ‘NRING’ badges and carbonfibre mirror caps and side skirts.

The Stelvio Quad’s rapidity wasn’t just a function of its power. It also benefitted from a torque-vectoring rear diff, an engine positioned usefully far back behind the front axle, and independent settings for the suspension and drivetrain. You accessed the electronic part of the package via a rotary ‘DNA’ control, whose letters stood for Dynamic, Natural (a bit contrived to make the acronym work) and Advanced Efficiency (even more contrived) which shut down cylinders to reduce fuel consumption. ‘Race’, which disabled all the traction aids, was perhaps the unlikeliest mode of the lot given the shape of the car. Get the combination right for the prevailing conditions however and you’d be goggling at the mix of turn-in, body control, grip, in-corner security and, when the traction control was backed off, sportscar-like adjustability. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio put a lot of sport-oriented non-SUVs to shame.

A mid-life refresh in mid-2020 brought improvements in infotainment and refinement which we’ll detail later, as well as smoked taillights, new alloy wheels, a choice of brake caliper colours, a new black surround for the grille, and a hike in the RRP to Β£74,600. An Akrapovic exhaust was on the options list.

Most if not all manufacturers who have built an the SUV have found it to be their top selling product. It’s been no different in the case of Alfa’s first production SUV. Where things have stayed the same has been in the area of depreciation. Even though it’s hard nowadays to find much evidence pointing to Alfa as being worse than any other marque in terms of quality and reliability, old reputations do die hard. A lot of careful brand-building will need to go on over the next few years for Alfa Romeo to be perceived in the same light as firms like Porsche.

The good thing about the current gap between actual and perceived quality is that it presents an opportunity for the savvy buyer looking for a Stelvio Quadrifoglio at an attractive price. We’ve found higher mileage three-year old cars at Β£41,500, which is a hefty Β£28,000 saving on the new cost of nearly Β£70,000. For under Β£50k you can be looking at cars with just 20k miles.

SPECIFICATION | ALFA ROMEO STELVIO QUADRIFOGLIO (2017-on)

Engine: 2,891cc V6 24v twin turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500rpm
0-62mph (secs): 3.8
Top speed (mph): 176
Weight (kg): 1,905
MPG (official combined): 31.4
CO2 (g/km): 210
Wheels (in): 9 x 20
Tyres: 255/45 (f), 285/40 (r)
On sale: 2017-on
Price new: Β£41,500
Price now: from Β£69,500

Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.

ENGINE & GEARBOX

Despite being well over 200kg heavier than the Giulia Quad, the all-wheel drive performance version of the Stelvio scampered through the 0-62mph noticeably more quickly than its rear-wheel drive sibling in the real (non-brochure) world. We’re talking over half a second quicker. Not that the hot Giulia was slow: anything in the mid to low four-second bracket is seriously shifting, but when you’re in the high threes in a near-two tonne SUV it’s impossible not to admire the matching of this superb engine to the all-wheel drive and Chassis Domain Control systems, which didn’t even need a launch control to fire you up the road at these crazy rates. Top speed was not limited to 155mph, but a 190mph Giulia Quad would leave your Stelvio limping along behind at a mere 177mph.

The power came in with a real hit after 5,000rpm and it sounded great too. We used to forgive turbocharged engines for being muffled but this car made you wonder why that was ever a thing. You wouldn’t ever describe the engine as refined, but if refinement was important to you you’d probably be driving something else. The Quad’s cannoning roar was joyfully unfettered in Race mode. On early cars the exhaust valves were only fully open in Race mode. We think that they were also open in Dynamic mode on mid-2020-on cars. If we’re wrong on that and they are only open in Race mode, or you want your pre-refresh car to have the big noise facility without needing to have all the safety controls switched off, the aftermarket will sell you a remote fob system that will activate the valves in any mode for a little over Β£300 (VAT included).

Common drivetrain issues are rare but electronic throttle error messages have been known to come up. Some early (2018) cars suffered from coolant leaks caused by a poor quality hose which was replaced under warranty in October 2018. On tuning, the internet suggests that at least one owner has taken his car up to 670hp and 590lb ft. A basic remap should hoist power to 585hp for about Β£720 inc VAT. A cat back exhaust will typically cost around Β£2,750 including VAT.

The eight-speed transmission delivering torque via a carbon fibre propshaft was well up to the job almost all of the time. Downshifts in Normal mode could sometimes seem a little hesitant if you weren’t decisive with your right foot, but switching to Race mode sorted everything out.

The Stelvio as a range had a few reliability issues in its early years (pre-2020), including corrosion-related electrical difficulties affecting things like the tailgate, starting and satnav, plus misfires and overheating, but the Quad doesn’t seem to have had anywhere near as many problems. Some of that will obviously be down to the substantially smaller number of cars made, but anecdotally the Quad’s record looks pretty solid.

The standard battery has generated a fair amount of chat online for being weak, with quite a few owners noticing the battery light coming on after only a few days of the car not being drivem. The stop-start mechanism didn’t help much in that regard. You could disable it with a dash button but that command wouldn’t ‘stick’, ie you’d have to do it on every drive. Some owners have elected to have the s/s mech permanently disabled. There is a bypass cable available.

You wouldn’t go for one of these cars if your aim was to minimise motoring costs. The official combined fuel consumption was 31.4mpg but you could easily knock ten off that in spirited driving and twenty off it in full hoon mode. It doesn’t have a big petrol tank either so don’t push it much over 250 miles before the next fill.

The warranty was two years with an extra year from the dealer. In mid 2018 Alfa Romeo brought in a ‘5-3-5′ package for the UK – 5 years’ new car warranty (albeit with a 75,000 mile cap), 3 years’ free scheduled servicing and 5 years’ roadside breakdown cover – but it was only for retail customers, not those on PCP deals, and only on ‘selected models’. We’re not sure that the Quads were part of that. Servicing costs at a non-network specialist are along the lines of Β£380 for the 9,000 mile service, Β£550 for the main 18k one (including brake fluid change), and approaching Β£1,300 for the 36k which adds new spark plugs and aux belts to the brake fluid. A straight oil and filter change will be around Β£250. All those costs are inclusive of parts and VAT.

CHASSIS

At the beginning we mentioned the chassis advances that have basically worked miracles in transforming tall, wobbly vehicles into taut-handling, wieldy vehicles. That’s underselling it actually. Over time, the on-road attitude-sharpening attributes of all-wheel drive have been given more of a leading role without compromising AWD’s traditional talents for getting you out of an off-road mess. When big power is in play AWD might even be preferable to the holy grail of rear-wheel drive. That’s a discussion for a pub near you.

What is indisputable in the Stelvio’s case was the excellence of its handling, SUV or no SUV. The classic suspension setup of double-wishbone front, multilink rear was augmented by the use of aluminium for many of the components plus adaptive dampers and Alfa’s Chassis Domain Control system which managed shift, throttle, traction and stability control settings. The steering was quick and the ride, although naturally on the firm side in the ‘hotter’ modes, was more than acceptable even along evil B-roads. A popular combination for the UK was Dynamic mode with the dampers set to soft.

Carbon ceramic brakes were available as an option but they could be squeaky and they weren’t as quick to warm up as other CC systems. Even when they were warm, testers weren’t convinced they were that much better than the regular steel discs, which were 360mm at the front with six-piston calipers and 350mm at the back with four-piston calipers. Whatever you had, the brake-by-wire pedal feel wasn’t brilliant at low speeds.

INTERIOR

Inside, the Stelvio’s humble origins added some fuel to the argumentative fire about the material superiority of German rivals like the (admittedly Β£10k more expensive) AMG GLC63S. The visual impact of some of the Stelvio’s various carbon trim pieces did leave something to be desired, as did the quality of the lower plastics, but the Alfa clawed some ground back with its regular-touch items like the lovely steering wheel and the sumptuous column-mounted aluminium shifter paddles. Although its driving position was obviously higher than a saloon’s it wasn’t so high as to alienate those who had never driven an SUV before.

Standard kit included (on pre-mid-2020 models at any rate) an 8in wheel-controlled screen that had Apple CarPlay and Android capability but not the digi-crispness of those pesky German rivals. The refreshed cars came with better infotainment. It was still not quite up to German standards, and the bigger (8.8-inch) screen became touch- rather than wheel-controlled, which for some was a backwards step, even if you still had the iDrive type knob in the reformatted and more carbon fibrous centre console.

Every Stelvio Quad had all-round parking sensors, a rear-view camera, an electric sunroof and the possibility of sensor-related issues which could blight any electrical componentry at any time. Options included grippy carbon-shelled Sparco bucket seats if you didn’t mind the SUV disconnect. Mid-2020 and later cars saw the arrival of level 2 autonomous driving assistance which meant they would start, stop, and follow traffic and lane markings.

Β£950 bought you a Harmon Kardon Sound Theatre system, not a bad shout if you wanted to block out some of the less appealing external noise that found its way into the cabin, mainly from the tyres but also from the door mirrors. Seatbelts could rattle when you were on the harder suspension settings. Refreshed cars had better sound insulation in the console, instrument panel and trans tunnel.

At 525 litres the Stelvio boot was only 45 litres roomier than the Giulia saloon’s, and only 20 litres bigger than it if you included the space-saver spare, but at least you didn’t have the Giulia’s lip to lift cargo over. With the back seats down (not completely flat) the space went up to 1,600 litres, which was 100 litres more than the Porsche Macan’s.

BODYWORK

In an attempt to rein in weight, the Quad’s doors, bonnet and wheel arches were made of aluminium. Special colours like Misano Blue were a Β£770 option. Screen wiper motors on 2018 Stelvios (not just Quads) could go into limp mode.

PH VERDICT

In the Stelvio Quadrofoglio you had just about all of the Giulia Quadrofoglio’s driver appeal and character, which was considerable, along with very useful bonus features like serious cargo-carrying ability and a commanding but still quite sporty driving position. The deep driving involvement came at the small price of reduced ride comfort and a need to be on your game if you were really pressing on, but these shouldn’t really be viewed as negatives so much as the natural characteristics of a truly sporting car – albeit in a body format that didn’t look all that sporting.

We mentioned depreciation in the overview, and it’s true that you would lose a lot of money on a three-year old example, but you’d lose even more cash on a Mercedes-AMG GLC63S. If value retention is your only concern, get a Porsche Macan Turbo. If you’d like to balance that with more than a sprinkling of joyous exuberance, the Stelvio should be on your shortest short list, maybe along with the Maserati Levante Trofeo.

The most affordable example on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this Β£42,950 2018 car in Montecarlo Blue with the Harmon Kardon audio upgrade and just under 60,000 miles recorded. There’s a good selection of sub-Β£50k/sub-20,000-mile cars around. This grey 17,000-miler from 2019 is a nice example at Β£49,795.

You shouldn’t have to spend a lot more than Β£60k to get into the most recent and lowest-mileage cars. Here’s a black 10k car at Β£61,500. At the higher end of the market you’ll find the NRING cars. There were two of these on PH Classifieds when we were putting this guide together. This is the cheapest of them, a 10,000-miler at Β£69,990.



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