The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio or QF for short is one of the quickest and most desirable SUVs that money can buy.
At one time it held the lap record for the Nurburgring in Germany and to this day still rates as one of the five fastest SUVs to lap the 20.8km circuit.
Them’s bragging rights, but the bark from the twin-turbo V6, which exits the rear of the car via a set of four gaping tailpipes — is enough to sell the car by itself.
Stelvio QF is the Alfa you want when you need something to tote the wife and kids, but you’d better be careful not to overstep the mark — or there could be trouble.
What’s it cost?
Stelvio takes its name from a pass in the Italian Alps.
Linking Italy and Switzerland, it’s the highest pass in Europe and its 20km includes 75 hairpin bends, breath-taking views and a climb all the way up to 2743 metres.
Quadrifoglio or QF for short is Italian for four-leaf clover and it is the badge that adorns Alfa’s stable of high performance vehicles.
The five-seat Stelvio is now Alfa’s best-selling model, but like Giulia sedan the range has been quietly rationalised in recent times.
Now there’s just two grades offered: the 206kW four cylinder Veloce, priced from $78,950, and the subject of our test, the heavy-hitting Quadrifoglio from a rarefied $146,950 — both prices before on-road costs.
Justifying the hefty price tag for the Quadrifoglio is a stonking 2.9-litre 375kW twin-turbo V6 developed by Ferrari.
There’s a lot to go with it too. Suffice to say, if you’ve got the dough, the QF delivers in spades.
Underlining the performance is the Alfa’s unique styling, with a plunging, predatory, triangular-shaped grille that has stamped its for decades now, along with a sports body kit, plenty of black bits, those fat exhausts and 21-inch rims, with red brake calipers and Pirelli rubber thrown in.
Inside is a conventional dash, with analogue dials that flank a central information panel, with a combination of metal and fair dinkum carbon-fibre trim, along with heated and heavily bolstered sports seats with power adjustment that includes lumbar.
There’s also ambient lighting, two-zone climate air, stitched leather dashboard and door trim, a model specific steering wheel in leather and alcantara, with carbon fibre trim for the dashboard, centre stack, door panels, and centre console — and a red starter button on the steering wheel just like a race car.
Turning to the centre console, the DNA Pro rotary control provides access to four drive modes in this model, along with a less obvious central button that tones down the suspension settings if required.
DNA stands for Dynamic, Natural and Advanced efficiency, in other words Sport, Normal and Eco, with Dynamic mode delivering sharper brake and steering feel with more aggressive engine, transmission and throttle tip-in calibrations.
The QF adds Race mode which requires the driver to hold the selection for several seconds before it becomes active, with a warning that electronic stability control is no longer active — in other words you’re on your own.
The absence of electronic stability control has been the undoing of many an aspiring driver, but once you venture into Race territory you’ll find it difficult to go back.
Everything is amped up — the noise, throttle response and the speed of gear changes etc.
Infotainment consists of an 8.8-inch touchscreen, with satnav, AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity and 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio.
It can be controlled from the inset 8.8-inch screen, a rotary selector or advanced voice recognition system.
There is one front, two centre and one rear USB port, along with wireless phone charging.
Five-star safety includes six airbags and autonomous emergency braking, with forward collision warning.
There’s also driver attention alert, rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines, active blind spot assist, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring with rear cross path detection.
There’s also something called “Driver Behaviour Warning” but it has probably got nothing to do with the kind of behaviour this car induces.
Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km, with a five-year/75,000km capped-price service plan that totals $2865.
What’s it go like?
It’s quick, Ferrari quick.
The 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 pumps out a staggering 375kW of power and 600Nm of torque, the latter between 2500 and 5000 revs.
Drive is to all four wheels as required through an eight-speed conventional auto, with paddle shifts.
Cylinder deactivation and auto engine stop-start have been factored in to save fuel.
The V6 is constructed of aluminium to reduce weight, but the thing still tips the scales at a substantial 1830kg and comes with a woefully small 64 litre fuel tank for its size.
Can you imagine how long it takes to chew through that? A quick blast was sufficient to drain a quarter of the tank and of course it drinks the good stuff — premium unleaded.
Instead of a claimed 10.2L/100km, we found ourselves quickly getting 13.4L, while spending too much time with your foot on the accelerator is likely to send the figure north.
The specifically calibrated ZF transmission can deliver gear shifts in 150 milliseconds, with a best-in-class top speed of 283km/h and 0-100km/h time of just 3.8 seconds.
Stelvio sits on the same platform as Giulia, but it has been modified and raised 22cm for its new role, with the driver sitting 190mm higher from the ground.
To help reduce weight, it has a carbon fibre drive shaft and extensive use has been made of aluminium for parts such as the doors, bonnet and fenders, as well as for mechanical parts such as brakes and suspension.
The suspension, called AlfaLink, features double wishbones front and an aluminium multi-link configuration at the rear.
The springs are longer than the sedan but stiffer to account for the extra weight and ride height.
The optional 21-inch wheels fitted to our car were clad in Pirelli Pzeros — 255s at the front, 285s down the back
It all adds up to a car that performs and handles exceptionally well for an SUV; indeed better than some high performance sedans.
The all-aluminium engine was reportedly developed exclusively for the Quadrifoglio by Ferrari.
It’s a scaled down version of Ferrari’s own twin-turbocharged F154 CB V8 engine, sharing the California T’s bore and stroke.
The turbochargers are single-scroll units, that have been integrated into the manifold, with water-charge air coolers.
It has side-mounted direct fuel injection, with maximum turbo boost of up to 2.4 bar.
The car is fitted with a torque vectoring diff to help put power to ground and can send up to 100 per cent of torque to either rear wheel.
Dynamic mode delivers sharper brake and steering feel with more aggressive engine, transmission and throttle tip-in calibrations.