Ian Lamming laments the unforgiving nature of one of the world’s sportiest SUVs.
AHA! Now I get it…
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio has set the SUV record lap times at Silverstone, Donington Park and Brands Hatch, which explains more than you could possibly know.
As the crumbling roads of England battered me senseless, each lump, bump and undulation threatening to hurl me and the Alfa into oblivion, several thoughts struck me; just how awful are our asphalt arterial networks and this car really belongs on the track – yes, an SUV that is more suited to a circuit than the road.
A combination of freeze thaw action, torrential rain with associated floods and too-large-for-the-roads lorries have completely done for our highways.
Now, while most long-travel suspension set-ups fitted to our humdrum SUVs manage to mask the very worst examples, the race-bred stubs attached to all four corners of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio forgive nothing – ouch! No wonder it is so quick on the track but painful on the road.
So when you take the chunky wheel of this all-wheel-drive monster, for the sake of your muscular skeletal form, either head abroad or tiptoe to the local circuit for a track day.
Ignore this at your peril because if you try and unleash those 510 horses upon the world then expect a two-handed, white knuckle ride – yee haa. It’s like a rodeo bucking bronco in a grump.
Quadrifoglio is the sportiest Stelvio there is and its slightly enhanced looks and larger alloy wheels only hint at what lies beneath. Somehow, the 2.9-litre, V6, manifests a staggering 510hp, probably thanks to the twin turbos. When it does, it bellows a soul-stirring, dead-waking, heaven-shattering cacophony that belongs in a sportscar not an SUV and rewards with an ear-to-ear smile-splitting beam of delight.
A quick-changing, eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox muscles the power to the tarmac via all-wheel-drive, spitting the Stelvio towards the horizon at an alarming rate, accompanied by spleen-shattering ride. Frantic! Fun! Yes! But a tad wearying on the school run, and expensive too thanks to 22mpg fuel consumption – gulp.
Inside there is little to cosset as the sports seats grapple with your battered frame. It’s like being held in a body-slam and pin-down movement so the local bully can batter you – or is it just me being a complete wimp?
It would be wrong to blame the car. It is after all designed to behave like a sports car with rapier responses, peerless body control and dynamic ride. But given the state of the roads it is hard to make the most of such traits, which is tragic.
Inside, it is pure Stelvio – well-appointed and equipped, spacious and practical. There are swathes of leather, Alcantara and carbon fibre, including the complete back of the front sports seats; very nice.
But the sad conclusion, as we depart the European Union, is that we, or at least our British roads, are not worthy of a car built with such passion and the single-mindedness of Italian engineers.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Q4
Engine: 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo
0-62mph: 3.8 secs
Top speed: 176mph
Combined MPG: 24.6
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
CO2 g/km: 222
Price: £69,510.00 (£77,955.00 including accessories)