That's not a car...it's an insane Alfa Romeo on stilts
FIVE things we learned about the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q.
1. It sounds magnificent
The Alfa Romeo badge shows a man escaping the maw of an enormous serpent. Imagine a snarling, Hulk-like hero fighting to tear open the jaws of an anaconda - the Stelvio Q might sound like that. It roars, burps and growls with a ripping soundtrack that makes rivals feel comparatively muted. Gearchanges in race mode are accompanied by a percussive clap that makes every pull of the oversized alloy paddle-shifters an occasion, particularly at high engine speeds. Unlike most modern turbo engines that deliver their best in the lower half of the rev range, the Stelvio's revels when wound out to its operatic redline, rewarding drivers with a mighty voice and exhilarating performance. Q certainly does not mean quiet.
2. Styling is subjective
The Stelvio appears sharp to our eyes. Muscular and purposeful, the wagon looks strong on 20-inch wheels with Pirelli tyres and massive Brembo brakes. Alfa nailed the balance between powerful volumes and pretty details, resulting in a machine that looks magic in optional ($4550) tri-coat metallic paint.
3. Decent value for money
Priced from $149,900 plus on-roads, the Alfa mixes luxury SUV and performance car traits. The cabin is home to lovely leather, soft Alcantara and glossy carbon. As expected for a car of this class, enthusiasts can tailor it to their own specifications. Sparco carbon-fibre seats ($7150), yellow brake calipers ($910) and extra Alcantara and carbon for the steering wheel ($650) take the total to $161,160 plus on-roads. Standard on the safety front are six airbags, autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control and lane departure warning. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen runs satnav, Apple CarPlay and 14-speaker Harmon Kardon audio. On some surfaces, the finish falls short of the most luxurious in the class but does enough to make you feel special.
4. It's plenty fast
The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 sends 375kW/600Nm to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. The high-riding wagon sprints from rest to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds on to its top speed of 283km/h. Among rivals, the Alfa is a full second quicker to 100km/h than Porsche's Macan Turbo and it matches Mercedes-AMG's similarly powerful GLC 63 S. It's quicker than coming contenders such as BMW's X3M, the V8-powered Jaguar F-Pace SVR and, thanks to all-paw traction, even its Giulia sedan stablemate. It can't reach the slippery four-door's 307km/h top speed.
5. But a mixed bag on the road
The Stelvio, also struggling to replicate the Giulia's comparatively supple ride, feels stiff and bouncy on urban roads. Alfa Romeo originally launched the car on track at the Australian Grand Prix, a clever move as this model shines brightest when driven hard. In common with the manufacturer's star F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen, the Stelvio seems to endure everyday life before coming alive when asked to go as fast as possible. It's a genuinely engaging and entertaining performance car when you press on - possibly the best driver's car in its class on a Sunday afternoon. But Monday morning traffic might make you glance wistfully at other machines.