What is it?
The last blast for Alfa Romeo's evidently short-lived petrol-powered performance SUV. The Italian brand has committed to an all-electric future, with an all-new, battery-powered Stelvio set to arrive by 2026, but before then the internal combustion engine gets one last hurrah.
This 2024 model year update isn't grand in scale, limited to some suspension tweaks, new headlights and a new digital instrument panel, but this mid-size SUV – along with its Giulia sedan sibling – will be the last petrol-powered Alfa Romeo's to wear the Quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover) badge.
Does it have any racing pedigree?
By a convenient quirk of fate, 2023 also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the Quadrifoglio performance sub-brand for Alfa Romeo. Since 1923 the Italian firm's racing and high-performance cars have all worn the clover leaf.
It was originally painted on one of the company's 1923 Targa Florio entries as a good luck charm, and when that car won the race it became the team's unofficial emblem. Since then it has come to signify Alfa Romeo's most dynamic cars, gracing the likes of the Giulia Super Ti, 33, 75 and Spider.
To underscore this racing heritage, the brand took us to Autodrome de Montlhéry, a 99-year-old circuit that was the scene of some of Alfa Romeo's most famous racing moments, to test drive the new Stelvio Q at speed.
Montlhéry is famous for its steeply banked oval (made famous in Ken Block's Gymkhana 3 video), but we drove it on the demanding road course layout, which proved a good test of the Stelvio's dynamic capabilities.
What's under the bonnet?
Alfa Romeo hasn't made any changes under the bonnet, sticking with the same Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine that has been the backbone of these final internal combustion Quadrifoglio models.
Good for 375kW of power and 600Nm of torque, this V6 is a fantastic engine – revving hard and quickly to deliver punch whenever you need it. So much so, Alfa Romeo claims the Stelvio Q can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds – very rapid for a mid-size SUV capable of taking a small family.
The engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel drive system. These combine to give the Stelvio a driving character that makes it feel easy to extract the best from the potent engine. There's no scrambling for grip when you accelerate hard, the Stelvio Q simply launches forward.
How does it handle?
One of the major changes for this final petrol-powered model is a re-tune of the suspension and steering, with Alfa Romeo's engineers taking lessons learnt from the Giulia GTAm program and applying them to the Stelvio Q.
It means faster steering and a more responsive chassis, which translates to an SUV that handles better than many of its peers. We put that to the test at Montlhéry, with its undulating road course featuring some challenging corners and a rough, road-like surface (rather than a smooth, grippy one).
The Stelvio Q handled it with relative ease, showing off its power down the long straights, quickly getting to nearly 200km/h and then hanging on in the corners better than an SUV really should. The Stelvio turns directly, holds its line and then punches out the other side of any bend.
The slower speed, change of direction was more challenging, but it was still impressive. In fact, the only area of concern on the track were the tracks, which began to smell very hot after just two flying laps – albeit one with three big stops from high speed.
On the road the Stelvio Q was impressive again, comfortably handling both motorway cruising or gliding along country back roads. It's a highly-capable and multi-talented SUV and one worthy of carrying the famous green clover leaf.
Where would you most like to drive it?
While driving it on the track was an enjoyable experience, if you want an Alfa Romeo for regular circuit work you'd be better off in the Giulia sedan. The Stelvio Q feels more at home on the open road, carving its way through a sweeping country road – like New South Wales' famous Bells Line of Road or Victoria's Great Ocean Road.
What's the interior like?
This is one department where Alfa Romeo could have made more effort to close the gap to their German rivals. While clearly a very sporty cabin, the use of so many dark materials – even though it's a nice mixture of leather and Alcantara – makes it feel a bit drab inside. It's not helped by an infotainment system that feels a generation behind the best in-market, with a small screen and busy interface.
However, Alfa Romeo did make one major change for this updated model, adding a new 12.3-inch digital instrument display, replacing the twin round analog dials. They've opted to recreate the dials digitally and the graphics are inspired by the brand's classic models from the 1960s and ‘70s, which look great. Going digital has allowed for multiple displays depending on the drive mode selected, with ‘Race' providing a clearer, central info display, while ‘Dynamic' and ‘Normal' modes have their own. Disappointingly, the difference between the latter two displays is extremely minor (Dynamic gets three red lines for the redline, Normal has one') so it feels like Alfa Romeo could have done more to take advantage of the new screen.
How much does the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio cost?
Locally pricing hasn't been confirmed for the new model, but expect it to be slightly above the current $153,500 (plus on-road costs) ask, to account for the new equipment and inflation.
Would I buy one?
Alfa Romeos aren't for everyone, and buying an Audi or BMW is the more sensible choice – but not the most exciting choice.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a genuinely fun and enjoyable SUV to drive, which is different from one that's just fast. There are plenty of ‘fast' SUVs these days, with powerful petrol, diesel or electric motors, but creating one that really engages with the driver is a harder task that few have achieved.
It's not perfect, the interior is still slightly underwhelming, but like all great Alfa Romeo's it overcomes its flaws with its ability to put a smile on your face whenever you drive it.