Launched in 2017 as a 2018 model, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio helped reinvent the Italian nameplate into a true premium performance brand to be taken seriously. The twin-turbocharged midsized SUV powered its way around the famed Nürburgring in an impressive 7 minutes 51.7 seconds, which was good enough to claim the title of the fastest SUV around the ring at the time.
Since then, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio has won tons of awards but never really gained traction in sales in the North American market. It left us wondering, how could a vehicle with such performance and pedigree obtain so many awards yet is virtually non-existent on the roads of North America? Well, Alfa Romeo was nice enough to send us a 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio for the week to experience for ourselves.
For the 2020 model year, Alfa Romeo decided to improve the driver’s experience rather than give the Stelvio a facelift. Inside, the Alfa team tried to address their customer’s biggest issues with a redesigned center console, a new machined-knurled aluminum-look rotary dial, upgraded knob materials, updated infotainment, and increased storage capacity.
Painted in a handsome Montecarlo Blue exterior color, our 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a great-looking vehicle from the outside. The Alfa Romeo DNA can be seen no matter which way you look at the vehicle. We got a lot of compliments everywhere we took the vehicle, but Alfa’s biggest problem is brand recognition. Even in Metro Detroit, where Stelvios are plentiful in the suburbs, only one person that approached us knew that it was the high-performance Quadrifoglio model, let alone an Alfa Romeo product.
Even though we are fans of Stelvio’s overall exterior styling, we feel that for the added price of the Quadrifoglio model, there should be more styling to set the four-leaf clover wearing performance model apart from the standard models.
Climbing inside the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, most tall or heavier set Americans will notice that the Stelvio is smaller than it looks. The heavily bolstered front seats are made more for smaller European passengers than larger Americans. If you are over 6-foot tall, you will notice that the headrest does adjust to fit taller drivers. However, the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the lack of power-adjustable pedals make a tall person such as myself, have a hard time finding a comfortable driving position. When I ultimately did get comfortable, I still felt that such options should have been equipped on a $94,395 vehicle, like our tester.
While we felt the interior felt smaller than it looked, we would have ordered the optional dual-pane sunroof (a $1,350 option) to make the interior feel a little less claustrophobic.
When it comes to looks and materials, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio offers an amazing-looking interior with lots of amazing materials used throughout the cabin. The leather-wrapped dash with green and white contrast stitching looked not only sporty but very upscale. We noticed that even the hard plastics hidden out of the driver’s main focus areas felt high quality and were better than what you find in most cars on the road today.
The biggest disappointment of the entire driving experience has to be the new 8.8-inch “Alfa Connect” touchscreen infotainment system. While it is a massive improvement over the 2019 model with the addition of touchscreen capability, we found that its functionality was difficult to use for those who aren’t used to the system. Even though the system features an 8.8-inch screen, it is narrow height-wise and long width-wise. The system uses a mouse-like knob and rotary dial knob to control the functions of the screen functions and radio control when the driver is behind the wheel and doesn’t have time to read the small fonts or small icons used on the system.
We wish Alfa Romeo would have adapted the Uconnect touchscreen systems like the Fiat and Maserati brands have. I think that would have been the best option for such an amazing-looking interior and changing the rotary knob and mouse-like knob to physical knobs or buttons would have been easier to use when driving.
That said, not everything is negative about the current infotainment system. The graphics used as the Alfa Connect system’s backgrounds are some of the most creative and best-looking graphics on an infotainment system that we have ever seen. It is just a shame that it’s so difficult to use. It is also important to mention just how good the Harman Kardon® premium audio system is. It provides crystal clear audio, great bass, without any distortion, even at the highest volume.
We were surprised to see that the Stelvio had a lot of room behind its rear seats to load items. It made our trip to the local Sam’s Club easier than we thought and we didn’t even have to put the rear seats down to load all of our items in.
Other highlights of the interior had to be the wireless phone charger placement located just in front of the center armrest. The wireless charger made getting to your phone a breeze and unlike many wireless chargers, you only had to place your phone in the dedicated spot once for it to start charging. The other highlight was the automatic shifter. While it is more in line with premium offerings like Audi and BMW, the electronic shifter with a push-button park setting had a learning curve to get used to it. However, it was effortless to use after familiarizing yourself with the process.
Underneath the hood of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 delivering 505 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque mated to an 8-speed ZF-sourced 8HP75 automatic transmission (the same unit used in HEMI-powered Ram 1500 pickups). Power gets to the ground through Alfa’s amazing Q4 all-wheel-drive system. It allows the Quadrifoglio to achieve a 0 to 60 mph time as quick as 3.6-seconds and a quarter-mile time of 11.8-seconds @ 116.1 mph as shown by MotorTrend.
When you put the Stelvio Quadrifoglio in “Race Mode”, the twin-turbocharged V6 shines. When you hit the gas, you get a slight delay before boost builds and pins you to your seat just as hard if not harder than any Hellcat Redeye will do. The twin IHI turbochargers have no problem building boost, but the system should be even better in the years to come with the integrated eBooster that is scheduled to start making its way in FCA’s turbocharged lineup.
Alfa’s “DNA” Pro selector allows the driver to dial in the Stelvio to their driving behavior.
- Dynamic: delivers sharper brake and steering feel with a more aggressive engine, transmission, and throttle tip-in calibrations
- Natural: comfort setting for balanced daily driving and the default setting every time you start up the Stelvio Quadrifoglio
- Advanced Efficiency: enables cylinder deactivation to reduce fuel consumption
- Race: this mode activates the over-boost function, opens up the two-mode exhaust, turns ESC off and delivers a sharper brake and steering feel with a more aggressive engine, transmission, and throttle tip-in calibrations
Even when we drove the Stelvio Quadrifoglio in “A” or Advanced Efficiency mode with the Engine Start/Stop (ESS) feature on and were only able to achieve an average of 19 mpg (or 12.3 L/100km), that is smack dab in the middle of the official EPA fuel economy ratings of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio of 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Our tester also came with the optional ultra-high-performance six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo® carbon-ceramic material (CCM) brake system. The massive six-piston aluminum monoblock front brake calipers, 15.4-inch CCM rotors, and four-piston aluminum monoblock rear calipers with a 14.2-inch CCM rotor system provide phenomenal stopping power to rival any supercar. However, unless you are taking the Stelvio Quadrifoglio to a track day event, we found them to be obnoxious for daily driving. In our opinion, save the additional $8,000 from the option CCM system and go with the Brembo performance six-piston front and four-piston rear system with vented brake rotors which will provide a better daily driving experience.
Overall our experience with the 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio was pleasant, but it didn’t come with some shortcomings. Engine performance is exhilarating while making an everyday driving experience fun end enlightening. The Stelvio provided enough room for a family of four and tons of hatch space to make the vehicle a pleasure for daily scenarios, even when it is cruising on the highway. With its handsome Italian styling, it is quite a looker while at speed or at a stoplight.
The things that set the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio back is the lack of value you feel you get for the money when even compared to offer FCA offerings, as well as the harsh bolstered seats built more for European bodies than the stout American frames, and the hard to use infotainment system that should be on par with the functionality and easy to use nature of the Uconnect systems.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is for those who don’t mind a few quirks and that don’t follow the status quo. Someone who is looking for something different. This is the kind of person who is looking for the Ferrari performance pedigree of the Quadrifoglio, compared to a traditional American V8. A person who wants to feel like a race car driver, while just making a run to the local corner store.
But if it was our money, we felt that our long-term Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk would be a better choice if we were looking at a performance SUV, thanks to its similar performance, amount of room, and overall easier livability in daily life. That isn’t to say that the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio isn’t a great SUV. But if Alfa Romeo wants to become a serious player in the SUV market in North America, they need to address a more comfortable pair of driver and passenger front seats, more standard features that make you feel you are getting a more “premium” vehicle than our Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and push for more brand recognition in the marketplace.
- Handsome exterior styling
- Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6
- Overall performance
- A more performance sedan-like driving feel
- Surprisingly large cargo area
- Engine sound
- Front seats that are too narrow for large American bodies
- Missing a lot of creature comforts found on cheaper SUVs
- Confusing and hard to use infotainment system
- No power telescoping steering wheel or adjustable pedals
- Fuel economy
- $8,000 for CCM brake system