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Part of the reason that automotive journalists and enthusiasts tend to bemoan the ongoing crossover apocalypse is because no one makes a crossover that drives as well as the sharpest sedans. Alfa Romeo, however, has introduced the best effort yet: the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Just like with the Giulia, Alfa Romeo took a normal Stelvio luxury SUV and dropped a bigger engine, performance suspension, a set of massive brakes and a host of other upgrades to turn the grocery-getter into a canyon carver.
And though the ride suffers because it can be very bumpy, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio has become the best-driving performance SUV ever built.
Most people should still buy the Giulia sedan, though. Let me explain why.
With a higher center of gravity, the $92,290 Stelvio will never corner as sharply as the best sedan. But Quadrifoglio models get a lowered suspension that leaves the finished product tighter to the ground than most other performance SUVs.
Alfa's DNA drive-mode selection is also on deck, with modes including "all-weather, dynamic, normal and race." You'll only hear the full-throated song of the V-6 in "race," as the other modes channel the exhaust through more mufflers. But regardless of mode, flooring the Alfa will get you the raucous bellow at the high end of the tachometer.
It's capable of truly insane performance and remains perfectly stable at high speed as long as you're on a smooth road. No wonder it holds the SUV lap record at the Nürburgring.
Even the interior, with its carbon fiber accents, is delightful. A carbon-trimmed steering wheel is flanked by coliseum-sized paddle shifters milled from aluminum. There's also Alcantara accents that provide another shade of black for the bat-cave interior.
Four people and their luggage will fit in the comfortable seats, with five seats available for shorter rides. The SUV body style makes it even more practical than the Giulia, with the all-wheel-drive system making it more prudent for buyers who may need to drive it in snow and ice.
The Stelvio, for all its flaws, doesn't have some of the reliability issues that the Giulia sedan had, either. I don't have enough data to say it'll be a paragon of reliability, but it's off to a better start than the Giulia.
I loved the Giulia Quadrifoglio for its split personality, with the car easily settling into daily driver duty between back road blasts. Unfortunately, the Stelvio doesn't strike the same balance. It always wants to rumble, with the stiff suspension shaking your bones every time you cross a pothole. It's seriously uncomfortable.
All-wheel drive may make it better for northern climates, but the inability to tackle potholes makes it a tough sell for places where the winters wreck the roads. Stiff ride notwithstanding, it also suffers from the same braking issues as the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The brake-by-wire software is poorly calibrated, making it nearly impossible to stop smoothly. The massive brakes may pull you down from triple-digit speeds in a hurry, but they aren't great when you're caught in traffic.
Oh, and you'll still have to deal with the frustrating infotainment system of the Giulia as well, which doesn't support touch input and requires you to navigate Apple CarPlay with a rotary dial, which is cumbersome.
So while the Stelvio seems to have a better reliability track record, it hasn't meaningfully improved on the Giulia Quadrifoglio. Sure, it has more cargo room, but it's also borderline undrivable in the city. At $92,290, it simply doesn't justify the $4,695 premium over our $87,595 Giulia tester.
The major problem with the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is that it has to share dealership floor space with the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The Giulia, for all its faults, looks better, rides significantly better, annoys you less and will put a smaller dent in your bank account.
Make no mistake, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a massive leap for performance SUVs. It genuinely drives better than most sports sedans, with fantastic steering and great power. But it rides worse than just about all of them because it's too uncomfortable when you hit bumps. Because of that, most people should lease a Giulia and skip the Stelvio.
Driving Experience: 3.5
Price as tested: $92,290