What will the year 2018 be remembered for? For gearheads, 2018 will be remembered as the year sport-utility vehicles went wild. In a few months, Lamborghini will launch its first SUV in decades, a $200,000-plus beast set to shred sand dunes, s-curves, and bank accounts. Jeep’s $100,000 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, now rolling into dealers, uses its 707-horsepower engine to hit 60 miles per hour in a jostling 3.5 seconds. And then there’s the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which recently clocked the record time for a production four-door utility vehicle at the Nurburgring—with a time faster than the Lamborghini Gallardo, a lighter sportscar, with two fewer doors and seats.
This week Alfa hauled a few Stelvio Quadrifoglios to Texas to showcase the sport-ute’s skills in and around Circuit of the Americas, the monstrous 3.4 mile F1 track. And what did we find? The Stelvio Quad is just fun as hell, oddly at home gunning through a hilly, serpentine race course. The fact that you’re driving an SUV at a buck-30-plus doesn’t give you pause, partly because the vehicle’s low center of gravity provides stability, and partly because the smart chassis control system, with its torque-vectoring differential, subtly corrects your missteps.
On the massive climb towards turn one, the Stelvio Quad gives voice to its twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V-6 as you’re flung by a wave of torque. Big carbon-ceramic brakes (an $8,000 option) and sticky Pirelli tires allow you to pivot around corners quicker and cleaner than you should. It just doesn’t feel like you’re in an SUV.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is priced at $81,590 with destination charges—that’s a far cry from the $42,990 base model, but the Quad comes loaded, essentially, with both a swank interior and the adaptive suspension drive modes standard. An angrier, vent-ier front end and rear spoiler set it apart from the “normal” Stelvio.
Although only 10 percent of buyers will opt up to the Quad model, we think you should consider it if you’re shopping for a Stelvio. Off-track, in real-world driving scenarios, it’s perfectly mannerly until you hammer the throttle. As with the normal Stelvio model, we have one minor qualm: At lower speeds, the brake pedal can be a bit bitey. (Just start ordering your coffee with room.) But you might not need coffee at all: The Stelvio Quadrifoglio provides stimulation as reliably as a La Marzocco espresso machine.