The Giulia Quadrifoglio probably owes its existence to the Stelvio. Had Alfa Romeo not been able to factor in the extra sales volume that comes with an SUV sidekick, it's unlikely it would have bore the development cost of a fire-breathing saloon. But because the 510hp twin-turbo V6 was always destined to be shared between QF versions of the saloon and SUV, it all made sense. Better yet, they were both brilliant - the Stelvio immediately establishing itself as the Italian alternative to cars like the Porsche Macan.
In some ways of course it was a little too much like its lower-to-the-ground sibling. The Giulia's technological shortcomings were shared too, and so when it came to facelifting its SUV, Alfa has done much the same thing it did with the saloon. The new 8.8-inch infotainment system migrates to the Stelvio, as does the touchscreen and latest operating system. As it was in the Giulia, it's a cleaner, sharper and more responsive bit of kit, and you get the same Performance Pages widget with real-time powertrain info.
The interior revisions are familiar, too. The same splashes of colour, carbon fibre and the same much-needed upgraded gear selector. Straight ahead you get the seven-inch digital instrument cluster, alongside bolstered sports seats and a generally well-designed dash, with higher grade materials and a better finish - although the Stelvio still falls short of the Macan and other German rivals. A Jaguar F-Pace SVR, now festooned with screens, is probably a furlong ahead too.
But the Stelvio still looks the part - and in this segment, that fact tends to pay off handsomely. Our car came with red paintwork, black wheels and gold calipers - making it easy to pick from crowd. More colours have been added to the palette for 2020, too - Villa D'este red, Montreal green and, GT Junior yellow - all of which being vintage shades from iconic classic Alfas. And buyers are given greater freedom for customisation, with the calipers and cabin stitching colours able to be altered. The lights are also tinted for 2020, but mostly it's as it was before. Which is to say handsome and thrusting.
The real point of difference versus the Giulia (save for the raised ride height and heftier kerbweight) is that the Ferrari-derived V6 comes twinned with Alfa's all-wheel-drive system. That's unchanged though, as are the geometry and suspension so you still get adaptive dampers, albeit with the option of 21-inch alloys - although our test car stuck with the 20s, which we suspect will be a wise choice for British buyers.
Despite carrying more weight, the Stelvio's ability to divert some torque forward makes it the marginally quicker car off the mark, and it feels every bit a 3.8-second-62mph SUV. Progress is rapid and remains that way once rolling, the V6 being perfectly matched with its clever and quick-shifting eight-speed auto. As with the Giulia, the Stelvio is satisfying to drive in auto mode, but it speaks to the moreishness of the V6 you'll still want to go to the aluminium paddles at every opportunity.
The chief difference is found not in outright speed, but in soundtrack. Our test car lacked the optional Akrapovic exhaust, but the engine itself is certainly more muted than in the saloon. Still gravelly and textured and well-matched to the thrust being generated - just not as voluble as you might like it to be (although a Stelvio buyer might think different). Elsewhere it feels far lighter than it actually is, hammering from bend to bend with unbreakable traction and a terrific nose-dominated balance that fills its driver - who we shouldn't forget, is still sat at giddy height - with bags of confidence. The dampers are slack enough to absorb B-road lumps, allowing the body to rise over crests and squat in compressions, but with such assurance that it never runs out of answers to fast progress. Typically it only takes a swift damper stroke to return the near two-tonne SUV to its default position on those struts.
Obviously that speaks volumes about the mix of compliancy and control offered here. Much as before, it's impressive stuff and while there are times when an oddly angled road ridge or cat's eye will result in a short thud, the QF feels impressively solid. Its driven front axle and quick steering - coupled to an always accessible mid-corner throttle adjustability - give it imperious big car-feel, while the enormous all-wheel drive traction and massive stopping power (provided by a progressive brake pedal that's easy to modulate) make its size seem manageable.
In short, the Stelvio is very easy to like. There is a school of though which says that for all its new on-screen widgets, the superiority of flashier rivals is going to mean more in an SUV skin than it does in a saloon. And perhaps that's true - it's not unreasonable to expect a £73k car to do it all. But the QF's USP remains much as it was before: if you want a genuinely exciting super-SUV, where the rear-bias boisterousness is delivered by once-in-a-generation engine, then there really is nowhere else to go. The Stelvio remains probably the most thrilling SUV you can buy. Be happy the cabin is a bit nicer, too.
SPECIFICATION | ALFA ROMEO STELVIO QUADRIFOGLIO
Engine: 2,891cc, V6 twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 443@2,500rpm
Top speed: 176mph
1 / 10