by Howard Walker
Say it like De Niro, with your palms open and a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders – Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio quattro ruote motrici. Capisce?
Buy this 505-horsepower Italian stallion and, trust me, you’ll be saying it a lot. Park it, like anywhere, and you’re going to be inundated with that three little word question – What. Is. That?
Of course in our case, it could be something to do with the color of our tester. Greener than the Chicago River on St. Paddy’s Day, it’s officially called Verde Montreal Tri-Coat Metallic.
See it parked in the sun, and this thing glows like it’s infused with molten lava. It might be my favorite car color ever. And I’m not even Irish.
You’re also likely to be asked what that Stelvio badge means. Here, again, you can reveal that it’s named after the legendary Stelvio Pass, Italy’s highest and most challenging mountain road, with its 48 soaring switchbacks.
Take Dramamine before attempting.
But if ever a hard-charging SUV was designed for the Stelvio Pass, it’s this Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Packing that 505-horsepower from its Ferrari-developed twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6, it’s the closest thing to a sportscar that just happens to be an SUV.
Which is kind of what it is. Underneath that sleek, sexy body, littered with those traditional Alfa ‘quadrifogio’ four-leaf clover emblems, is the chassis and mechanical bits of Alfa’s highly-strung Giulia sports sedan.
See this latest Stelvio in the metal, and it is truly a thing of automotive beauty. That famous shield-like grille on the nose, those slender, swept-back headlights, and all the curves of Italian Bond “girl” Monica Bellucci. Magnifico.
Those wild, gloss-black 21-inch rims at each corner, with their distinctive circle design, only add to the head-spinning look of this fast and furious Alfa.
And fast is the right word here. Pedal to the metal and it will catapult off the line like it’s been fired out of a Ringling Brothers circus canon.
Click the stopwatch and you’ll see zero to 60mph sprinting in a neck-adjusting 3.6 seconds. And if you want to give up your driver’s license, you could continue accelerating until you hit the Alfa’s 176mph top speed.
And listening to this remarkable turbo engine as its revs soar is truly one of the wonders of the automotive word. Pavarotti in his prime, Bocelli hitting the high notes in Nessun Dorma, the Stelvio kissing its red line. Just music to your ears.
Dial-up Dynamic or Race on the drive mode selector, hear that exhaust note harden, feel the suspension and steering tighten, and the Alfa sweeps round curves like it’s running on invisible rails.
And those elephant-ear-sized paddle shifters only add to the fun of changing gears with the rapid-fire shifting eight-speed automatic.
Yet while the Alfa is one of the most-fun, dynamic-handling performance SUVs out there – rivals include BMW’s X3, Mercedes GLC, Jaguar’s F-Pace and, naturally, Porsche’s Mecan – what sets it apart is the way it rides.
While most of those competitors jiggle and bounce over anything but pool-table-smooth blacktop, the Stelvio soaks-up potholes and nasty ridges like a Wet Vac soaks up water.
Piloting this Alfa, gripping that salami-thick, stitched-leather wheel is also one of the joys in life. You sit in body-hugging sports seats that grip you like a Hulk Hogan bodylock.
As a driving-focused compact SUV, interior space is ample rather than generous. Headroom in the back is a little tight, as is kneeroom. But opt for the dual-panel glass sunroof and the cabin gets flooded with light.
Price-wise the Stelvio Quadrifoglio kicks off at $84,650 with our well-equipped tester coming in at $92,790.
As for being able to tell onlookers you’re driving a lucky four-leaf clover? Just priceless.