Long-awaited sports SUV will rival similarly pitched upcoming rivals such as the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and BMW X3 M

Alfa Romeo has confirmed that its first sports SUV - the 503bhp, bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6-engined Stelvio Quadrifoglio, will go on sale in the summer of 2018, 18 months after it was first shown to the public at the 2016 Los Angeles motor show.

No prices or spec details have been revealed ahead of the UK launch, but it's expected to cost upwards of £65,000. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is around £23,000 more expensive than the warm Veloce model, so it's expected that a similar price gap will sit between the standard Stelvio and the hot Quadrifoglio model. 

The standard Stelvio - the first mainstream Alfa Romeo SUV - is priced from £33,990 in entry-level trim; £740 less than the equivalent Jaguar F-Pace.

There are just two engines on sale initially: a 2.2-litre diesel with either 178bhp or 207bhp, with the latter available exclusively in all-wheel drive, or an all-wheel-drive 2.0-litre petrol with 197bhp or 276bhp. The entry-level engine is the 178bhp diesel in rear-wheel drive. 

Like the Giulia saloon, the Stelvio's line-up is divided into four trim levels, separate from the more potent Quadrifoglio: standard Stelvio, Super, Speciale and Milano Edizione. The entry-level car gets 17in alloys, adaptive cruise control, an 8.8in infotainment system, automatic lights and wipers, and two rear USB ports, in addition to safety tech such as automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist. Aside from undercutting the F-Pace, it also undercuts the Mercedes-Benz GLC by £2435 and the Audi Q5 by £4045, making it one of the cheapest premium small SUVs in the segment.

Topping the cooking Stelvio range is the 276bhp petrol-engined Milano Edizione. At £45,390, it adds electrically adjustable full leather sports seats, reversing camera, 20in alloys and keyless entry to the Speciale trim, as well as an upgraded speaker system with 10 speakers and a subwoofer. This version hits 62mph from zero in 5.7sec – 0.3sec off the pace of the warm but not range-topping Audi SQ5. 

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio was the first iteration of the first modern Alfa Romeo SUV to be revealed, having been shown in a promotional video released by Alfa Romeo after the LA motor show.

Click here to read our Alfa Romeo Stelvio review

Alfa's sporting version of its first SUV can be seen traversing the Stelvio pass, the famous mountain road after which it's named. 

The Stelvio was first revealed at the LA motor show in hot Quadrifoglio form as seen in the video, but it will most likely come to Britain as a diesel first.

Speaking to Autocar at the show, CEO Reid Bigland said he expects the first right-hand-drive Stelvios to use diesel engines and reach showrooms in the third quarter of this year.

Following this, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio will arrive with an all-aluminium, bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine, shared with the Giulia Quadrifoglio and therefore producing 503bhp and 443lb ft.

Unlike the Giulia, though, the hot Stelvio will be offered only with four-wheel drive, with Alfa Romeo’s Q4 system – which sends 100% of the torque rearwards in normal conditions, but can divide between the front and rear up to 50/50 - coupled with torque vectoring for the first time. The use of two clutches in the rear differential allow torque vectoring between the rear wheels.

Bigland confirmed that the Stelvio will also come in a rear-driven, lower-powered form. He claimed the car is light for its class in that guise and hinted that new 207bhp diesel engine, first used in the Giulia Veloce, would be the engine featured in this Stelvio variant.

Bigland explained that the Stelvio would stand out in its congested segment because of its handling. "The reason people will buy our mid-sized SUV is because they will be blown away by the driving dynamics," he said. "Every car Alfa makes must stand apart for that reason, and this car will not disappoint." Bigland has predicted the car will lap the Nürburgring in less than eight minutes; a Porsche Panamera Turbo has been recorded lapping the track in 7m 56sec.

"The Stelvio is uniquely engineered to challenge two-door cars on the track without compromising the SUV side of its character," said Bigland. "We have leveraged Ferrari to help deliver class-leading power and it will also come with Alfa Romeo’s Q4 all-wheel drive system.

"The Quadrifoglio comes with a Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre V6 producing 503bhp mated to an eight-speed automatic and a torque vectoring system to make it rear wheel biased to make it feel like a two-door coupe would. We didn’t just leverage Ferrari engineers for performance - we needed it to perform like an Alfa Romeo, and the Quadrifoglio will be the fastest SUV at the Nürburgring. While the Stelvio seems to go against our 105-year history, one minute behind the wheel and around one corner will show it is no different."

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio has an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which has been tuned to shift gears in 150 milliseconds in Race mode. The driver can also shift gears using steering column-mounted aluminium paddles. There are Four selectable drive modes: Dynamic, Natural, running-cost-friendly Adavanced Efficiency and performance-oriented Race.

The SUV gets carbon-ceramic brakes with Alfa Romeo’s Integrated Brake System, which the brand claims reduces stopping distances by combining a stability control system with the car’s brake servo. The suspension comprises a double wishbone at the front with a four-and-a-half link system at the rear. Adjustable dampers also feature.

Bigland has predicted the Stelvio will become Alfa's best-selling model, overtaking the Giulia saloon. Elsewhere in the Stelvio range, there will be a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 276bhp and 295lb ft. Although performance specs were not revealed for the Stelvio Quadrofoglio, Bigland confirmed this engine would be capable of taking the SUV from 0-60mph in 5.4sec. This confirmation suggests that the Stelvio will get a warm-performance Veloce variant to sit below the Quadrifoglio in the range, because that engine is also used in the Giulia Veloce. 

In the US, the car will get a Ti spec, which gets 19in alloys and an 8.8in infotainment screen rather than the standard 6.5in unit. There's also wood trim on the interior, and Sport and Lusso packages available. Across the range - in the US, at least - the Q4 four-wheel drive system is standard, although Alfa Romeo hasn't yet confirmed if this will be the case in Europe. 

The Stelvio was developed in Alfa Romeo’s Modena engineering facility and will be built in Italy alongside the Giulia in the Cassino plant, which has recently received investment from Alfa Romeo. 

It’s one of the smaller premium small SUVs on the market, at 4686mm long, 1677mm tall (including antenna) and 1903mm wide (2163mm including mirrors). By comparison, the Porsche Macan Turbo is only marginally longer, squatter and wider, at 4699mm long, 1624mm tall and 1923mm wide.

Alfa Romeo claims that a perfect weight distribution has been achieved partly with its use of carbonfibre on the driveshaft and the same material across the bodywork and many mechanical components. It takes the hot model 3.8sec to reach 62mph - faster than any rival currently on the market.

The Quadrifoglio model is marked out by bodywork upgrades including carbon-detailed side skirts, more aggressive bumpers and wider wheel arches. A rear spoiler sits atop the boot lid, which Alfa claims is aerodynamically beneficial rather than merely aesthetic. There’s also a set of intercooler vents at the front that are specific to the Quadrifoglio model.

The Stelvio is expected to reach dealers during the summer of 2017. The 276bhp-engined Stelvio will go on sale first; the opposite of the approach taken with the Giulia. 

The Stelvio may be joined by two more SUVs in the near future - one smaller and one larger - as well as an estate version of the Giulia and a BMW 5 Series rival, as part pf a nine-car model offensive by 2021. The Stelvio is the first SUV Alfa Romeo has ever made, but its importance is recognised by former boss Harald Wester, who said: “You can remain pure and ignore the crossover trend, but if you do, you can look forward to a beautiful death."

Our Verdict

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Alfa Romeo’s first SUV aims to hoist the handling panache of the Giulia saloon

Find an Autocar car review

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