The car uses a Ferrari-built 2.9-litre V6 producing 503bhp mated to an eight-speed automatic and a torque vectoring system. It has a rear-bias to, as company CEO Reid Bigland put it to Autocar last year, "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," he said. "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.
Unlike the Giulia, 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.
There are just two engines on sale: 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.
Bigland explained that the he believes the Stelvio stands 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.
Elsewhere in the Stelvio range, there will be a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 276bhp and 295lb ft.
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 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."