That’s a tricky claim to verify, though, because there are so many different ways to interpret that slippery F-word. There are SUVs that better 503bhp Stelvio’s 3.8sec 0-62mph time, after all, and SUVs that shade its 176mph top speed.
Refreshed saloon is much more convincing inside, but range-topping 2.5-litre...
In normal driving, 100% of torque is sent to the rear wheels. Only when they begin to slip is drive shunted forwards, and even then, no more than 50% can be sent to the front axle.
The rear differential incorporates a pair of clutch packs that split torque between the rear wheels. This active torque vectoring makes the Stelvio more nimble, Alfa reckons. The car is suspended by double wishbones at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear, with adaptive damping.
The engine is mounted mostly behind the front axle line to aid weight distribution, while the use of carbonfibre and aluminium panels keeps weight to a minimum. Even so, at 1830kg, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is no featherweight.
There are various drive modes, including an Eco mode that reduces fuel consumption by shutting off three of the engine's cylinders - although this can also happen in Normal mode - and a Dynamic mode that sharpens the throttle response, reduces gearshift times, tightens up the dampers and adds weight to the steering. Race mode turns everything up another notch while standing down the stability control system. It's possible to switch the dampers back into an intermediate setting within Race mode.
The steering is direct, quick and very intuitive, while the front end finds reasonable bite on turn-in. The car will push on in understeer when you really chase it, but there’s enough front-end grip to carry proper sports car-rivalling pace along a winding road.
The four-wheel drive system makes light work of transferring all that power and 443lb ft of torque to the road. If you’re really clumsy with the throttle, you’ll make the car slide ever so slightly away from a corner or understeer if you open it too early in the bend, but with a little care, you can hook all four tyres up perfectly and slingshot the car away from the apex without a hint of waste.
There isn’t the on-throttle adjustability or playfulness of the Giulia QV, but thanks to the torque vectoring, the Stelvio does have very positive drive and a level of agility that seems at odds with its raised seating position. The chassis is poised enough that you can actually adjust your line slightly mid-corner, whereas many SUVs are stuck to a trajectory the moment you turn in to a bend.
The Stelvio QV’s ride was settled and composed on the very smooth Emirati roads of our test drive, but given that chassis engineers often resort to hefty anti-roll bars and plenty of rebound damping - both of which have a habit of knackering ride quality - to make SUVs handle, we’ll have to wait and see how well this car deals with a properly challenging British B-road. Alfa's engineers assure us it rides bumps with the same remarkable fluidity as its saloon sister.
Where Jebel Jais, United Arab Emirates On sale Summer 2018 Price £67,000 (est) Engine 2891cc, V6, twin-turbocharged, petrol Power 503bhp at 6500rpm Torque 443lb ft at 2500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerbweight 1830kg Top speed 176mph 0-62mph 3.8sec Fuel economy 31.4mpg CO2 rating 210g/km Rivals Porsche Macan Turbo, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63