Now, here’s the thing. Get stuck in behind the carbon and Alcantara steering wheel and the Stelvio feels genuinely adjustable, which flies in the face of convention for tall, heavy cars of this type. True, it’s a trait that today is usefully amplified by scrabbly winter tyres, but you can’t fail to notice the pervasive rear-driven chassis balance of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Has an SUV ever exhibited such delightful poise? We'd say probably not.
It stems from the fact that the car is entirely rear driven until the 285-section rear tyres begin to over-rotate. At this point, up to half the 443lb ft of available torque is sent to the front axle and in doing so unlocks quite freakish real-world pace. That’s what strikes you about this car – the phenomenal rate of cross-country progress that’s possible when four-wheel drive and significant but superbly controlled wheel articulation meet with an engine this explosively potent.
The official claim is 3.8 seconds to 62mph – just a tenth shy of a PDK-equipped Porsche 911 GTS – and the QV feels good for it. And then there’s the noise. Downsized and turbocharged this engine may be, but in the car’s more aggressive Dynamic mode – and even more so in all-systems-off Race – it delivers a truly devilish tune with rip-snorting upshifts. Best of all, it doesn’t sound too contrived.
On tortuous Welsh roads, we’re grateful for a steering setup that is light and quick – a Ferrari-ism to go along with huge gearshift paddles worthy of any supercar – and plays a good part in making this car feel far less substantial than it actually is. There’s also torque vectoring, which in this instance involves tactically metering out torque via a clutch either side of the electronic rear differential. With the suspension providing enough pliancy to work the tyres reassuringly hard, the Stelvio zips between through corners in a manner that’s far less cantankerous than it must look. It’s sensationally effective, truth be told.
Alfa Romeo's advice is to leave the DNA switch in its mid, ‘Natural’ setting for road use, but so benign is this chassis that you’ll soon opt for ‘Race’ (albeit with the adaptive dampers softened into their medium setting).
It’s here that shifts from the eight-speed transmission finally become satisfactorily snappy and the throttle response sharpens up enough for you to fully appreciate how impressively low on turbo-lag this engine is. What you won’t immediately realise is quite how vigorously you’re chasing the throttle – until, that is, you find yourself calmly and smoothly indulging in that quarter-turn of opposite lock. In a 1845kg SUV, this is not what you expect, though perhaps it’s simply what happens when your chassis tuning is overseen by the same man responsible for the Ferrari 458 Speciale.
If there’s chink in the Alfa’s armour it’s the standard-fit cast-iron brakes, which exhibit too much dead pedal travel before biting. We’ll put the numbness down to the winter time, this time. The secondary-ride at low speeds is also fairly rough around the edges, though if that’s the trade-off for such composure when speeds inevitably increase, we’ll gladly accept it.