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Entry price: $79,995

Price as tested: $85,890

Likes: Big time performer, fun to drive, 505-horses, great looks.

Dislikes: Paddle shifters too large, small display screen, nothing else.

When you test drive a vehicle that states on the dashboard “cruise control not operative in race mode,” you know you’re driving something special.

Very special.

Enter the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Italian-built small to midsize SUV that is taking the United States performance market by storm. Delivered in top class Quadrifoglio dress with AWD, this Alfa features an all-aluminum Ferrari-designed 2.9-liter V6 that produces 505 horsepower and 443 lb. ft. of torque from its twin-turbo, four valves per cylinder design.

As noted in last week’s review of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, the trio of Fiat, Ferrari and Alfa have been engaging in joint efforts for decades. This Stelvio Quadrifoglio co-op just might be its very best effort to date as up front I’ll admit this Alfa Romeo is clearly one of the most exciting vehicles I’ve ever driven. This includes over 1,500 different vehicles test driven over a career that spans four decades.

Throughout the Stelvio test drive, this SUV felt more like a high dollar sports car or sport sedan. Its top speed is 176, and thanks to the  Pirelli performance tires in 20-inch design (a little wider tires in the back), the stage is set for safe high speed driving be it at a race track event day or cruising the Autobahn in Germany. Either way, this Alfa Romeo is ready for some real driving and delivers in spades whatever you call on it to do.

Although Stelvio may be a “sleeper” to those who may not know what lies beneath the hood, it is still loaded with the personality that has made the modern Alfa Romeo cars and SUVs the pride of many performance enthusiasts. You’ll immediately notice the trademark triangular grille, and then wonder why there are four leaf clover badges prominent on each front fender and the door sills front and rear.

A quick search finds that the word “Quadrifoglio” is Italian for “Four Leaf Clover,” answering the riddle that puzzled onlookers and those happy passengers who had a chance to ride in this outstanding vehicle.

As for the 2.9-liter V6 Ferrari twin turbo, Ferrari basically took its V8 twin turbo engine, shaved off two cylinders, and made a very potent V6 that nestles nicely into the Stelvio engine bay. This 505-horse design mates to Alfa’s outstanding 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that allows full control of revs in manual mode. You’ll go through the gears like a Formula 1 race driver without missing a beat or feeling that “it would do better if it were a manual.” Clearly this special high performance automatic is better than a manual, the latter which is not available.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com.


Auto Bits

5 features to look for in
your next family vehicle

We highlight five things buyers shopping for a family vehicle should look for. Four are new, one is an old standby. Here is our list:

Safe Exit Assist:  Hyundai and Kia’s new Safe Exit Assist watches your back for you. If a car is approaching alongside, it won’t let the kids open the rear doors into the path of the danger. The doors instead lock and the driver gets a heads up warning message.

Rear seat occupant warning: You or a person driving your family vehicle are almost certainly never going to leave your child in the car accidentally. Almost. This system moves that likelihood closer to zero.

USBs in every row: As our kids grow older, the devices they use to entertain and inform themselves evolve. Many family vehicles now offer USB power ports in all rows. We say “Bravo!”

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: This allows you to use your favorite navigation tool, Google Maps, or Apple Maps, at zero added cost. Better yet, they are always up to date and Android will have all of your recent map searches pre-loaded for you to pick from. 

Spare tire: We don’t understand family vehicles without spare tires. When you shop for your next family car, put up the cargo hatch, pull up the floor cover and see if there is a spare tire there. If not, consider other choices.

—John Goreham/ BestRide.com


Did you know

A new study from the IIHS shows rising speed limits over the past 25 years have cost 37,000 lives.