There are a lot of SUVs out there. You may have noticed as you tried to pick yours out in the parking lot, wishing you'd left the window sticker on so you could tell Brand X from W, Y or Z without walking to the tailgate to read the badge.
Not if you own a 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Most brands struggle to make their SUVs stand out in the crowd, but Alfa's problem has never been blandness.
Alfa Romeo can drive you to distraction, but you'll still look forward to driving it every day.
2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
All-wheel-drive, five-passenger luxury SUV
Price as tested: $84,095 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: (Three out of four stars)
Reasons to buy: Looks, power, handling
Shortcomings: Infotainment controls; no touch screen; ease of entry and exit seats.
_The Stelvio is Alfa's first SUV. It's been on sale for about a year and a half, but the top Quadrifoglio model arrived this year. The Quadrifoglio has 505 horsepower and lots of other goodies.
_Quadrifoglio is Italian for four leaves, as in a lucky clover. Alfa reserves the name for its top models.
_There are plenty of five-seat luxury compact SUVs, but only a handful with 500-hp plus.
_Those competitors include the Jaguar F-Pace SVR, Land Rover Range Rover Sport and Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic coupe.
_The Stelvio uses the same Giorgio architecture as Alfa's Giulia compact sport sedan. They are the first two Giorgio-based vehicles in production.
_Fiat Chrysler builds the Stelvio and Giulia in Termoli on Italy's Adriatic coast.
_The Quadrifoglio went on sale this year as a 2018 model. Changes for 2019 include distinctive five-hole 20-inch aluminum wheels, heated rear seats and available dark or carbon fiber exterior trim.
Specifications as tested
Engine: 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6
Power: 505 hp at 6,500 rpm; 443 pound-feet of torque at 3,500-5,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Acceleration: 3.7 seconds 0-60 mph
Top speed: 176 mph
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 185.1 inches
Width: 77 inches
Height: 66.3 inches
Curb Weight: 4,360 pounds
Prices for the Stelvio Quadrifoglio start at $78,795, up from $40,195 for the base Stelvio.
I tested a well-equipped Quadrifoglio with lustrous tri-coat red paint; glossy black aluminum five-hole 20-inch wheels; navigation; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; leather upholstery; adaptive cruise control; leather upholstery and interior trim; Brembo brakes; backup camera; and more.
The vehicle I tested cost $84,095. All prices exclude destination charges - a hefty $1,595 in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's case.
Stelvio Quadrifoglio prices are competitive with similarly equipped vehicles.
Competitive base prices
(Excluding destination charges)
(Automatic transmission, all-wheel drive models.)
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio $79,795
Jaguar F-Pace SVR (available spring 2019): $79,900
Land Rover Range Rover Sport Dynamic Supercharged V8: $85,550
Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic: $81,800
Porsche Macan Turbo: $77,200
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio doesn't look or feel like any other SUV. From Alfa's signature deep, triangular grille, to sport wheels that replace the usual spokes with open circles and curves, to its vented hood, the Stelvio QF stands out.
The twin-turbo V6 delivers immediate throttle response for acceleration that puts many sport coupes to shame: 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds with a top speed of 176 mph.
Aluminum paddle shifters on the steering wheel deliver firm, precise sub-100 millisecond shifts.
The exhaust note is tuned for a menacing rumble on startup and satisfying bleats of backpressure at shifts in hard driving.
Like acceleration, the steering and road-holding feel like they were lifted from a serious sports car. The steering is fast and precise, but not nervous while the 20-inch tires cling to the road like taffy.
The unique looks continue inside, with a leather wrapped interior, sport seats and a Formula One-style steering wheel with start button.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, remedying Alfa's inexplicable decision to charge $100 apiece on the 2018 Stelvio. Note to greedy pricing agents: It's an insult to your customers' intelligence when a luxury brand charges extra for features that come standard on a Honda Civic.
The rotary controller for navigation and audio is difficult and frustrating to use in a moving vehicle. There's no reason Alfa couldn't have used the simple and effective combination of touch screen and voice recognition available in Alfa's less expensive corporate siblings: Jeep, Ram, Chrysler and Dodge.
Well, there is, but it's a bad reason. Insiders say former Alfa boss Harald Wester - a VW and Audi exec before joining the Fiat Group - insisted Alfa have controls similar to German brands BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Wester is now chief operating officer of Maserati and Fiat Chrysler chief technical officer. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The screen for navigation and the backup camera is smaller and has lower resolution than the best competitors.
High bolsters on the side of the sport seats' bottom cushions made it hard to get in without bumping my head on the door frame. I eventually learned to lower the seat each time I got out and use its memory to returning it to my driving position before setting out.
Small door openings combine with the high seat bolsters to complicate entry and exit, particularly for the rear seat.
EPA fuel economy ratings
(Automatic transmission, all-wheel drive models.)
All vehicles tested with premium gasoline
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: 17 mpg city/23 highway/19 combined
Jaguar F-Pace SVR (available spring 2019): NA
Land Rover Range Rover Sport Dynamic Supercharged V8: 17/22/19
Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic: 15/22/18
Porsche Macan Turbo: 17/23/19
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