Alfa Romeo pins hopes on ‘4-leaf clover’

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio at Sterling High School’s Tiger Field. (Bud Wells photos)

A showpiece for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, came to town and drew attention, first, for its structural beauty, then, for its awesome performance capabilities.

The Stelvio is Alfa Romeo’s entry in the luxury compact SUV category. Most Stelvio models can be bought in the $45,000 to $55,000 range; pairing up with a Stelvio Quadrifoglio will add a $30,000 or more premium to the final tab.

A primary reason for the huge price bump is a 505-horsepower, 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V-6 engine tied to an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Standard block for a Stelvio is a 280-hp, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder.

The Alfa Romeo of Italy is recognized by this badge and grille.

Few in this country know much about Alfa Romeo, though most appear impressed and interested when the Italian marque is mentioned in car discussions.

The aspiration of planners of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is to someday compete head-on with the Audi Q5, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. The fact is, though, that with 6,844 U.S. sales through the first nine months of this year, the Stelvio is at the bottom of the luxury compact SUV field, behind Jaguar F-Pace with 10,361, the Infiniti QX50 with 13,610 and the Porsche Macan with 16,191. The Mercedes, Audi and BMW models are at 50, 49 and 37k sales, respectively.

A year ago, I guided an ’18 Stelvio over a narrow-road climb to 9,450-foot Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, comparing it to Italy’s 9,045-foot Stelvio Pass, for which the Alfa Romeo SUV is named.

This fall, it was opposite direction in the Quadrifoglio, northeastward to Sterling for a noon luncheon meet of the board of the Sterling High School Alumni Foundation and an evening of combined class reunions for SHS at the Riverview Golf Club Bar & Grill. Some in-town maneuvers combined with the 200-mile highway drive resulted in an overall fuel mileage average of 22.6.

Big, strong Brembo brakes provide major stopping power for the Quadrifoglio; they measure 15.4 inches in front, 13.8 in the rear, with six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears. They’re visible through the 20-inch, dark, five-hole aluminum wheels. The brakes are an important upgrade for the Stelvio Quad, which runs 0 to 60 in under-4 seconds and can attain top speed in the 170s.  For perspective, the brakes on the Stelvio base AWD model are 13-inch front and 12.5-rear.

The Quadrifoglio (the word is Italian for four-leaf clover) has tremendous power, and will scoot from 65 to 105 in the blink of an eye. It handles excellently; the ride can be a bit harsh at times.

I prefer short paddleshifters which turn with the steering wheel and with the driver’s hands, but I understand the big paddles as on the Stelvio, since they’re stationary to the steering post and are more accessible in the longer length.

Base price on the crisp-styled Stelvio Quadrifoglio is $80,245 and jumped to $88,390 with addition of adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, lane-departure warning, leather and alcantra seating with green-and-white stitching, dual-pane sunroof and dynamic dual-mode exhaust.

The Stelvio is built at Cassino, Italy.