The moment you set your gaze upon the Alfa’s lovely face, you’ll know this SUV leans more toward sport than utility.  And, in keeping with its appearance, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4 attacks winding roads with bravura—making the company’s decision to name its first SUV for northern Italy’s infamous Passo dello Stelvio wholly appropriate. With a grand total of 75 hairpin curves, the Stelvio Pass is regarded by many driving enthusiasts as one of the most challenging roads in the world and Alfa’s SUV is solidly up to the task of scaling it with ease.

This third addition to the storied marque’s US lineup (following 4C and Giulia) should come as little surprise to anyone attentive to the automotive market these days. With nearly every manufacturer now feeling a need to offer something SUV-ish in its product portfolio, Alfa Romeo was bound to eventually. Fortunately though, the Stelvio’s designers kept the character for which the marque’s products have long been coveted in mind when they crafted the model.

To that end, decidedly Italian interior accommodations maintain the Alfa’s appeal. Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, ambient accent lighting, power adjustable front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control.  Typically Italian quirks (or flourishes—depending upon your perspective) include a starter button on the flat-bottomed steering wheel. A scintillating Harmon Kardon audio system is offered, along with a hands-free liftgate and a dual-pane sunroof.

The Stelvio’s dial-and-pointer infotainment interface is good, though its graphics could be more pleasing to the eye. While we’re on the subject of things that could be better, the Gilbert Gottfried-like bleeping of its lane departure warning system had us looking to shut it off immediately upon it’s first intrusion into our consciousness.

On the other hand, the contemporary driver’s aid tech you’d expect in a premium model is generously on offer. Forward collision warning, smart cruise control with full stop capability, blind spot monitoring, park assist and rear cross path detection are all available.  Sat-nav is an option too.

Power comes from a 280-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four with 306 lb-ft of torque. This is routed to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a carbon fiber driveshaft.  Alfa’s “DNA” drive mode selector and intelligent all-wheel drive system provide added security for inclement conditions. They also amplify the Stelvio’s performance potential. The rear-biased driveline is capable of shifting up to 60 percent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels if needed to maintain traction. 

Boasting 50/50 weight distribution, the Stelvio is also particularly light. The engine block is crafted of aluminum—as are the doors, hood, tailgate and front fenders. This, plus the double wishbone front- and multi-link rear aluminum suspension system give Alfa’s first SUV considerable agility.  However, it also robs the Stelvio of offroad capability, though we suspect most people will be attracted more to its cachet than its willingness to crawl over boulders and ford streams.

On the road, the agility we’ve praised so highly is accompanied by a relatively quiet and smooth ride quality. (Which is NOT the case across the board in this class—and yes, we’re looking at you Jaguar F-Pace.) Steering is quick and turn-in is sharp, though feel could be better. Power delivery and throttle response are satisfyingly good, with no apparent turbo lag. The exhaust sounds great when you’re deep in the throttle—though it’s artificially induced through the audio system.

The gearbox is suitably responsive and the brakes eventually prove competent, once you get through the top part of the pedal’s range of travel where they feel a bit on the mushy side. On the handling front, you’ll find the Stelvio is absolutely brilliant up to about 80 percent of its capacity, Push beyond that and you’ll get body roll as well as understeer—before the all-wheel drive system reels you in.

The available sport package gives the Stelvio an added dose of aggressiveness. Wheel choices range up to 20 inches, the optional sport seats come with power-adjustable bolsters to help tailor them to your frame and a stiffer suspension system improves upon the Stelvio’s already dynamic handling abilities.

If you like to drive, you’ll find much to appreciate about the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4. Handsome, well equipped, reasonably commodious and fun to drive; pricing starts at $41,995.

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