Like its V6-powered Giulia sibling and like the normal members of its own line-up, the mightiest Alfa Romeo Stelvio has a round of cabin and tech updates for the 2020 model year - comfortably addressing the solitary thing we didn't like about the Quadrifoglio SUV previously.
In the Metal:
This is treading the same path as the Giulia Quadrifoglio on the outside, as the 2020 model year changes for the Stelvio Quadrifoglio amount to nothing more than dark-coloured detailing here and there, smoked rear LED lamp clusters, some fresh colours for the options palette and a set of larger 21-inch alloys. Although, weirdly, our test car was still on 20s, so it had that weird 'gapping' in the arches that the Stelvio can display. Otherwise, this is a damned fine-looking SUV and more than succour enough for we fast estate fans who are still waiting for Alfa to do the decent thing and announce a Giulia Quadrifoglio Sportwagon Q4. But we digress. Mainly because Alfa Romeo hasn't even built a Giulia Sportwagon yet...
Inside, the updates for all Giulia and Stelvio models, Quadrifoglio or not, are enacted, lifting what was a cabin marred by the occasional clunking detail into one that is now broadly fantastic. OK, Audi's interior design team is still not going to be crying into its Weissbier about the standard of Alfa's finishing nor its infotainment software, but now the gear lever and steering wheel are clad in quality leather (and the gear lever has lost the unforgivable sharp edge that it used to have where your fingers would normally rest on the back of it), the 8.8-inch infotainment system actually looks good and works OK (with touchscreen capability), the rotary control wheel on the revised centre console (this has a wireless smartphone charging pad nowadays, of course) no longer feels like it was sourced from a Christmas cracker and the seven-inch TFT display in the instrument cluster is much sharper and better presented, there's little to grumble about inside. And still plenty of wonderful details, like those tremendous paddle shifts and the gorgeous seats. A class-leading cabin, this is not, but a mediocre passenger compartment? It's no longer that, either. It's simply very good.
If you want the best-driving SUV you can buy, money no obstacle and you've no preference on size, there are four machines in the running: a top-end Porsche Macan of some sort, possibly a GTS or the Turbo (see 'Alternatives', below); or the bigger model from Porsche, which is at its glorious best as the recently released Cayenne GTS Coupe; or, if you've got deep pockets, you could try the brand-spanking-new Aston Martin DBX.
Now, we love all of these, and there are more high-power SUVs out there that also offer plenty of thrills for their drivers. But none of them, in our opinion, can match this Alfa. This is it. This is the moment the Sports Utility Vehicle finally gets the 'Sports' bit absolutely spot on, and the secret to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's dynamic success is down to weight. As even the Macan weighs in excess of two tonnes in its fastest guises, and the Cayenne GTS and Aston DBX are both 2,250kg or thereabouts, the Stelvio Q's kerb weight of 1,830kg makes it look like some kind of hyper-focused Superleggera SUV.
It's not a stable or particularly inviting fast SUV on first acquaintance, though, which is presumably why some of us on this team (i.e. me) adore the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and others are not so enamoured with it. Despite the fact it has Q4 all-wheel drive and fat, grippy Pirelli tyres, the hottest Stelvio always feels a bit skittish and nervous, like it is dancing on its suspension rather than hunkered down and planted on it. This perhaps means you don't 'go at it' quite as fast from kilometre one, instead building up to the Quadrifoglio's ultimate handling abilities, but it's this very 'risk and reward' nature that makes us love the Italian so much.
Because, once you do attune yourself to the Alfa's heavily rear-biased nature, you realise that it does have a lot of mechanical grip and it does have monster traction and it does have one of the all-time great powertrains installed into its tall frame. The steering is wonderful, no less brilliant than it is on the Giulia Quadrifoglio, and while there's some body lean to work with, it's not sizeable enough to deter you from enjoying the Stelvio in corners like it's about two-thirds the size it actually is. Nor does this modicum of lean alter the fact this is incontrovertibly an out-and-out sports car. It just so happens to be a sports car that stands 1.7 metres off the deck, and which can seat five with ease.
As ever, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a perfectly civilised companion when you're not driving it like a gigantic, oversized hot hatch, with great ride quality (it's firm, but supple too), excellent noise suppression in the cabin (although it lets enough of the V6's fabulous music permeate the interior when you're travelling faster) and superbly judged controls. It is, in short, as phenomenally good at being a 'normal' SUV as it is at being a howling biturbo demon when the mood takes you. And that is why this Alfa's so special.
What you get for your Money:
You get a better car than you did before, for roughly the same money, thanks to the interior improvements supplementing the Alfa's pre-existing dynamic magnificence. Extra safety equipment and improved digital interfaces are just part of the new Stelvio Quadrifoglio repertoire, and while a roughly €120,000 Alfa Romeo is a big ask of customers who have seen decades of underwhelming product wearing the Italian company's heraldic logo, when you consider what you are getting for your outlay - and precisely how much more you'd pay to get something even vaguely similar or half as talented from another manufacturer - then the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's undoubted value-for-money quotient comes into ever-sharper focus.
If you want one of the finest-driving SUVs available, size and price irrespective, look absolutely no further. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a properly edgy, properly rewarding machine and as its interior is much more palatable these days, it therefore has very few chinks in its armour that a whole host of gifted rivals might hope to exploit. Utterly brilliant, class-defining stuff from the Italian marque, right here.