The Stelvio Q is yet another hot SUV that's more performance oriented than it is off-road focused. It looks stunning, but it's mighty fast too.
You might wonder why CarAdvice was at an F1 track to test an SUV, but then you look at the numbers and it all becomes very clear. The 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, or 'Stelvio Q' for short, is quite the piece of work. Let's take a look at those numbers now then...
1830kg, 2.9 litres, six cylinders, eight-speed gearbox, four-wheel drive, 375kW, 600Nm, 0–100km/h in 3.8 seconds, 283km/h top speed.
You can see, then, why a racetrack was needed.
Now, while our first local drive was a short one – two flying laps between an out lap and a cool-down lap, it was enough seat time to illustrate that this is a savagely fast SUV. Alfa Romeo reckons you buy its product with your heart not your head, and my heart was certainly working overtime halfway through my track session. It's brutally fast, ridiculously capable, and stunning to look at. All the things an Alfa Romeo should be in 2019 really.
We'll be behind the wheel for an extended first road drive in the coming weeks, and that's where we can delve into the Stelvio Q's on-road chops in the cut and thrust of traffic by way of the daily grind. Despite the warp speeds on offer on a closed racetrack, the real world is where these SUVs ply their trade.
The trickery comes down – beyond the power generation – to the Stelvio's exceptional eight-speed gearbox and all-wheel-drive system, which typically mimics a traditional RWD system, but can deploy drive forward when the rear wheels start to lose traction.
In most instances, the Stelvio Q feels very much like a RWD performance vehicle, but it's reassuring to know you have drive to the front wheels when needed.
Our first session at Albert Park was after some overnight rain, so the track's surface was definitely slick.
The other point to note here is the way the gearbox can shift gears. It's lightning fast and precise, so in full attack mode it shifts more like a sports car than an SUV, which makes the drive experience all the more urgent and enjoyable.
I was intrigued by the braking system, which Alfa calls 'brake by wire', in that it doesn't run the traditional connection to the middle pedal. It feels very much like a traditional system on-track, until you're right at the end of the travel before ABS kicks in, where the pedal feel is ever so slightly different.
The brakes were fade-free, though, even after many laps of abuse.
It's a gorgeous design execution, though, the Stelvio Q. I love the tough but sleek exterior, with a vented bonnet, side skirts, four exhaust outlets and 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in sticky tyres.
Inside the cabin there are swathes of real carbon fibre, Alcantara trim, and the usual infotainment niceties like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Alfa Romeo has very much got its mojo back in a design and styling sense – whether that translates to sales is the next part of the equation. There's no doubt that for the first time in a long time, the brand has the product to make the sales inroads it claims it wants to.
I can't wait to test the Stelvio Q on-road after my all-too-brief track experience.