Alfa Romeo and Jaguar are hardly synonymous with producing performance SUVs of note, yet both brands do. And do so brilliantly.
The weapons of mass transportation you see here are the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and F-Pace SVR, and both want to give Porsche’s Macan and the Mercedes-AMG GLC a bloody nose.
And let's be honest, they do it with charm and style.
Pricing and Spec
The Italian Stallion (Alfa) wears a sticker price of $149,900 before on-road costs, while the British Beast (Jaguar) is $140,262, again before on-roads.
To give those prices context, a BMW X3 M Competition costs $157,900, a Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S $164,600, and a Porsche Macan Turbo $142,000. An outlier like the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk costs $134,950. So you could make an argument that neither of these cars is badly priced.
The table below gives a quick look at some features found on both. Each Pirelli P Zero tyres, a powered tailgate, leather seats (with Alcantara inserts in the Alfa), heated and powered front seat functions, a heated steering wheel, auto-folding side mirrors, dual-zone climate control, and a proximity key fob.
In terms of the basics, Jaguar also offers LED headlights (the Alfa has Bi-Xenon HIDs) and seat ventilation. Both have panoramic smartsunroofs, as an expensive option – $3120 in the Alfa and $4420 in the Jaguar.
|Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio||Jaguar F-Pace SVR|
|Tyres||Pirelli P Zero||Pirelli P Zero|
|Side mirrors||Auto folding||Auto folding|
|Seats||Leather and Alcantara||Quilted leather|
|Front seat functions||Heated, powered, memory||Heated, cooled, powered, memory|
|Heated steering wheel||Yes||Yes|
|Air-conditioning||Dual-zone climate control||Dual-zone climate control|
|Proximity key fob||Yes||Yes|
Tech and Infotainment
The Alfa Romeo’s screen is controlled by a rotary dial mounted near the gear shifter, and the graphics look pretty dated against the competitor set, with the exception of the colour-matched car diagrams that display when you change the driving mode. This is not a car you buy because of its cutting-edge graphical interface.
The satellite navigation system is basic and stripped back, compared to German rivals that have Google Street View style layouts. There’s no head-up display available, or fancy configurable digital driver’s instruments. You do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though both are rendered clunky by the absence of a touchscreen.
The Jaguar as tested had a large configurable and digital instrument display showing you driving data and maps with modern and clean graphics, and the optional HUD was fitted. It also changes colours and looks on demand. I liked the inbuilt lap timer, G-Force meter, and brake/throttle action diagrams you can scroll through.
The centre screen is a larger 10.0-inch touchscreen, with split-screen capability and relatively easy to operate shortcut sections programmed into a horizontal toolbar at the bottom of the array. Like the Alfa, you only get a rear-view camera, but can option a 360-degree unit for $2160. It should be standard, but it’s a good addition.
Both have pretty good sound systems: the Alfa has one made by Harman Kardon with 14 speakers, while the Jaguar’s is made by Meridian and has 11 speakers. If you’re a true audiophile, you can update this to a 17-speaker surround system with more than double the wattage for $1040. I’d rather listen to the engine…
One final observation is that they both come with digital radio, but Jaguar makes you pay a laughable $950 for the pleasure.
|Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio||Jaguar F-Pace SVR|
|Digital radio||Yes||Option $950|
|Sound system||14 speakers, Harman Kardon||11 speakers, Meridian|
The other side of the tech ‘coin’ is active safety. Both of these cars have numerous assistance systems for those rare occasions where you’re not taking the bull by the horns and driving yourself.
The Alfa has active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure alert, auto headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Jaguar comes standard with AEB, lane-departure alert, and an active lane-keeping aid. However, to get the full gamut you’re expected to pay $4600 for the Driver Assist Pack that adds blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, high-speed emergency braking, parking assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. Hmm.
The Stelvio’s interior design gets some things right. You’re surrounded by real leather on the dash and doors with contrast stitching, and the accents that look like carbon-fibre are real, not plastic. The branded door scuff plates, alloy pedals, red starter button, and moody dark headlining create a sporty ambience.
The driving position and ergonomics are pretty good, and the humps in the dash cowl over the instruments matched with circular outer vents work a treat.
The Sparco Carbon Fibre seats trimmed in suede and leather (priced at a hair-raising $7150 extra) look awesome, but are hard on the knees of rear occupants and manually rake adjustable. I think for most users they make little sense, unless you plan on tracking yours. The front-passenger seatbelt buckle also rattles against the shell.
That sexy leather and Alcantara steering wheel with carbon-fibre inserts costs $650, and strikes me as a must. How good is that red starter button? I’d almost forgive the cabin its flaws because of this wheel.
Unfortunately, the cabin is let down by the quality of its switches and knobs, which are not befitting a premium car. I’m referring to the rotary dials controlling the infotainment system, driving mode and audio volume, the gear shifter, the transmission tunnel cover, and the ventilation controls. All feel inferior to a Mazda, let alone a BMW.
Back-seat space is more hatch-like than SUV-like, and as mentioned those front seats are hard on your knees. You get vents, reading lights and a pair of USBs. These back seats flip-down 40:20:40, and there are helpful levers in the cargo area to flip them. There are also great cargo floor rails. Boot space grows from 525L to 1600L.
It’s not just the infotainment and displays that feel a notch above in the Jag compared to the Alfa. While the tactility of most plastic surfaces and the general build still don’t quite feel BMW-matching, the cabin is more in line with what a premium-SUV buyer might rightly demand.
The front seats are trimmed in really good quality leather, dyed white with black hexagonal-stitch inlays. Lashings of contrast leather adorns the doors and the curved dash, which bleeds into the doors, and the black suede-cloth headlining is lovely to touch and behold.
The driving position doesn’t feel much like a SUV in the conventional sense, with the wraparound dash, low-slung seats, and the vast expanse of bonnet in your vision, all suiting the car’s persona down to the ground. You’ll not mistake what brand of vehicle you’re in – there are Jaguar logos scattered about like Easter eggs.
The steering wheel is wrapped in nice perforated leather and houses cool metallic paddle shifters, though the plastic buttons controlling audio and phone functions, as well as cruise control, feel quite cheap, as does the glossy black plastic adorning the centre fascia.
Unlike the Alfa, you adjust the SVR’s driving modes by pressing the buttons located behind the gear shifter. While we’ve seen other F-Paces use a circular dial for gear shifts, the more conventional set-up in the SVR strikes me as more ergonomically friendly.
The Jag’s boot space is a smidgen smaller than the Alfa’s at 508L. The back seats again flip-down 40:20:40, and there are those levers in the cargo area to flip them. Unlike the Alfa, the back seats are heated, and there’s narrowly superior head clearance and leg room (thanks to its longer wheelbase). Back seat occupants also get vents and USB access.
|Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio||Jaguar F-Pace SVR|
|Boot space minimum||525L||508L|
|Rear USBs and vents||Yes||Yes|
The engine powering Alfa’s hot rod on stilts is familiar from the Giulia Quadrifoglio super-sedan. It’s a 2.9-litre V6 derived from Ferrari’s F154 V8. That’s right, there’s a beating heart with Maranello’s DNA all over it.
The 90-degree engine has two turbochargers, a weight-saving aluminium cylinder head, and links up to a carbon-fibre driveshaft. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic sourced from Germany’s ZF, which is said to be capable of ballistically fast 150-millisecond gear shifts in race mode.
The all-wheel-drive (AWD) system defaults to rear-wheel drive (RWD) in most driving situations, but the transfer case can divert half the engine’s torque to the front wheels when the onboard brain senses loss of traction.
Outputs are 375kW at 6500rpm and 600Nm between 2500 and 5000rpm, and a trim-for-the-class 1830kg kerb weight (about 260kg lighter than a Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S) gives the car a formidable power-to-weight ratio of 209.5kW per tonne. The 0–100km/h time is just 3.8 seconds.
For a little extra context, a Porsche Macan Turbo’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine makes 324kW and 550Nm, it weighs 1973kg (tare), and its maker claims a 0–100km/h time of 4.5 seconds. You quickly see what an outlier the fearsome Alfa is.
As intended, the engine is quite tame and even refined when you’re doddering around in Natural or Advanced Efficiency driving modes (controlled by a circular dial near the shifter). The latter mode even engages cylinder deactivation and decoupled ‘sailing’ in low-stress situations to conserve fuel.
But twirl the rotary dial to Dynamic or Race mode, and the four outlets from the two-mode exhaust system snarl and crackle under heavy throttle, higher-pitched and angrier than your class-typical V8, and pop with every upshift. From outside it’s ferocious, and from inside hardly muted.
It absolutely hammers in a straight line, pinning you into the bucket seat while you’re holding tightly onto the wheel and watching the speedo climb uninterrupted, rather quickly. This is an engine that deliveries aurally, emotionally, and technically. It’s the heart and soul of the car.
The gearbox is happiest when you’re wringing it, since the whole driveline can get fidgety, reminding one of a thoroughbred being restrained – barely – by its rider’s tight grip on the reins. The paddle shifters are gorgeous to hold, but column-mounted so they don’t move with the wheel when turning.
In terms of fuel economy, the V6 meets Euro 6 emissions standards and claims a combined-cycle fuel use is 10.2L/100km. That’s when driving sensibly. If you decide to have some fun, don’t be surprised to see this figure climb by 50 per cent.
Jaguar took a very different approach to powering its SUV flagship. It uses a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 making 405kW at 6500rpm and 680Nm between 2500 and 5500rpm – so 30kW and 80Nm more than the Alfa, though its heavier tare mass (1936kg) means the 209.2kW/t power-to-weight figure is inferior. Just.
It also uses an on-demand AWD system with a rear bias, but which can allocate 90 per cent of torque on demand to the front wheels, and an eight-speed torque-converter automatic linked to aluminium paddles.
Jaguar claims a 4.3-second 0–100km/h time, which is half-a-second off the Alfa, but still disarmingly quick for a big SUV that weighs more than two tonnes with occupants aboard.
Among the various driving programs is a SVR-specific Dynamic mode that initiates faster and more responsive gearshifts, sharper throttle responses and increased steering weight. The transmission is far more eager to downshift aggressively for you in this setting than in more eco-focused modes.
Jaguar’s Variable Active Exhaust system cuts 6.6kg in weight over the regular exhaust, but more importantly it enhances the noise. Its electronically controlled valves can open or close at any point, as opposed to just opening at a certain engine revolution or pressure level.
This means the engine even sounds rumbly and whiny at low speeds and under part throttle load, before teeing off into full Barry White gargling nails territory at higher loads. The supercharger whine is there, as is the more rapid response from low in the rev band. I’d love a little more overrun cracking, however.
On a slight tangent, the Jag’s front end features bigger intake grilles and bonnet vents, and air channels over the brakes and around the side of the car. The rear has small aero channels built into the bottom strakes of the bumper bar. The exhaust outlets are all legit, so the four you see facing out the rear are plumbed from the engine.
Jaguar cites a fuel economy claim of 11.7L/100km, and again I say good luck matching that once you decide to actually use the throttle as intended.
It’s fair to say that the engines will be key purchasing factors in both vehicles on test, and they’re different enough that it’s easy to fall into either camp. Both are glorious dinosaurs. The Alfa is quicker and crisper, the Jag bellows and growls. And superchargers are uncommon these days.
One side note before I forget: if you want a designer speedboat-hauler, the Alfa lacks a tow rating, whereas the Jag is rated to tow 2400kg braked.
|Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio||Jaguar F-Pace SVR|
|Engine||2.9-litre twin-turbo V6||5.0-litre supercharged V8|
|Power||375kW @ 6500rpm||405kW @ 6500rpm|
|Torque||600Nm @ 2500rpm||680Nm @ 2500rpm|
|0–100km/h||3.8 seconds||4.3 seconds|
|Fuel||10.2L/100km 98RON||11.7L/100km 98RON|
|Transmission||8AT with paddles||8AT with paddles|
|Driveline||Variable, rear-biased AWD||Variable, rear-biased AWD|
On the Road
Alfa claims 50:50 weight distribution, segment-leading torsional stiffness, and the most direct steering (12.1 ratio) in the class. There’s also torque-vectoring via clutches in the limited-slip diff, adjustable dampers within the double-wishbone front and 4.5-link rear, plus a light and super-strong carbon-fibre driveshaft.
You can turn the driving-mode dial to its softer settings, taking some resistance from the steering, softening the ride a bit and numbing the throttle, and it becomes relatively tame as a daily driver. But the ride is always firm, and there are hints of brittleness over cobbles and potholes. It’s not your classic Jekyll/Hyde.
You’ll be hunting for twisty roads constantly. And when you get the chance to actually drive the Stelvio 'Q', you’ll be stunned. That steering is exceptionally responsive from centre and ideally weighted, the paddles are works of art (though when you’re not shuffling the wheel their location on the column can be a pain), and the body control and handling through corners are better than your average low-slung hot hatch.
It’s tail-happy, eagerly stepping out under heavy throttle despite the Pirelli hoops really trying to keep their grip. That torque-vectoring system is responsive as hell, shuffling torque across the rear axle, while the AWD system and ESC happily stay out of affairs until they’re really needed to sort you out.
In short, the Stelvio truly comes close to marrying SUV ride height and practicality with muscle car handling and performance – with a soundtrack and Italian charm to die for. By contrast, a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk feels like an overpowered shed. The only dynamic gripe beyond the low-speed ride is the excessive wind roar and tyre noise on highways.
Stomping on the Brembo brakes (six-piston front, four-piston rear, disc diameters of 360mm and 350mm respectively) pulls you up reassuringly. Don’t bother with $15,600 carbon-ceramic stoppers unless you do track work since they’ll squeak and squeal.
To the Jaguar. The company increased spring stiffness at the front by 30 per cent and the rear by 10 per cent compared to the supercharged six-cylinder, as well as adding performance-focused anti-roll bars to decrease body roll.
With adaptive suspension that uses a series of valves to variably adjust damping levels as the car hits bumps on the road, the ride is firm but rarely uncomfortable, even on the slim-sidewall tyres. Certainly, it’s the sort of car you can easily live with daily, especially in comfort mode.
Other changes include 30mm-wider tyres at the rear, and the introduction of a model-first electronic active differential at the rear with brake-torque vectoring that aims to reduce torque excess at each wheel.
SVR's bespoke all-wheel-drive system regularly operates with a torque split of around 70/30 (rear/front), but can progress all the way through to sending 100 per cent of torque to the rear axle when required. The car also has variant-specific electronic power-assisted steering, though it's not perfect like the Jag XE sedan's is.
Weight in the already lightish SVR was further reduced across the body and with the option of forged wheels (2.4kg lighter front, 1.7kg lighter rear). It’s still 146kg heavier than the featherweight Alfa, though!
For such a large car, you can certainly push the Jag super hard in tight corners and there's precious little SUV-style body roll. As a colleague said, it loves long sweepers, and if you happen to find yourself on a hill and plant the right pedal to the floor, it'll sing its way up the road in a truly glorious fashion.
Some felt the steering could be a bit more communicative, but it’s quick (though not Alfa quick) and responsive regardless. We found the massive 395mm/396mm brakes and twin-piece calipers more than capable of offering relentless stopping performance.
All up, though, while the Jaguar feels impressively lithe and sounds magnificent, the Alfa’s dynamic prowess almost defies physics. It’s a harder beast to live with on the daily errands, though.
|Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio||Jaguar F-Pace SVR|
|Front suspension||Double wishbone||Double wishbone|
|Rear suspension||Multi-link||Integral link|
|Front brakes||360mm rotors, 6-piston Brembo||395mm rotors, 4-piston Brembo|
|Rear brakes||350mm rotors, 4-piston Brembo||396mm rotors, Brembo|
Both brands offer three-year warranties.
The Alfa’s servicing intervals are annual or 15,000km, and the first five visits cost (at present): $894, $1346, $894, $2627, and $883. Yowzers, that’s $6644 for five years. Jaguar Australia will sell you a five-year/13,000km servicing plan for the SVR costing $3750, by contrast.
Neither of these cars makes a lick of sense in the conventional way. But both are ball-tearing fun muscle cars on stilts that make the automotive landscape more interesting and dynamic by virtue of their mere existence.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is basically a mega hatchback with a smidgen more room, such is its remarkable dynamic ability. And that Ferrari-derived engine sounds so good, you’ll be seeking tunnels at every opportunity.
But to my mind, the Jaguar fills the brief with fewer compromises. It still looks, sounds, and goes brilliantly. But the cabin has more polish and tech, and its value equation is superior despite the fact several necessary features are extra-cost options. It’s also marginally easier to live with.
If your heart is set on the Italian Stallion, then molto bene. But I’m going with the Brit here.