2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio first drive review: ultimate performance, incomplete luxury Page 2

Second Sector

I negotiate the tight left hander that leads onto the long back straight, rolling onto the throttle and enjoying the sensation as the 2.9-liter V-6 and torque-vectoring limited-slip differential fire me down the back straight.

The Stelvio’s paddle shifters are perfect strips of metal attached to the steering column, so they’re always in the right place. I pull the right paddle shifter to snag third gear. Bang.

The upshifts from the 8-speed automatic transmission are lightning fast and like the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the acoustic fireworks are the thunder to the accelerative lightning.

Fourth gear. Bang.

Fifth gear. Bang.

I’m nudging past 135 mph, but the Stelvio is nervous, the 12:1 steering rack amplifying each steering input. It’s the only fault in what’s otherwise a very enjoyable steering rack.

MUST READ: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio first drive review: the SUV we've been waiting for

When I pass under the pedestrian bridge that crosses the track, I’m at 140 mph. A few more seconds, and I stand on the carbon-ceramic brakes to bleed speed before a sharp left.

All four of the track Stelvios on hand wear the larger carbon-ceramic brakes, an $8,000 option that increases the rotor sizes slightly at all four corners.

On public roads, the electric brake pedal is lousy—tip-in is difficult and the pedal is hard to modulate at low speeds, just like the standard Stelvio. But on the track, it all feels more progressive, while the stopping power itself is immense, easily hauling the Quad down to a reasonable speed under just 75-percent braking.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio First Drive

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio First Drive

The weight transfer under this hard braking is predictable—there isn’t a lot of suspension dive, but the front tires still struggle with the sudden weight. The quick steering suddenly raises its head again as the Stelvio squirrels, and I fight to keep facing straight. Despite the heavy braking, the pedal feels consistent and reliable with no signs of fade. The carbon-ceramics do tend to squeal on pit entry, though.

Third Sector

The Pirelli tires and suspension provide a good barometer of grip through COTA’s technical final third and the high-speed, three-turn neck stretcher at its heart.

I approach the entrance to this section under hard throttle and lift off as I turn in, shifting some of the weight towards the front axle to help the Stelvio turn in a little quicker. The throttle is aggressive, but it’s easy to modulate—backing off quickly doesn’t upset the balanced Stelvio.

Approaching the second apex, the suspension’s movements ripple through the chassis and I adjust my steering angle to shift some of the weight off the overburdened driver’s side.

Following the second apex, I add throttle to exploit the leftover performance in the Pirelli tires as the bend starts to unwind. The understeer that follows is not only easy to predict, but it’s a good thing at this point. I’m aimed towards the exit cone and carrying plenty of speed.

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