I voiced my disgust at them being pointless, vast expressions of wealth. I said they served little purpose other than being a vulgar status symbol to impress other pretentious snobs. I also said they were usually driven by women with impossibly wrinkle-free foreheads and plumped-up lips who like to ‘brunch’ and pay a tenner for avocado on malted toast at an equally pretentious vegan-friendly cafe.
However, I feel I must eat a giant slice of humble pie because I now don’t mind admitting that the pumped-up, 503bhp Stelvio is arguably one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed. The much-maligned Italian marque - famed for its beautiful-but-rubbish cars - has been on a roll since the disappointing, two-seat 4C left our thoughts and was instead replaced by the brilliant, BMW M3-beating Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon.
That car shares the big Stelvio’s engine, a 2.9-litre, Ferrari-derived V6 which has two turbos bolted on for good measure and it’s quite possibly the most intriguing unit I’ve ever come across thanks to its Jekyll and Hyde character, but we’ll get to that later.
It’s clear within an instant that it’s the sportier version and with its optional pearlescent white paint and 20-inch ‘telephone dial’ wheels, it absolutely looks the part. The quad exhaust pipes, the bonnet vents and the gaping front grilles all help towards creating a car that manages to tread the fine line between class and crass very well.
Open the driver’s door and you’re met with an interior that’s dripping with evocative carbon fibre weave. The seats, which are optional Sparco items costing £3,250, are cocooned in carbon and although their price is hard to justify, they help create a nigh-on perfect driving position. Ahead is one of the best steering wheels in the business. It is part-leather, alcantara and carbon and feels perfect in your hands, while the elongated paddleshifters nestle behind. The infotainment system works very well and is easy to understand, although the screen should be bigger in a car of this size.
Prod the Ferrari-like starter button, which is also housed on the steering wheel, and the V6 fires into life with a purposeful thrum, although it’s not too intrusive on tickover. Slide into ‘D’ and the eight-speed automatic gearbox, sourced from ZF - a firm which provides transmission units to Bentley - will cause no drama. Acceleration in its default setting is rapid, but the engine remains somewhat mute. However, the lack of aural theatre is remedied by twisting its ‘DNA’ toggle round to ‘RACE’, which opens the exhaust system’s valves and transforms the whole car.
The adaptive dampers, which are remarkably comfortable, show a stiffer edge in the car’s optimum setting but it never turns into a hard-riding, unbearable companion on even the worst-surfaced roads. Take control of the paddleshifters, which feel fantastic, and crack the window before getting on the throttle. It’s one of the most other-worldly experiences in the motoring world, barrelling along in a near two-tonne SUV which somehow does the 60mph sprint in 3.8 seconds.
Strangely it’s not its speed that stands out - you expect a car with 503bhp to feel muscular - but the noise you get is laugh-out-loud brilliant. Your ears pick up the pops, bangs and gunfire-like cracking on upshifts and downshifts, but the biggest compliment I can pay the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the fact it doesn’t feel huge when you’re pushing on. It feels like a big hot hatch, albeit with monumental pace, and only ever reveals its undeniable weight when you’re heavily using its admittedly massive brakes to shave off speed.
There’s a price to pay, however. It’ll never register more than 25mpg and it starts at £69,510, but tick a few boxes on the options list including the seats, the fancy materials on its steering wheel and the kids’ favourite - a panoramic sunroof - and you’re looking at the thick end of £80,000. Given it’s an Alfa it’ll depreciate hugely, and it goes into a head-on battle with the Porsche Macan Turbo.
Which would I have? Before I’d have taken the Porsche every single time - you know what you’re getting and that’s a classy, fast car with a beautiful interior - but a week with the big, bad Stelvio is all it took to sway my mind because it truly is that good. There’s just no way the Porsche can match the Alfa’s character - it’s the crazy, absinthe-shotting one at the party where the strait-laced, cordial-sipping Macan is the antithesis.
Alfas of old were like a faithful old dog. They would cost you an arm and a leg in the long run and it wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, but you loved them because of how they went about their business in their truly unique - if somewhat mad - Italian way. New cars, in my opinion at least, are more diluted than ever. Their hugely intelligent systems rob you of involvement but I dare anyone to try a Stelvio Quadrifoglio and not fall head over heels with it - it’s a modern-day throwback with a gobsmacking engine, a beautiful exterior, one of the best interiors in the game and masses of personality.
It’s a breath of fresh air and yes, I am talking about a SUV... It took me about 12 seconds to be won over by its charm. Long live big, daft, fast cars - they make the world a better place.