The New Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Cars Culture

Perfect Escapism

There is nothing quite like motoring under vast skies with the autonomy to select your next destination. It’s an excellent tonic for taking a breather from the stresses of everyday life while broadening the mind.

You don’t need to go far to do this, as I found out on a road trip around Scotland in Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The country has thousands of miles of tarmacadam unfolding around some of the world’s most remarkable scenery.

Ghostly glens, large lochs, majestic mountains and vibrant villages were my travel companions during my exploration in the new Stelvio. It’s easy to see why motor manufacturers launch cars in Scotland – and Bond even dashed north in his Aston Martin for the 2012 movie, Skyfall.

Some of the sights I saw on my journey in the new Stelvio Quadrifoglio, and in no particular order, included Ben Lawers, one of Scotland’s loftiest mountains. It gives its moniker to a National Nature Reserve. The area is a hotspot for wildlife lovers and is known for its flora. There’s also Lawers Dam, which co-exists with Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve. Black grouse and Red deer can be seen, as well as water vole – one of Britain’s most endangered animals.

I didn’t want to ruin the peace and tranquillity of Scotland, but I fear I did. With 510PS under the bonnet, it’s hard to stop Alfa Romeo’s first performance-SUV roaring when you set off. The car will do 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds for goodness sake. I feel Mother Nature may have forgiven the Stelvio Quadrifoglio for one reason, though: The Alfa is almost gazelle-like in form. It has ‘muscles’ in all the correct places , but it’s poised and graceful – as if designed by nature herself.

The Italian vehicle’s four-wheel drive arrangement, and the added grip it delivers made my trip even more manageable. It enabled me to explore Glen Lyon, Scotland’s longest glen. Many of the roads on this route are single-track and get to an altitude of 1,850 feet between Loch Tay and the Bridge of Balgie.

I carried on down the glen, passing the latter location’s picturesque stone bridge on the bank of the river and MacGregor’s Leap. Here, the legendary Gregor MacGregor of Glenstrae was said to have jumped across the Lyon to evade pursuing hounds. Then I snaked my way to the village of Fortingall with its beautiful thatched cottages, before driving towards Keltneyburn. Here you can see sculptures at the Keltneyburn Smithy Gallery.

After this part of my drive, I lost myself for a while in the Stelvio’s cabin. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that spacious – what I mean is that it has a pleasing interior. The semi-leather and carbon fibre steering wheel is a joy to hold, and the dark-faced dials with easily readable white figures are bewitching. Then there’s the sophisticated green and white stitching and clear-cut infotainment screen.

I also think the Stelvio’s eight-speed automatic transmission is worth a mention. It moves through the cogs like a hot knife through butter, making light work of any adventure. The SUV makes use of its ‘muscles’ as you steer it around, too. It sneaks forward with the determination of an off-roader, eagerly trying to clamber over any hurdle in front of it.

Put your right foot down, however, and the Quadrifoglio takes-off in a very non-SUV way. The rear hunkers down, and you spring ahead with the vim and vigour usually only found in the quickest all-wheel-drive sports machines.

After my ‘moment’ with the ‘hot’ Stelvio, I found myself at Acharn. You can park here and walk uphill near the Falls of Acharn. These are approximately 25m high and are impressive, as are the succession of rapids that sit above them.

Shortly after that, I was in the conservation village of Kenmore. The Kenmore Hotel is thought to be Scotland’s most ancient inn, dating back to 1540. In 1782, Scotland’s poet, Robert Burns put a poem together on Kenmore Bridge and scribbled it on the hotel fireplace.

It was raining most of my trip (no surprise there), but that’s a good thing if you like waterfalls. I made the most of the weather and used the Alfa Romeo to check out some more falls by visiting Killin’s Falls of Dochart. In reality, these are rapids, but they are stunning after a heavy downpour.

Like the extreme acceleration, the way the Stelvio Quadrifoglio can be threaded down a single-track road is equally bonkers. Driving rapidly feels entirely natural, in a way no car on stilts has any right to be piloted. Even on winter rubber, the Alfa felt incisive; the only clue it wasn’t on more performance-focused tyres was under severe braking.

Like Scotland, the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is hardy, yet exciting, and a joy if you’re seeking escapism.