You only have to press the big red fun button in the middle of the steering wheel to know where that money has been spent. In essence a Ferrari V8 with a couple of cylinders lopped off, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 is a monster. There are few SUVs this side of a Lamborghini Urus or Aston Martin DBX with more than 500bhp, and even without sophisticated launch control, the way this 1830kg lump leaves the line or picks up in the mid-range is just outrageous. I’d love a bit more noise – only with drive mode set to Race does it unleash real anger – but the flexibility born of 443lb ft of torque from just 2500rpm means you’re never left looking for more performance.
Best of all, a 7min 51.7sec lap of the Nürburgring in 2017 – a record for an SUV at the time – betrays a chassis that’s more than a match for the engine. With double wishbones up front and a multi-link rear, plus adaptive dampers all round, it’s brilliantly tied down and turns in with almost unbelievable alacrity for such a big car. I’m still learning the steering, which offers good initial sensations yet lacks feel when you’re approaching the limit of the Pirelli P Zeros’ adhesion, but I love the way the torque is delivered to the rear wheels, allowing you to adjust your line as you would in a sports car. Most of the time, this is a pure rear-driver, only delivering up to 50% of the power to the front wheels when it detects slip.
Even this soon into our relationship, however, there is a rather large elephant… not in the room, but under the bonnet. And it is very, very thirsty. The official figures are pessimistic enough, but if you do mainly town driving, 13-14mpg is not unusual. At a time when fuel prices are soaring, that’s pretty painful.
The Stelvio is illogical, uncompromising and, if we’re honest, downright irresponsible. But also wonderful. Whether I can live with the environmental guilt – or the wallet-busting bills – over the coming months remains to be seen, but I’m going to have a good time finding out.
Second opinion, Matt Saunders: “Few would put the Stelvio in the same league as its German SUV opponents for cabin quality and overall luxury appeal. But it does remain a roomy, good-looking, desirable family car with a discernible helping of sporting soul. As such, there will always be a place, and a customer, for it.”