It’s safe to say that the Porsche Cayenne is a remarkable vehicle. Now in its third generation, it’s evolved from an SUV that happens to be a Porsche into a Porsche that happens to be an SUV. The Cayenne incorporates iconic 911 design cues and racing-inspired upgrades like four-wheel steering; top-tier models like the Cayenne Turbo and Cayenne S Turbo E-Hybrid deliver breathtaking performance that can match some supercars.
There’s only one real drawback to buying a Cayenne: it’s expensive. Depending on the trim, the eventual purchase price can range from exploitative to just plain ludicrous. Porsche kicks things off at $66,800 for a base model, but any reasonable person would option that vehicle north of $80,000 to make it feel like a luxury car. That aforementioned Cayenne S Turbo E-Hybrid? It starts at $161,900, and you still will probably want to add some options.
Most buyers looking for a distinctive, high-performing SUV that channels a manufacturer’s racing heritage will want to consider a cheaper alternative. One great option? The Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
The Stelvio is the crossover for people who never, ever saw themselves lusting after a crossover. It handles like a sports car — and, truth be told, the tarmac is generally where you’ll want to keep it. The base Stelvio uses a perky turbocharged four-pot that puts out 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. But the upper-level Quadrifoglio model is where the Stelvio truly makes its mark.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio has FCA’s F154 twin-turbocharged V6. The “F” in that designation stands for “Ferrari,” which built a 505-horsepower kraken of an engine. (It also appears in the already legendary Giulia Quadrifoglio.) And the Stelvio is more than a high-riding Giulia with a trunk that can hold some junk. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds, which means the Stelvio is quicker than the Giulia (as well as the base Cayenne.) Its sub-eight minute lap at the Nürburgring Nordschleife puts some sports cars to shame.
The Stelvio is not a Porsche, but it does embody Alfa Romeo ‘s rich automotive heritage — with all that entails. It stimulates the automotive senses. It looks fresh, unique, and powerful in the market’s most crowded and ubiquitous segment. It sounds spectacular. The exhaust makes a delicious, symphonic racket when you put it into race mode.
But it would not be a proper Alfa Romeo without breaking its owner’s heart on occasion. Test Stelvios have been spotted stranded in the middle of intersections, and reliability issues have been noted by the likes of Consumer Reports. Meanwhile, Jeremy Clarkson broke a Quadrifoglio trying to do stereotypical SUV activities in this episode of The Grand Tour.
Sure, a Stelvio is less car than a Cayenne, but it also costs about half as much. The base Stelvio begins at $40,545, while the Quadrifoglio version starts at $80,245. Unlike with Porsche, you don’t need to add $20,000 worth of options; Alfa Romeo includes many of the features one would expect to find in a luxury car. While you pay extra to score chunks of Porsche’s heritage in the Cayenne, you can get every bit of Alfa Romeo’s in the Stelvio for a relative bargain.
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