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Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV proves it has the speed of a sports car

There was a time when the idea of a Nürburgring lap record for SUVs was absurd, but that time is long past. The competition among automakers to have the fastest SUV at the famous German racetrack is just as intense as it is for any other category of performance car.

Victory in the latest Nürburgring battle goes to Alfa Romeo. The Italian automaker’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio lapped the 12.9-mile track in 7 minutes, 51.7 seconds, making it the fastest SUV to ever do so. It beat the previous SUV champ, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, by about 8 seconds. It’s worth noting that any time under 8 minutes was once considered supercar territory.

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The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio was piloted to glory by Fabio Francia, an Alfa Romeo test driver who also achieved a 7 minute, 32 second lap in the automaker’s Giulia Quadrifoglio. Alfa says that is a record for a production-model sedan. The Stelvio is essentially a Giulia with an SUV body, so the mechanical differences between the two are fairly minimal. In the case of both models, the Quadrifoglio (Italian for “four-leaf clover,” referencing Alfa’s racing insignia) is the highest-performance version.

One look under the hood shows why it’s not surprising that the Stelvio and Giulia Quadrifoglio are record setters. Both cars pack a Ferrari-derived, 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, which produces 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio sends that power to the ground through all four wheels. The SUV will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and reach a top speed of 177 mph, according to Alfa Romeo. Not bad for a vehicle that’s supposed be a practical family hauler.

While you can admire the performance of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, you can’t actually buy one yet. U.S. sales don’t start until early 2018, although less-extreme base model and Stelvio Ti trim levels are in showrooms now.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s Nürburgring lap record probably won’t go unchallenged for long. Porsche will almost certainly return with a new hot rod Cayenne based on the redesigned third-generation model, and Lamborghini’s Urus SUV is still waiting in the wings. Alfa Romeo may have won this battle, but the war for performance bragging rights will continue.

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