For almost 100 years, the Quadrifoglio has been the emblem of all Alfa Romeo racing models.

But this is the first time the four leaf clover – a trademark of Italian passion for motor racing – has been applied to an SUV.

By putting this legendary label on the Stelvio, Alfa was being clear from the outset that it intended the vehicle to be best in class in terms of power and handling.

Those familiar with Alfa’s line-up may see the Stelvio QF as a taller version of the Giulia QF - and they’d be on the right lines. Oh yes, this is effectively a sports car on stilts!

Indeed, both vehicles originate from the same platform and use the same sizzling engine – a 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 which was co-designed with Ferrari.

However, while the Giulia is only rear wheel drive, the Stelvio comes with a four wheel drive system.

With a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds, it puts its opponents to shame, with the scintillating acceleration matched by a rasping exhaust note.

Over 500bhp is available when you work the engine to its limit, while 442lb of torque allows the Stelvio to simply devour corners and brush off slippery road conditions.

Torque vectoring across the rear axles redistributes the power to whichever wheel has the most grip.

When driving conditions are normal, 100 per cent of the power is sent to the rear wheels, meaning the driving dynamics closely mirror those of a sports car.

When conditions get more tricky, half that power can go to the front wheels to enhance grip and make the Stelvio more sure-footed.

When you select race mode, the exhaust sound becomes more raucous. However, selecting race mode switches off stability control, so the driver must be alert to enjoy the full-on exhaust note without risking a spin.

The steering is super-fast for an SUV and feels even especially weighty in the more sporty mode.

Cleverly, the Stelvio has another persona when the situation demands some steady motoring.

When cruising, half of the engine’s cylinders shut down to make the vehicle less thirsty, pushing fuel economy above 30mpg.

Adjustable suspension comes as standard and, when you select the most comfy setting, the car feels fairly settled over bumps, meaning you can make progress in a relatively relaxed and refined manner.

Much of the vehicle’s body panels and suspension are made of light-weight aluminium, which means the Stelvio’s kerb weight is a couple of hundred kg lighter than rivals.

So it’s pretty light for an SUV, helping it feel more nimble and manoeuvrable when cornering.

In terms of looks, the Stelvio QF has an aggressive appearance, especially at the front end.

Styling upgrades include bigger, more imposing bumpers, large vents in the bonnet, 20-inch alloys, and quad tail pipes.

It’s one of those vehicles that people certainly notice.

Once inside, the build quality of the cabin is generally impressive, although there is still the odd scratchy plastic surface to be found.

The large part-leather sports seats are hugely comfortable, but they do eat into rear legroom.

Other nice features include aluminium pedals, leather on the dash with red stitching, and carbon fibre inlays.

The infotainment system probably isn’t up to the same standard as the big German manufacturers but it is, however, perfectly adequate.

The Stelvio QF’s pricing starts from a shade under £70,000, which undercuts some key rivals like the Mercedes GLC 63 S or the Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package. That said, it’s still a hugely expensive SUV.

If you’re looking for one stand-out factor to justify that price tag, it’s the way the Stelvio drives.

Many manufacturers now produce high-performance SUVs, but I’m yet to come across one that feels so like a sports car to drive.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

PRICE: From £69,510

ENGINE: 2891CC, six-cylinder, four-valve petrol, 503bhp

TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic with manual mode, four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph in 3.8sec, top speed of 176mph

ECONOMY: 31.4mpg and emissions of 210g/km