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The high performance Italian compact crossover is named Northwest Most Fun SUV by automotive journalists

COURTESY NWAPA/DOUG BERGER - The styling of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4 is different than any other compact crossover on the road.How much fun is the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4, the hot Italian compact crossover SUV sold by the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? So much fun, it's been named Northwest Most Fun SUV two years in row by the Northwest Automotive Press Association.

The Stelvio Q4 won the award at the end of the association's last two annual Run to the Sun competition, where car reporters get to drive an assortment of the fastest vehicles in the country on the wide open roads of central and eastern Oregon and Washington.

COURTESY NWAPA/DOUG BERGER - The big exhaust pipes hint at the 505 horsepower under the hood.

"When the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is matched against the competitive segment it retains the title of best performance SUV," Run to the Sun chair and NWAPA President Nik Miles said after the 2019 event. "Words cannot replace the experience of driving this Italian SUV on the roads of Oregon and Washington. This experience clearly impressed the 24 judges in this competition."

Writing for AutoNation, John Coyle said, "The mischievous glee this machine inspires is as contagious as it is bottomless. What an absolute hoot it is to drive."

I was unable to make either of the last two events. But fortunately, was scheduled to test the Q4 version of the Stelvio — officially known as the Quadrifoglio AWD — during the 2019 Seattle International Auto Show. That meant I was able to drive it all the way from Portland to Seattle and back, as well as around Portland and Seattle, over a full week. That compares to relatively short shifts during the Run to the Sun competition because the drivers have to continuously rotate through the cars to experience all of them.

COURTESY FCA - The interior of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4 is simple and clean.

I agree the Stelvio Q4 is a blast to drive when the sun is shining and the roads are clear and twisty. The acceleration provided by the twin turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 that pumps out 505 horsepower is awesome. The eight-speed transmission shifts with authority, especially in the Dynamic mode. The exhaust tone is glorious. The grip provided by the all-wheel-drive system is tremendous. And the big drilled disc brakes provide the stopping power needed to keep everything under control.

Although the default suspension setting is very stiff, it can be softened in the Dynamic mode by pressing a button on the mode control knob.

The Stelvio Q4 is also dazzling to look at. Because FCA has only recently begun selling Alfa Romeos in this country again, the distinctive grill looks different than everything else on the road and is immediately noticeable. The bright red Alfa Rosso exterior color also attracted attention everywhere I went, including in and out of hotel, where I could other guests were trying to figure out how I could afford something that looks so expensive.

COURTESY FCA - The Alfa Romeo grill atttracts attention everywhere the Stelvio Q4 goes.

Which brings me around to the obvious question — is the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4 really worth its $94,300 sticker price? That's right, the Q4 version is more than twice as expensive as the base Stelvio, which starts at $40,295. Of course, it only comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine that produced 280 horsepower and rear-wheel-drive, but still...

The answer will be made by those who only want the best. While the base Stelvio is competing in the luxury compact crossover market, the Q4 is one of the handful of genuine high performance luxury compact crossovers for sales these days, like the Porsche Macan Turbo, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 and Audi SQ5 — all of which are actually more expensive.

Given that, the interior is a bit of a letdown. The design is clean and simple, the materials are high quality, and the fit and finish are first rate. All in all, it's what you expect to find in a good $40,000 compact crossover. But for more than twice the money, most buyers are probably going to want their passengers to be more impressed. Rear seat room is also restricted, but that's typical of compact crossovers.

COURTESY FCA - The big brakes are part of the Q4 AWD package.

That said, the real test of the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4 is in the driving. And as John Coyle said after this year's Run to the Sun, "Whenever I'm behind the wheel of this Italian stallion, I can't help but thing of my first assessment of this glorious Alfa. Namely, that it's an attractive, practical people mover which has been wholly — and enthusiastically — possessed by Satan. Because there's just no way this vehicle should handle as well as it does, or provide such fantastic feel through the wheel."

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD

Base price: $40,295

Price as tested: $93,340

Type: Compact crossover SUV

Engine: Twin turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 (550 hp, 443 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 17/23

Overall length: 184.6 to 185.1 inches

Curb weight: 4,360 pounds

Final assembly: Cassino, Italy

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