Does the Stelvio Quadrifoglio Signal the Start of a New Alfa Romeo-Maserati War?

The performance version of the Stelvio looks set to steal sales from the Maserati Levante

Before the launch of the Levante and Stelvio, Maserati and Alfa Romeo were among the last remaining automakers without SUVs in their lineups.

In a global market where SUVs of all sizes make up the fastest-growing segments, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' decision to add SUVs to the lineups of Maserati and Alfa Romeo will most likely pay off from a sales perspective.

A tight duel

But now that Alfa Romeo unveiled the Stelvio Quadrifoglio at the Los Angeles Auto Show, some people (including myself) started to wonder whether the hot Stelvio steps on the Maserati Levante's toes. And if it does, is that enough to reignite a rivalry that made headlines in the 1930s on Europe's racing circuits?

Sure, the two SUVs are not quite the same size: the Maserati is 5 meters long, while the Alfa Romeo measures just under 4.7 meters between the front and the rear bumpers. Width and height are very similar, though, and things get even more complicated when performance and pricing enter the equation.

Both have Ferrari-tuned engines, yet a different approach to performance

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio packs a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 gasoline engine rated at 510 PS (503 hp), while the range-topping Levante S boasts a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 unit that delivers 430 PS (424 hp). Surprisingly, the Alfa Romeo is more potent than the Maserati, even though the Modena-based brand is positioned above Alfa Romeo in FCA's stable of brands.

As expected, the slightly smaller and more powerful Alfa Romeo would win a drag race its blue-blooded relative. It goes from 0 to 60 mph (0-96 km/h) in 3.9 seconds and tops out at 177 mph (285 km/h), while the Levante S covers the same sprint in 5.0 seconds and reaches 164 mph (264 km/h). And the Alfa Romeo can go very fast through corners as well, with the automaker reckoning it will be quicker around the Nürburgring Nordschleife than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S! The Maserati should offer a more laid-back experience, but it too features an intelligent all-wheel drive system and torque vectoring as standard.

Bang for the buck, the Alfa should still prevail

By now you're probably wondering why would anyone buy the Levante S other than its brand cachet, but wait until you hear about pricing. The range-topping Maserati starts at €88,700 in Germany, while the Stelvio Quadrifoglio should command a slight premium over the Giulia Quadrifoglio, given that the two models share the architecture.

The Giulia Quadrifoglio is priced from €71,800 in Germany, which means the Stelvio Quadrifoglio should start somewhere around €75,000. Combined with the performance advantage it has on the Levante S it should be a no-brainer for customers in the market for a fast SUV with Italian styling.

Some may argue Maserati is a full-blown luxury brand while Alfa Romeo is only beginning to challenge Germany's premium brands, but the question remains. So, which Italian performance SUV would you get?