I’LL be honest with you. I loathe all the current crop of so-called SUVs, except those I dislike intensely.
I cannot see the point of driving around in a car that’s slower, more expensive and thirstier than a normal saloon or estate. It just seems idiotic.
But then I had to make a brief trip to Tuscany recently and found a man offering me the keys to Alfa Romeo’s new Stelvio.
Named after a remote Alpine pass in northern Italy, this is a direct rival of the Q5 and all the other mid-range jacked-up estates whose names I can’t be bothered to remember.
In short, it’s a Giulia saloon on stilts, and I was determined to hate every bit of it.
I was thinking: “What in the name of all that’s holy was Alfa Romeo thinking of?”
If you have a heritage as glamorous and as achingly cool as Alfa’s, why would you want to make a bloody school-run car? That is like Armani deciding to make carrier bags.
Alfa’s engineers are at pains to explain that, while it may look like an SUV, it doesn’t feel like one to drive.
They say all the power from the engine is sent to the rear wheels, but then, if traction is lost, up to half the power is sent instantly to the front.
They also speak about carbon-fibre prop shafts and much lightweight aluminium in the body, and I stood there thinking: “Yes, but it’s still a bloody carrier bag.”
I had much the same sense of teeth-gnashing rage when I first encountered Maserati’s Levante, and that turned out to be just as bad as I’d feared.
But as the man brought over more friends for more selfies, I started to gaze more carefully at the Stelvio, and there was no getting round the fact that, actually, it’s quite good-looking.
There’s some genuine sculpture in there. Alfa has made its one something worth looking at.
I suppose it’s an Italian thing.
It’s why Siena is a better place to sit and people-watch than Dortmund.
Setting the sat nav, however, was a challenge. Eventually, though, I had the right town and fired up the engine.
The diesel engine. Oh, dear Lord. A diesel Alfa Romeo SUV.
The funny thing is, though, that because everyone in Italy has a diesel-powered car, it didn’t feel all that weird to be clattering out of the car park.
And then it felt fine, because soon I was on the racetrack known as an autostrada, where it felt very powerful.
The figures say it’ll go from 0 to 62mph in 6.6 seconds, which is good, but it’s the mid-range surge that impresses most of all.
And it’s not as if you’re leaving a trail of death in your wake because, despite the power and the torque, this engine is considerably cleaner than the diesel Porsche puts in its Macan.
And Alfa says it’ll do almost 60mpg.
So it’s as fast as the badge would suggest, but does it handle as well as Alfa promises? It takes time to learn to think your way round corners, but when you get there, I must say this is a genuinely exciting car to drive.
It doesn’t feel as cumbersome as all the other SUVs, and you get the impression it was engineered by people who were involved because they wanted to be.
Not because they’d done something wrong.
And because of that — because it’s a big, practical car with a huge boot and folding seats and lots of cubbyholes that’s also an Alfa Romeo — it’s the only SUV that’s quite tempting.
Read the full Clarkson review on our sister site Driving.co.uk.