We have eight hours with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Photographer Mark has saddled the boot and back seat with our combined bodyweight in camera equipment, and we’re an hour’s drive from the world’s greatest cul-de-sac: the road that climbs Jebel Jais, the tallest peak in the United Arab Emirates.
This isn’t the Alfa Romeo you’re expecting, either. The white plaque adorned with a green (verde) four- (quadri-) leaved (foglio) clover gives this Competizione Stelvio away as the fast one. And if you missed those, then the pair of strake nostrils carved into the bonnet, four exhaust tips and lateral wheel arch spats ought to do the trick.
In a sentence, this is the BMW M3-embarrassing Giulia Quadrifoglio supersaloon with insoles. Same chassis platform, same 2.9-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 engine delivering 375kW and 600Nm, same rasping, rudely operatic soundtrack. Same eight-speed automatic gearbox hanging off the other end. Same slim, suede-meets carbon steering wheel – same dashboard entirely, in fact.
With one 90-degree turn, we’re off the flea market-lined maze of bypasses. Now, the landscape is more cinematic. Sort of a cross between the moon and the elephant graveyard from The Lion King. As the road begins to twist vindictively past the stone walls that stand in its way, the Stelvio is immediately a wicked bit of kit on this road.
It’s not the taller vantage point &ndash