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Alfa Romeo isn’t one to rest on its laurels when it comes to expanding its range. A consistent fan of the special edition or limited-run model, it’s never much of a surprise when the Italian firm brings out a new version of its existing cars as a way of injecting a little extra interest into one of its product lines. In fairness, most manufacturers are the same.

Enter the Estrema. It’s a new specification designed to offer the dynamic involvement of the top-rung Quadrifoglio but without the added list price or raised running costs that come with that tip-top model. It’s being introduced on both the Stelvio SUV and Giulia saloon and here, we’re trying the former.

On the outside at least you’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference. This is a Stelvio with a little extra presence courtesy of added carbon-fibre trim pieces and new 21-inch alloy wheels. You also get darkened ‘Estrema’ badges on the flanks and the badges around the back are black too for a more undercover look.

Photos: PA Media

Underneath, we’ve got the same engine setup as you’ll get in the Veloce – the model the Estrema now sits above. Importantly, the Estrema comes with adaptive dampers as standard, something you had to pay more for on the Veloce, but which have now been removed from that model. You also get a limited-slip differential as standard.

If you’re after a de-tuned version of the 2.9-litre V6 from the Quadrifoglio here, then you’re likely to be disappointed. No, here we have 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the Veloce, and it kicks out the same amount of power as that car, too – 276bhp and 400Nm of torque. Driven to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it equates to a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 142mph, which are still pretty respectable for a ‘regular’ model.

In terms of efficiency, we’re talking 32.1mpg combined and CO2 emissions 198g/km, so pretty much on the money for a car of this size and in this segment.

We’ve had little issue with the way the regular Stelvio drove in the past and because of that, understandably, we’ve got little issue with the Estrema. The addition of the adaptive dampers means you can stiffen or soften them off – but only in sport mode, oddly. It does mean that in normal driving modes you can’t adjust the suspension – it stays in its softest setting by default – and though this isn’t exactly a dealbreaker, it would’ve been nice to have the option. You can feel the differential working through tighter corners, too, which helps to give a slightly keener edge to how the car drives.

The rest of the car is just as good as before. Alfa Romeo has hit a real dynamic sweet spot with both the Giulia and Stelvio, packing some genuine responsiveness and agility into these run-of-the-mill cars. Couple this with a decent punchy engine and you have a car that is really enjoyable to corner quickly, but comfortable at a cruise too.

The added features that you get from the Estrema do help to boost this car’s appearance even further, but the Stelvio was no bad looking thing in the first place. Certainly against its key competition from German manufacturers it stands out with its more interesting design. It’s got a number of those hallmark Alfa design touches such as the front grille and wheels, applied to a modern SUV style. It’s still a successful design, just as it always was.

Though the blacked-out badges might be a key bonus for some people, the Estrema badges are completely lost on darker-coloured cars – our black test car meant that these new badges were barely noticeable.

There are some nice updates for the cabin on the Estrema. You’ve got race-inspired red stitching throughout, while carbon fibre has been used on a variety of different elements too. Combined with lashings of Alcantara, it creates a genuinely upmarket-feeling place to be.

We also really liked the seats. Again, they’re trimmed in Alcantara, but toe the line between a standard seat and a full-on bucket well, providing ample support without feeling too claustrophobic or cinched-in.

The Estrema does bring some added bells and whistles over the regular Veloce. There’s a lot of carbon-fibre going on here, covering the wing mirrors and front grille as well as all of those interior elements. All Stelvio Estrema models ride on 21-inch wheels as standard too, while darkened Estrema badges sit on the flanks and bumper. The standard-fit infotainment system works well too, though its menu layout can be a little confusing at times. Still, the inclusion of a rotary controller makes things a little easier than with some solely touchscreen-operated systems.

Is it a whole lot more than you’d find on the previous range-topping Stelvio? Not particularly. But if you’re fancying a slightly sportier feel, then the Estrema will no doubt appeal quite a bit.

The Estrema arrives to add a little extra interest to what is already quite an interesting SUV. The addition of adjustable dampers does give some added flexibility to those who want to control the Stelvio’s ride but, in truth, the regular car feels more than adequately set up in its standard form so this addition feels neither here nor there.

Is it a slightly watered-down version of the range-topping Quadrifoglio? Not really. It feels like Alfa could’ve done slightly more to bring some of the energy from that tip-top version into the Estrema. As it is, this is still a fine car but one which only brings a handful of elements over the standard – and already very good – Stelvio.

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