1 Jun 2006
AFTER seven years in Australia, Alfa’s 156 bowed out of the market to make way for the all-new 159.
Fortunately, with its thoroughly competitive pricing, bigger interior and new engines that don’t compromise the Alfa ideal, the 159 is the Italian company’s most competitive model in decades.
The five-cylinder JTD turbo-diesel is powerful and economical the 2.2-litre JTS petrol surprisingly smooth and responsive. Only some skittishness in rough-road handling spoils an otherwise very positive experience.
The 159 is an all-new car, from the platform to the suspension to the bigger and heavier (200kg or so) body, which stretches out significantly in all directions.
Three models are available, defined by three new engines a DOHC four-cylinder 2.2-litre JTS VVT producing 136kW and 230Nm, a Holden-derived 3.2-litre 191kW/322Nm JTS VVT V6, and a 2.4-litre five-cylinder 147kW/400Nm JTD turbo-diesel complete with particle filter.
Even more noteworthy is the arrival of full-time all-wheel drive in an Alfa.
The three-differential Q4 permanent all-wheel drive system is standard in the 3.2-litre JTS V6 version and slightly favours the rear wheels with a straight-line 57 per cent rear, 43 per cent front torque split.
A self-locking Torsen centre differential apportions torque in less straightforward conditions according to traction needs.
For the moment, the drivelines include standard six-speed manual transmissions on all three models. Six-speed autos for the JTD and 3.2 JTS models are arriving during 2007.
The 159’s front suspension is a development of the MacPherson strut system used on the 156, while at the back is a new multi-link setup providing more wheel travel, (claimed) better handling and more isolation from road noise via – among other things – carefully tuned and located high-tech bushing.
Braking is by four-wheel discs, ventilated at the front only on 2.2 JTS, but using four ventilated discs with Brembo front calipers on 2.4 JTD and 3.2 JTS.
Standard equipment includes seven airbags (including a driver’s knee bag), anti-whiplash front seats (all playing a part in the 159’s five-star Euro NCAP safety rating), rear park-distance control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a 120-Watt, eight-speaker, 10-CD sound system.
Dual-zone climate-control, leather trim on seats and steering wheel, trip computer, heated and folding external rear-view mirrors, cruise control and a new electronic key with a cute starter button are also part of the basic 159 deal.
The beginning of 2011 saw Alfa's 147kW, 1750cc turbo engine replace the 2.2 JTS under the 159's bonnet, providing greater power and efficiency.