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First look: Alfa 156 crosses over

Step up: The Crosswagon’s higher ride height than the front-wheel drive 156 is a significant hint of its capabilities.

Crosswagon previews a bold all-paw attack by Alfa Romeo

19 Feb 2004

ALFA Romeo has joined the rush to cross-overs, revealing first pictures of the 156 Crosswagon it will launch at the Geneva motor show in March.

And it’s a taste of things to come with a whole range of all-wheel drives to be released over the next few years by the Italian company traditionally associated with sporting cars.

That range will include performance all-wheel drive for GTA models, standard AWD for the next 166 and the addition of the mid-size Kamal cross-over in 2006.

The 156 Crosswagon will make its Australian debut at the Sydney motor show in October before going on sale here before the end of 2004.

A starting price is expected to be somewhere between $55,000 and $60,000, once spec and the lowered tariff on imported cars is taken into account (the importer doesn’t think Crosswagon will qualify for the five per-cent 4WD tariff).

A price like that will place it in competition with car-based rivals like the Holden Adventra and Toyota Kluger and make it good value against the likes of the luxury Lexus RX330 and forthcoming BMW X3.

26 center image Designed by the Alfa Romeo's Arese Style Centre, the Crosswagon has obvious ties to its front-wheel drive donor car, but the nearly 600mm higher ground clearance, 225/55 R17 all season tyres, aluminium door sills and different bumpers give its cross-over intentions away.

Inside, the new model features an instrument panel with brand new design, a compass built into the mirror plus special carpets and mats and a new trim for the central console. In Australia, the equipment level will match the fwd 156, which means leather trim, climate control and alloy wheels.

Four wheel drive is delivered via electronic differentials at either end and a worm-drive Torsen C centre differential. Interestingly this means most drive is sent to the rear wheels except when slip is detected. Usually, with these systems, most drive is sent forward under optimum conditions.

And because not all the torque needs be transmitted through the front axle, Alfa has reconfigured the geometry of the double wishbone front suspension for ride comfort. At the rear there are MacPherson struts - as per the fwd wagon – which have also been revised.

Engine choice at European launch will be limited to the four-cylinder 1.9 JTD 16v Multijet turbo-diesel, developing 110 kW and 305Nm, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. In Australia we are likely to get the Crosswagon with the 121kW 2.0-litre JTS four-cylinder petrol engine.

The Crosswagon’s braking system has been uprated with front discs derived from the V6 GTA model, and it also boasts the Bosch 5.7 ABS system including electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD). Further electro aid comes in the form of VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) and ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) systems.

The Crosswagon is far from the first all-wheel drive Alfa-Romeo. The 1951 AR51 had that honour, but there has not been an all-paw Alfa since the 1993 164 Q4.

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