1 Feb 1999
Already a modern classic, the beautiful front-wheel drive 156 ushered in Alfa’s modern design renaissance after two decades of sedan designer dirge (Alfa 90 anyone?).
Marked by muscular styling and hidden rear door handles, it was a real head-turner in either sedan or – from August 2000 – wagon guise.
And although the car was loosely based on the late-1980s front-wheel drive Fiat Tipo platform, its handling and roadholding put the Alfa near the top of its (highly competitive) segment.
The 156 offered a lusty 114kW/178Nm 2.0-litre Twin Spark four-cylinder engine engaged to a sporty five-speed manual gearshift or rather fragile five-speed sequential Selespeed manual transmission.
A 140kW/222Nm 3.0-litre V6 model was also available, but only with a bizarre four-speed clutchless manual/automatic called Q-System. The V6’s handling and balance were slightly adversely affected by the increased weight.
A six-speed manual option improved the 156 V6’s desirability from early 2002. From August 2002 a round of engineering updates saw the introduction of the Fiat group’s excellent 121kW/206Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder JTS engines, as well as a 141kW/218Nm version of the classic 3.0-litre V6 powerplant.