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Pumped Alfa 159 turns on the charm

2011-09-21 09:12

PARTING SHOT: The 159's latest update adds serious excitement to the executive sedan segment.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Alfa Romeo
Model 159
Engine four-cylinder 1750 TBi; 3.2 V6
Power 147kW at 5000rpm; 191kW at 6200rpm
Torque 320Nm at 1400rpm; 322Nm at 4500rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual or automatic
Zero To Hundred 7,7 seconds; 7.1s (7s)
Top Speed 235km/h; 250km/h (244km/h)
Fuel Tank 70 litres
Fuel Consumption 7.8 litres/100 km; 11.0 litres/100km (11.4 litres/100km)
Steering Rack and pinion with hydraulic servo
ABS VDC with hill holder, ASR, EBD and brake assistant
Airbags front, side, window and driver knee
Front Suspension High double wishbone
Rear Suspension Independent multi-link
Service Intervals 35 000km
Service Plan six-year or 105 000km
Warranty five-year or 150 000km

Hailey Philander

“I love black rims!” my driving partner gushed as I slipped into the passenger seat for our first driving leg.

“I loathe them,” I muttered, happy to focus instead on what is probably the 159’s most endearing quality – it’s arrestingly good looks beyond the wheel arches.

In what is meant to be the swan song to Alfa’s sedan range (although its replacement Giulia has been postponed until 2014) the 159’s appearance is unchanged. Instead, there are new materials and shades for the fascia and the range has been streamlined to five derivatives with two engine options – the existing 3.2 V6 and the 1750 TBi that’s new to the 159.

Alfa’s product strategy manager, Scott Seed, indicated that, according to the company’s research, purchases within the D segment remained primarily automatic petrol units, which probably explains why the 2.4-litre turbodiesel has been turfed out. The four-cylinder 1.9- and 2.2-litre petrol engines previously used have also gone. 

1750 TBi

The 1.75-litre turbocharged engine in as a replacement will be familiar to Giulietta drivers, although it’s been detuned for use in the 159 to produce 147kW. Not that you’ll feel the drop in power from the cabin.

The direct-injection turbo engine is packed with efficiency-enhancing tools, including two continuously variable valve timing units (intake and exhaust cams) and a scavenging control system that also reduces lag by constantly monitoring the engine parameters and bumping up the torque at low revs.

At the top of the range is the all-aluminium 3.2-litre V6 that produces 191kW and 322Nm. This engine is not new to the 159 range, although it can now be specified with a six-speed auto transmission or front-wheel drive and six-speed manual combination. Alfa’s Q4 permanent all-wheel drive (which sends 57 percent of torque to the rear wheels) comes standard with the auto that can be used sequentially and, if you’re in a sporty mood, holds the gears as you would a manual...

Based on the 220km route from Pretoria’s Irene suburb into the cultural heartland of North West province, the 1750 TBi driven was definitely the stand-out model. Sure, the audio provided by the V6 engine is chilling and the sharper handling characteristics did not go unnoticed, but for all-round drivability and balance between performance and comfort, the lesser sibling was the bigger beast.

NEW FINISHES: The 159's design is largely untouched, although new colours and materials have been introduced to the cabin.

The 159’s update has seen it shed a few kilograms since several of the body panels are now aluminium, although this is most pronounced in the 1750 that seems to relish skipping across potholes, bumps and dips. Its lighter body, compared with the heavier V6 (1430 versus 1430kg) made for a car that was easier to place and steer.  

And, up on the high veld, the performance difference between the two models was negligible.


The V6 was outfitted to the Ti spec introduced for the first time in South Africa. Representing the more athletic option, it comes with cosseting and heatable sport seats, lower sports suspension, purposeful red brake calipers, sport pedals, dual chromed exhausts and those 18” alloys that really aren't that bad once you're in the car.

The Ti trim is also available for the 1750 TBi model.

The general specification level is nothing to scoff at; even the base model has dual-zone aircon, VDC, cruise control, 17” alloys, fog lights and seven air bags. While the cabin - with its leather-look trim and dark trim - remains neat, the 159’s driving position remains its biggest problem.

You need super-long legs to drive a 159 because the gearshiftrt and parking brake lever are - for the more petitie - located roughly beneath your arm, making shifts and handbrake manoeuvres elbow-swinging affairs. But all is not lost since, with some patience and generous adjustment of the seat, I was eventually able to get comfortable.

Fiat Automobiles South Africa’s CEO Oscar Rivoli indicated that the launch earlier in 2011 of the Giulietta had generated fresh local interest in the Alfa Romeo brand and, with exciting new models (including the 4C shown most recently at the Frankfurt auto show and the new Panda due in the second half of 2012) the last push by the 159 could be just the thing to tide Alfa over.

1750 TBi Progression  -  R340 000
1750 TBi Ti  -  R370 000
3.2 Distinctive  -  R398 500
3.2 Ti  -  R428 500
3.2 Q4 QTronic Distinctive  -  R430 000

All 159s are sold with a six-year or 105 000km service plan and a five-year or 150 000km warranty.

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