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Reader's test: Alfa Romeo 156

2011-03-29 12:57

Carina Diesel

STILL STRONG: The 156 may have lost a few of its horses over the years, but reader Carina remains smitten.

To understand an art piece, you need to love art. That’s why most of us tilt our heads to the side, trying to understand what is so fascinating to other people about a painting, and then just walk away.

On the other hand, when you’re interested in art, you will do some research and eventually understand the art of understanding art. That’s when you can join the crowd of people who stare at paintings for hours.

It is the same principle with cars. Only a so-called petrol head will know the feeling when you hear a revving V8 and the goose bumps you get in response. Only a petrol head knows driving is not a daily routine, but a pleasure.

You are not a true petrol head until you have owned an Alfa Romeo. As Jeremy Clarkson has said on many occasions, you will only understand when you are driving on a perfect road and, for that brief moment, everything works on your Alfa.


Back in 1998, the 156 won the European Car of the Year award; but why?

You have a wide choice of luxuries to pick from. This one has a fancy wood interior, climate control so you won't be too hot or too cold and semi-bucket seats so you don't recline back so far you forget you are driving.

It also has a six-CD shuttle so you can listen to music when your warning lights are annoying you… My 156 also comes with other basic luxuries, so it's comfy.

It's brilliant to drive, too. A lot of fun and it handles like a dream. Sure, a lot of cars do, but this gives you that extra confidence. You don't have to be scared, you can have fun! And there's no difference when you corner at high speeds. You can be a complete maniac with it and the 156 will scream with joy whilst you do it.

In 1997 it kicked out 114kW at 6400 rpm and 187 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm. Its top speed was 216 km/h and it did 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds. And along with that, you got a big boot - 378 litres of it, to be exact!


The 156 has the turning circle of the Milky Way. I bet when the Italians were working on it, they got distracted by the looks of the car, and when their boss arrived he said: "You should be doing… Oh my gosh, what a pretty car!"

Sure, the Italians made this car so it would be great in the moment. Sure, they went for lunch after they saw the speedometer kind of worked, and many of the Italian horses have since escaped the hood, but you know what? None of that matters!

My mom knows exactly how to wake me up, and so I know exactly where 60 km/h is when the 156's speedometer isn't working.

That’s exactly what makes Alfa's unique, why they are the heart and soul of the motor industry. Alfa's have character. That’s why sitting shotgun isn't good enough.

As an aside, don’t try to convince someone to buy an Alfa. That would be like telling someone to set themselves on fire in the winter; sure it will hurt, but at least they'll be warm!

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