IT’S been with us since 2005, but take a look at Alfa Romeo’s 159 and ask yourself if there’s a better looking executive saloon on sale today. If there is, I can’t picture it.
Alfa is looking to prove that the 159 is more than a pretty face with a sweet-spinning 136bhp diesel engine that takes the fight to its big-selling German rivals.
Alfa Romeo continually gets flak from rather tedious old-school purists who refuse to acknowledge that a front-wheel drive Alfa saloon is in any way proper.
This version of the 159 is a better car for diverting power to its front wheels. With a relatively modest 136bhp troubling the front tyres, it’s not as if it’s struggling to deploy the power.
Rear wheel drive would just add weight, complexity and rob the cabin of space.
The engine is a state of the art Euro 5 power unit equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger able to deliver an impressive 350Nm of torque from as little as 1,750 rpm.
The upshot is a sprint to 60mph in 9.6 seconds and a top speed of 126mph which is brisk enough for most and won’t be embarrassed by similarly-priced rivals. T
he 159 uses a suspension setup that’s fairly typical for the class with strut front suspension and a multilink rear end.
The JTDM engine is a relative lightweight (for a diesel at least) so the handling balance isn’t unduly compromised.
The 159 is a big car - longer and wider than a BMW 3 Series, an Audi A4 or a Mercedes C Class - yet it never appears bulky, the well judged proportions working as well now as they did when the wraps first came off the car at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show.
I was in Starbucks last week, people watching as usual. One guy arrived at the counter and ordered two Americano shorts.
It’s a drink size that’s not even advertised and he’d done the sums and figured out that two of these drinks worked out more cost effectively than a medium sized one.
Undoubtedly a very smart chap and he would doubtless drive a BMW 318d.
The next guy ordered the biggest cappuccino and stood waiting for it with his hand deep in the coffee bean display, enjoying the feel of the roasted beans trickling through his fingers like pebbles on a beach. An Alfa 159 driver.
Alfa Romeo has worked hard to punt the 159 back into relevance with this latest 2.0-litre JTDM diesel engine.
Indeed, its 134g/km emissions figure might pique the interest of a few company car buyers.
Those who have worked the numbers to the nth degree will shop elsewhere. If you’re halfway through a venti cappuccino and spot the prettiest looking saloon car you’ve ever seen drive by, it’s an Alfa Romeo 159. Buy one and thank me later.