01 September 1997

Alfa 156 at the 57th Frankfurt Motor Show

ALFA 156: A GREAT SPORTS SALOON

Alfa Romeo presents its new Medium Segment model. The Alfa 156 is a sports saloon in a great tradition, born to reinterpret the brand ethos in the light of the most advanced automotive engineering.

So, a saloon that contains the brand's heritage of sports character and superlative engines behind a line which inherits all the taste and elegance of the Italian school. A car that excites in looks and performance. A car that sets new standards in road handling and driving pleasure, while epitomising a revolutionary sports car concept that incorporates all the comfort and elegance of a luxury saloon.

The Alfa 156 is a car destined to match up with the best of the competition and to do so it can count on a strong personality that comes from power, dynamism and the ability to guarantee a spectacular ride, but combined with the comfort of a top class saloon.

The Alfa 156 range consists of six versions. Four petrol: the 1.6 T. Spark 16V, 120 bhp - the 1.8 T. Spark 16V, 144 bhp - the 2.0 T. Spark 16V, 155 bhp - and the 2.5 V6 24V, 190 bhp combined with a six-speed gearbox. And two diesels both equipped with direct injection engines, turbocharged and complete with intercooler: the 1.9 JTD (105 bhp) with 4-cylinder engine and the 2.4 JTD (136 bhp) with 5-cylinder engine.

At 4.43 metres long, 1.74 wide and 1.41 high, the Alfa 156 is an aggressive yet compact booted saloon with a 2,595 mm wheelbase (55 mm more than the Alfa 155) and a 1,495 mm track. The image it presents is of safety, sturdy build and the ability to transmit 100% of its engine power to the wheels.

The clean yet exciting line, the elegant yet safe look of the Alfa 156 reveals the genetic heritage handed down by a whole host of medium sized Alfa Romeo sports models that have entered the mythology (from the 1900 to the Giulietta, from the Giulia to the Alfetta) but reinterprets it in a way that is in tune with contemporary sensibilities and tastes.

The Alfa Romeo Style Centre has in fact found a way to integrate the requisite sporty characteristics with the body of a supremely elegant saloon. The car is born, you might say, at the front where the shield extends into the V-shape of the bonnet along the two convergent ribs that outline and highlight the central bulge of the bonnet, so evoking the big, powerful engine needed to fulfil the sporting aspirations of this new saloon.

In the lower section, the shield is strengthened by classic Alfa "whiskers", two narrow slits that work with the line of the headlights to add extra impact to the look of the nose, on which the entire emphasis is horizontal, hinting at talons sunk into the road.

The bumpers are built into the body and are marked by fenders. The lighting clusters feature classic circular sports car lamps.

So, round lights, shield, V-shaped bonnet and "whiskers": all it takes to endow the front of a car with a definite character and an instantly recognisable family identity.

In profile, the 156 is equally distinctive, its side-view dominated by the two decisive lines over the wheelarches that fade at the mid-line to spotlight the front door handle which forms the core and the centre of gravity for the whole expanse of the side.

What with the dominance of metal over glass and the way the black-painted rear door handle is camouflaged inside the quarter light frame, the car looks in side view rather like a coupé. And it looks like a car that is sturdy, protective and safe.

The back view itself is dominated by three main design themes. The pillars clutch the wheelarches in a powerful grip. The short, sloping tail brings the broad shoulders to an ideal conclusion, evoking the image of a car crouched to spring lithely into sinuous action. The clusters of small separate lights sunk into the bodywork.

This clean-cut, aesthetically pleasing line was also designed to meet a number of functional requirements. The softly moulded look of the Alfa 156 not only offers a modern interpretation of several traditional Alfa Romeo motifs, but also responds to specific aerodynamic criteria. The success of the exercise is confirmed by the car's Cd (0.31) and Cd·S or front section drag coefficient (0.639).

INTERIOR

The cabin features flowing, seamless lines. As was to be expected of a sports saloon designed for exuberant performance, the focus of attention was the cockpit area around which the entire cabin was built. The aim here was to offer the driver a layout that guaranteed total control over the car in all situations. So the gear lever is set high, and not upright but angled slightly towards the driver, just as it was on the best known Alfa Romeos of the past.

The on-board instrument panel also marks a return to the classic era, with its two main dials tilted in the driver's direction as are all the secondary instruments. Dials have been kept to the essential minimum: classic round speedometer and rev counter and between them the door-and-boot-lock check panel. Just beyond, on the central console, we find three similar dials, also round: fuel gauge, water temperature gauge and analogue clock. Below them, the glove compartment with flap, the built-in sound system, the climate control commands (easily reached and pleasant to the touch, these knobs incorporate micrometric mechanisms that allow for ultra-precise adjustments) and the ashtray.

The cabin of the Alfa 156 has been designed with the utmost attention to ergonomics, acoustics and climate control. Its regular shape also creates an impression of highly exploitable roominess. The steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach. Driver's seat height adjustment is also standard. This seat also features a 40 mm travel regulated by a practical jack-type lever. The seat back on the other hand, is self-adaptive to allow for minute alterations. A lot of good work has also gone into making the cabin as quiet as possible in a noise limitation exercise that has minimised engine noise and eliminated wind noise.

In other words, an interior with Alfa Romeo's traditional clean-cut look, as required of a fast, powerful sports car. But also an environment that provides all the comfort we expect of a saloon in terms of noiselessness (the articulation index, namely the measurement of how easy it is to hold a normal conversation, is excellent), climate control, ergonomic layout and space available to driver and passengers.

ENGINES

The heart and the true strength of every Alfa Romeo is its engine. The Alfa 156 is no exception. That intriguing line with its forceful personality clothes a range of superlative engines, high-tech and generous: four petrol and two turbodiesel.

The same technological sophistication appears on the 156's petrol engines: the 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 Twin Spark 16-valve and the 2.5 V6 24-valve. Two of these, the 1.8 and 2.0 Twin Spark 16V, feature a variable geometry intake system made of fibreglass-enriched nylon. This system delivers exactly the right quantity of air to the cylinders at all engine speeds. This makes for enhanced engine response in town or on the motorway by providing extra torque and power. The fuel line is returnless, in the interests of safety, combating the risk of fire and diminishing vapour.

The 2.5 V6 24-valve petrol engine features a new cylinder head, redesigned combustion chambers, intake and exhaust manifolds, electronic rather than mechanical throttle control. A whole host of modifications which have produced a car whose performance features make it a pleasure to drive.

All the engines combine sparkling performance with low fuel consumption. The 1.6 T. Spark delivers peak power of 120 bhp, peak torque of 14.7 kgm and a top speed of 200 km/h. Plus 0-100 km/h acceleration in 10.7 seconds and, in the combined cycle brought in by the most recent EU regulations, a fuel consumption figure of 8.2 l/100 km.

Meanwhile the 1.8 T. Spark 16V with its 1747 cc, 144 bhp maximum power output, 17.2 kgm peak torque and top speed of 210 km/h does 0-100 km/h in 9.3 seconds and consumes 8.2 l/100 km. And at 82.4 bhp/litre this engine offers the highest specific power rating in its class.

On the 2.0 T. Spark 16V the vital statistics are 1970 cc, 155 bhp, 19.1 kgm and 216 km/h. Equipped with this engine the Alfa 156 will accelerate to 100 km/h from a standing start in just 8.6 seconds and will cover 100 km on 8.5 litres. One incontrovertible indicator of engine excellence is volumetric efficiency, a parameter that compares actual intake air volume at peak power to theoretically available cylinder capacity. The 2.0 T. Spark 16V scores 0.95 under this heading against an average 0.8 among its direct rivals. And finally the 2.5 V6 24V 2492 cc 6-cylinder: peak power 190 bhp, peak torque 22.6 kgm, top speed 230 km/h and a combined cycle figure of 11.4 l/100 km. Acceleration-wise this engine is the outright class beater as well: 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds.

All these Alfa 156 engines require very little maintenance (they get their first servicing after 100,000 km, except of course for oil changes every 20,000 km). They are also extremely environment-friendly (noise levels below 74 dB and exhaust emissions within EU Phase 2 limits. Finally the engineers have taken the utmost care to minimise noise and vibrations in order to optimise cabin comfort.

The two Alfa 156 turbodiesels feature - a world first - an innovative high pressure direct injection system, never seen before on any car worldwide. They call it the Unijet and it is a "common rail" system designed and initially developed inside the Fiat Group with contributions from Magneti Marelli, the Fiat Research Centre and Elasis before it was handed over to Bosch for the final stage of development and industrial production.

Compared to traditional injection systems, the Unijet system offers a far quieter engine (up to 8 dBA quieter, depending on engine speed).

In today's (precombustion or direct injection) systems, fuel delivery to the injectors is driven by a mechanical pump (often controlled electronically) and injection pressure rises as engine speed increases. It is a system that imposes limits on the optimisation of the combustion phase and the engine's performance not to mention its noise and emission characteristics.

By contrast, on the Unijet system, injection pressure is independent of engine speed and load (i.e. accelerator pedal position), since the injection pump generates pressure on a cumulative basis. Moreover, since both pump and injectors are electronically controlled, the injection pressure and the fuel quantities injected can both be optimised at every point on the power curve.

This makes it possible to combine very high injection pressures and the electronically controlled delivery of minute quantities of diesel fuel to create a pilot injection. These two characteristics offer enormous advantages to the driver. The first "pressure pile-up" concept makes for more efficient combustion, hence improved performance, while pilot injection drastically reduces combustion noise.

High pressure injection significantly reduces both fuel consumption and exhaust fumes, while pilot injection creates the ideal temperature and pressure conditions inside the combustion chamber for combustion proper. Preheating the combustion chamber drastically reduces the pressure gradient which is the source of the uneven combustion and hence the typical clatter of standard direct injection engines.
In detail, the Unijet system offers:

  • very high injection pressures of up to 1350 bar compared to a traditional system's 900-1000 bar;
  • pressure that can be modulated between 150 and 1350 bar to adapt to the engine's work conditions;
  • injection of up to 100 mm3 fuel per cycle at 800-5000 rpm;
  • injection of minute fuel quantities (1 mm3 per cycle) for "pilot injection" purposes;
  • the precision of electronic injector control in both the pre-injection phase and throughout the injection proper;
  • the use of a pre-injection before TDC to cut noise levels by up to 8 dBA.
As far as the motorist is concerned this means enhanced performance (namely excellent power output and torque values) and efficiency and an average of 15% less fuel burned than on a pre-combustion chamber diesel engine.

The resulting four- and five-cylinder diesel engines (the 1.9 JTD and 2.4 JTD) are ultra-reliable and make the diesel versions of the 156 superlatively comfortable, quieter and more vibration-free than any diesel car could ever have hoped to be.

The 1.9 JTD is a 1910 cc four-cylinder engine that delivers 105 bhp and torque of 26 kgm. This 156 version produces a top speed of 188 km/h, 0-100 km/h acceleration in just 10.5 seconds and a pick-up of 60-100 km/h in 7.2 seconds in fourth gear (80-120 km/h in 10.2 seconds in fifth).

The five-cylinder 2.4 JTD is a 2387 cc unit that develops 136 bhp at a peak torque of 31 kgm. Powered by this engine, the Alfa 156 achieves a top speed of 203 km/h, 0-100 km/h acceleration in 9.5 seconds and even more outstanding pick-up: 60-100 km/h in 7.1 seconds in fourth; 80-120 km/h in 9.8 seconds in fifth.

It also does well under the new combined ECE (urban cycle) and EUDC (extra-urban) fuel consumption ratings: 5.8 l/100 km for the 1.9 JTD; 6.7 l/100 km for the 2.4 JTD.

GEARBOXES

In order to make the most of the generous performance supplied by each and every one of its six engines, the Alfa 156 offers a choice of two gearboxes. The 22 kgm unit goes with the 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 Twin Spark 16-valve power plants. The 31 kgm, available in 5 and 6-speed versions, equips the range's most powerful engines: 5-speed on the 1.9 and 2.4 JTD diesels; 6-speed on the 2.5 V6 24V petrol version.

The 31 kgm is a new generation gearbox that is less bulky in every direction and offers silky smooth gearshifts. It adopts a transverse configuration with two gearshafts in echelon and a differential. On the six-speed version, sixth is a power speed for use when travelling at top speed. On this unit the tightly packed gear ratios allow for ultra-precise management of the 6-cylinder petrol engine's impressive revs and a torque which peaks at a generous 22 kgm-plus in a way that adds zest to the car's performance and makes it easier, more enjoyable and more comfortable to drive.

In both its 5 and 6-speed versions, the new gearbox adopts a gadget that optimises safety by preventing any involuntary shift into reverse and also makes for more precise engagement in fifth.

The way this gearbox is engineered offers a number of additional advantages to the driver. It is for example, unusually quiet thanks to thickly-coated toothing and the superfinish on the second, fifth and final drive gear pairings.

Using the 31 kgm gear lever also demands 50% less effort than a traditional gearbox of the same size. This has been achieved by applying a Borg-Warner "free-ring" type synchro on all gears. That is in addition to the triple-cone synchro on first and second and the twin-cone version on third, these being the gears most often used in town traffic.

Gear engagement is also more effortless in cold driving, thanks to dynamic lubrication with multigrade oil.

Ultra-precise gear engagement is assisted by a four-step selection system (reverse is the fourth level) and a gate that is set centrally on a bearing mount.

The clutch pedal is particularly effortless being hydraulically activated and equipped with super-efficient shaft bushings.

The gear lever neither shakes nor judders thanks to the double-acting gear stick.
The latter, which appears on all Alfa 156's, is a high-tech model that employs ultra-strong technopolymers for significantly enhanced precision and noiseless gearshifts.

Also new is the clutch release control that goes with the 22 kgm gearbox mounted on the Alfa 156's three petrol engines (1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 T. Spark 16V).
With the aid of this system the clutch pedal remains smoothly responsive and returns without a problem, while clutch action is less noisy than on conventional models and transmits no vibration of any kind.

SUSPENSION

The original suspension system adopted on the Alfa 156 offers a guarantee of superlative performance combined with top-class comfort. In actual fact, while opting for innovation in brand terms at the front of the 156, Alfa Romeo has remained faithful to the tried and true, albeit extensively revamped, at the rear. In other words: double wishbone suspension at front; a MacPherson strut system - incorporating links of different lengths - hinged close to the car's centre at the rear.

The choice of a double wishbone geometry for the front suspension is Alfa Romeo's response to a specific requirement. What was wanted was a system that minimised yaw, responded with superlative precision to steering, threw in extra special traction and combined all these gifts with the ability to absorb and dampen road surface irregularities as effectively as the most comfortable cars in its class. With the double wishbone format, in fact, it becomes possible to allow the wheel considerable freedom of movement in the direction of motion without detriment to tyre grip on bends or to steering.

All Alfa Romeos offer steering that is so lively because it is direct and instinctive, promptly responsive but never jerky. And on the Alfa 156 just two and a quarter turns of the wheel lock-to-lock: an impressive achievement.

Specifically, the front suspension uses a high double wishbone, geometrically the most sophisticated way of reconciling ultra-flexible wheel travel with optimised control over tyre operating conditions. The development was a joint effort by the Fiat Research Centre and Alfa Romeo's Design Engineering and Experimental Unit.

The double wishbone structure consists of a cast iron lower link, a steel upright and a light alloy upper link with the coaxial spring-damper assembly connected to the body-shell via a flexible bushing and to the lower arm via a light alloy fork. To save space and enhance structural rigidity the upper link is articulated onto an aluminium "shell", itself anchored to the body at five points to support the upper anchorage point of the spring-damper unit.

The suspension layout was designed to allow for camber recovery by the wheel in its roll and steer movements without altering kingpin offset (i.e. the distance between the centre of the tyre tread and the point of intersection between road surface and steering axle) in all load conditions. The forward tilt of the upper link also makes it possible to control the kingpin angle (the transverse tilt of the steering axle) in even the most critical running conditions. This too helps to maintain optimum front tyre grip even during heavy steering manoeuvres and also improves steering smoothness.

It all makes a significant contribution to the car's driveability and road manners:It all makes a significant contribution to the car's driveability and road manners:

  • optimised tyre grip;
  • superb cornering in all load conditions;
  • precise, sensitive steering even on tight bends and windy roads;
  • improved drive even in the most difficult conditions;
  • steering precision and sensitivity even on the tightest bends;
  • progressive steering wheel action with evenly increasing pressure right down to borderline grip conditions;
  • pronounced anti-dive effect (to prevent the front end dipping when you brake) and anti-lift (to prevent lift during acceleration;
  • elimination of steering reactions if one of the front wheels loses contact with the road during acceleration;
  • natural steering wheel return on emerging from a bend and easy realignment.
The car's road manners needed to be supported by a rear end that would provide super-stable handling at high speeds combined with the agility demanded of a true sports car on "close mixed" routes, which is why Alfa Romeo opted for MacPherson-type suspension with asymmetrical arms and refined elastokinetics. On the Alfa 156 the rear suspension is connected to the chassis by a vacuum-cast aluminium cross-member.

The MacPherson strut offers several advantages: low weight, comfort (guaranteed by ample wheel freedom and by its longitudinal flexibility) and ample scope for set-up modulation.

This layout is particularly advanced in both geometry and construction terms. It is based essentially on a telescopic vertical strut with a coaxial spring, two long transverse links and a longitudinal strut. The telescopic upright incorporates a pressurised dual-rate damper with a distinctly offset coil spring to minimise friction. The damper stop also comes into play in the final suspension travel phase and is made of "Cellasto", a special closed-cell polyurethane that retains its smoothly flexible action over time. The two transverse links are pressed out of high tensile steel and are of different lengths in order to exploit the system's elastokinematic properties to produce a tiny steering effect. Toe-in is regulated by a cam system on the rear link that is lighter and simpler to repair than a traditional screw system.

The two transverse arms and the anti-roll bar supports are anchored to a vacuum-cast light alloy sub-frame which weighs about 1.8 kg less than a conventional steel cross-member.

The Alfa engineers have taken particular care over the way the suspension system is connected to the frame, aiming for maximum geometrical precision combined with minimum transmission of noise and vibrations. All bodyshell anchorage points are very solid and equipped with special fitments like the "shell" used on the front damper spring assembly and the way the damper attachment to the rear upright is separate from the spring support.

In order to optimise the system's absorption of tiny asperities in the road surface, friction has been minimised by using bushings with fluid-dynamic properties on the front upper wishbone and the anchorage points for the longitudinal struts at the rear, as well as Teflon seals for the damper rods.

The Alfa 156's special front and rear suspension geometry make it possible to endow the various joints including the steering ball joints, with a carefully calibrated degree of "give" without impairing steering precision. The combined effect of all these devices is superlative noise containment, combined with a capacity to absorb the tiny road surface irregularities that so often make for irritating body-shell rattle.

TYRES AND STEERING

The Alfa 156's beautiful road manners are helped by tyres that achieve the ideal compromise between handing and comfort. All Twin Spark and both turbodiesel versions adopt 185/65 R15" tyres for minimum drift on bends combined with an outstanding ability to absorb bumps in the road. With its extra engine power the Alfa 156 2.5 V6 24V gets even more generous 205/60 R15" tyres.

The technical specifications of the Alfa 156's steering system explain its safety and precision at high speeds, its superlatively easy handling in all situations and the sheer effortlessness involved in maneouvring an Alfa 156 into a tight parking space or at low speed.

The standard power steering on all 156 versions is unusually quiet. That's because resonators have been inserted into the pressure lines to minimise throb and cooling coils are used on the oil circuit.

Kerb-to-kerb, the turning circle of the Alfa 156 is just 11.10 metres on the 4-cylinder petrol versions rising to 11.60 m on the others.

The Alfa 156 also offers an excellent servo ratio, thus being the ratio between the force applied to the steering wheel and the pressure generated in the power steering circuit. Here, the lower the figure, the lighter the steering and the ideal setting, the one that offers the best possible balance between lightness of steer from a standing start and good road grip at high speeds, is around 5 Nm/40 bar. So the Alfa 156 is doing very well indeed with its figure of 4 Nm pressure to be applied to the steering wheel from a standing start.

The steering unit is coupled to a telescopic steering column divided into two sections for optimum comfort and safety. The lower section collapses to ensure that the steering wheel remains in position in the event of a collision. Meanwhile the upper section slides for axial and tilts for rake adjustment. Next, the use of a steel bracket and an extra-stiff magnesium support eliminates any possibility of steering wheel vibration.

Finally, the steering wheel lock is friction-type in line with EU anti-theft regulations to protect the entire steering column-clamp assembly in the event of a break-in.

SAFETY

In designing the Alfa 156, particular care was taken over its safety, starting with the preventive kind i.e. the complex of engineering features that help the driver to stay alert. Indeed that need was always on the design engineers' minds as they looked after aspects like comfort, engine noise, climate control, cockpit ergonomics, instrument location and legibility.

Active safety
Acceleration, road grip, braking. These have always been Alfa Romeo features. The 156 carries on that tradition, which it enriches with some technical innovations.

Several features make the Alfa 156 a paragon of active safety: a braking system that incorporates both ABS and electronic braking and the suspension combination of double wishbones at the front and MacPherson struts at the rear.

BRAKING SYSTEM
This adopts four big discs (ventilated at front on the 2.0 T. Spark 16V, 2.4 JTD and 2.5 V6 24V) with brake servo and ABS as standard. This allows very short braking distances: just 39 metres at 100 km/h.

The Bosch 5.3 ABS system is the most advanced of its kind on the market. It adopts 4 active sensors and 4 channels and incorporates an EBD (Electronic Braking Distributor). These features guarantee:

  • maximum braking on each wheel close to the lock;
  • total vehicle control in rear-wheel-lock situations;
  • extremely prompt response;
  • the ability to adapt automatically to all braking conditions;
  • reduced control-unit weight.
This is the first time Alfa Romeo has adopted active sensors. Like the traditional types they measure wheel speed, but active sensors also process the signal themselves instead of transmitting it to the control unit.

The advantages are:

  • immediate response;
  • the ability to recognise speeds close to zero (passive sensors do not "read" speeds under 4 km/h);
  • reduced sensitivity to disturbances caused by electromagnetic fields or the heating of the road surface used in some North European countries.
The active sensors' ability to identify very low speeds supplies valuable information about vehicle movements to the optional navigation system.

For its part the EBD guarantees optimum distribution of braking power among the four wheels and adapts braking to wheel grip and brake pad efficiency conditions.

Passive safety
The Alfa 156 more than meets the safety standards to be imposed by upcoming EU regulations. Indeed it passed 70 crash tests, in addition to the tests (70 more) involving rams and computer simulations.

In the event of a collision, the car's occupants are protected by: a crumple zone body-shell, impact in the doors, containment systems like seat-belt pretensioners and airbags, and by Alfa 156's Fire Prevention System.

Seat belts are fundamental to driver and passenger safety and the Alfa 156 adopts 3-point inertia reel belts on all seats. The front seat belts come with electronic pretensioners which respond to impacts by taking up about 10 cm of seat belt slack in just a few milliseconds, to ensure a snug fit on the wearer's body.

The front belts are anchored to the seat at two points. This offers better containment than a traditional floor-mount system, guaranteeing all front seat occupants the same level of protection whatever their size and shape and whatever their seat setting. Crash tests reveal that this system reduces impacts on the pelvic area by as much as 30%.

All head-restraints can be adjusted to the required height, the rear restraints being semi-recessed for combined safety and rear visibility. All 156 versions offer the option of a third rear head-restraint and seat-belt, the latter a standard inertia reel model and not just a simple lap belt.

The driver's airbag (42 litres) is standard. A front passenger bag is an optional extra and side airbags will become available from next May.
The front passenger airbag holds 90 litres. This system incorporates a sensor inserted into the seat frame that deactivates the mechanism if the front seat is unoccupied. The airbag can also be deactivated by the key set in the special switch at the end of the facia. This must be done if an infant is to be carried in a rear-facing child seat in the front of the car. To protect front seat passengers from side-on impacts, Alfa Romeo fits side airbags that protect front seat passengers' chest, abdomen and pelvis. Stored inside the seat back, these side airbags also offer partial protection to head and neck.

TORSIONAL AND FLEXIONAL RIGIDITY
A stiff bodyshell makes a significant contribution to active and passive safety and to ride comfort. The Alfa 156 offers torsional rigidity of 110,000 kgm/rad., thereby significantly enhancing the car's stability and roadholding.
For passenger protection in the event of a crash, the bodyshell adopts:

  • controlled-crumple longitudinals to reduce impact forces;
  • impact beams inside the doors for extra protection against side-on collisions;
  • reinforcements in the roof pillars, door hinges and other areas subject to particular stress in the event of violent impact;
  • a bulkhead behind the rear seat back.
Protection against theft
The Alfa 156 is protected against attempted break-ins by an Alfa CODE II immobiliser, an uprated version of the well-known Alfa CODE. In some countries insurance companies offer lower premiums on cars equipped with this system which immobilises the engine against any attempt to start the car without the owner's own car key. Inside the key head there is, in fact, a transponder, a microchip that responds to interrogation by the electronic control unit when the ignition key is inserted by delivering the secret four digit code that authorises the car to start.

Instead of having a single permanent code number, the second generation Alfa CODE adopts a new code for every car start. In addition the message in encrypted using a secret algorithm. The key transponder itself is programmed with over ten thousand billion possible combinations. A special control unit housed in a protected position is connected to a coil set inside the ignition switch that reads the code number. The control unit then compares the secret code number transmitted by the car key against the starter codes inside its own memory and then transmits another code with over a thousand billion possible combinations to the engine control unit which is then authorised to switch on the engine.

The system is provided with an emergency program to handle malfunctions. This is activated by a special code that is stored on the CODE card and known only to the car's owner.

ANTI - THEFT ALARM
In addition to the Alfa CODE immobiliser, Alfa Romeo will also supply an anti-theft alarm to protect the contents of the 156's cabin and boot.

COMFORT

A quiet ride is an essential quality of life factor in any car. And since it helps the driver to concentrate it also makes a significant contribution to safety. That is why the Alfa 156's design engineers took such care over its aerodynamics (to eliminate the noises produced by the engine and other moving parts at their source and to prevent the transmission of vibrations to the bodyshell) and over the assembly of the various components.

The flexible blocks on which the engine is mounted are stiff enough to filter out vibrations to prevent them being amplified by the body panels. Counterweights balance the crankshaft and flywheels dampen torsional vibrations. Counter-rotating shafts (on the 2.0 T. Spark 16V) balance the movements of the engine which is also fitted with a two-section flywheel that also has a damping effect (1.9 and 2.4 JTD). And, of course, the Unijet system drastically reduces noise levels on the direct injection diesel engines.

Apart from the use of innovative technologies like ultrasound to eliminate possible noise sources, soundproofing and sound-deadening materials have also been very carefully applied.

Roominess
The capacious Alfa 156's cabin has been very smoothly shaped to make optimum use of all available space. In addition the two-directional (vertical and horizontal) adjustment of seat and steering wheel makes it easy for the driver to create an ideal driving position. - The dome-shaped roof of the Alfa 156 not only gives it a coupé look but also offers plenty of headroom for even the tallest of back-seat passengers.

Seats
The front part of the seat structure has been given a magnesium frame. The 156 is the first Alfa Romeo to adopt this type of seat frame which is 4 kg lighter than its traditional equivalent and also much quieter since it employs fewer components.

The front section of the seat structure is shaped to prevent submarining, namely to prevent the seat's occupant from slipping out under the seat-belt in the event of a head-on collision.

The driver's seat features height adjustment with a 4 cm travel from the H point as standard. It is regulated by a practical lever-and-jack mechanism offering effortless fingertip control. The seat back is adjustable into any position its occupant wants with the aid of a knob. Lumbar support adjustment is also provided. The throttle mechanism is self-adaptive for the front passenger, manual for the driver (2.0 T. Spark 16V, 2.5 V6 24V and 2.4 JTD). Both seats are self-adaptive on all the other versions.

Even the rear seats are fitted with anti-submarining beams in addition to the steel bulkhead set behind the seat back for maximum protection in the event of a crash. The foam material seat padding also varies in density to give each part of the occupant's body exactly as much support as it needs for optimum comfort and guarantee good lateral and longitudinal containment even on tortuously twisting roads.

Four adjustable head-restraints are supplied as standard on the front and the two outside rear seats and a head-restraint (always combined with inertia reel seat-belt) for the fifth passenger is available on request.

Climate control
The Alfa 156 comes with a climate control system that creates an ideal climate in both comfort and safety terms. Temperature, humidity and ventilation inside the cabin car all in fact affect the driver's concentration and the way he feels. The climate control system also incorporates a defroster function for windscreen and side windows.

Among the strong points of the Alfa 156's automatic climate control system is the ability to memorise the set temperature, reactivating the system even after the car has been idle with the engine turned off.

The redesigned heating/ventilation system can be supplemented by automatic climate control which is available on all versions on request. And all controls are calibrated to allow for tiny adjustments. A four-speed centrifugal fan produces a powerful airflow that is not affected by the speed of the car.

PROTECTING ENVIRONMENT

The Alfa 156 is the product of a company which has spent many years developing products and manufacturing processes that are increasingly environment-friendly. A campaign that has produced spectacular results in several areas: from reduced exhaust and engine noise emissions to the use of recyclable and recycled materials, as well as the monitoring of the substances used and produced in the manufacturing process.

MAINTENANCE AND SERVICING

The Alfa 156 requires much less servicing than other vehicles and it will only need to go into the garage for programmed maintenance at very long intervals. Here are just two examples. The long-life spark plugs fitted on the 2.5 V6 24V version only need replacing every 100,000 km compared to the standard 40,000. And the JTD engine's oil and oil filters only need changing every 20,000 km instead of every 10,000.

How to cut maintenance times and costs was a question on the Alfa designers' minds right from the planning stage and a large number of engineering features were introduced to make the most common repairs easier to do.

This approach was adopted, for example, in developing the various mechanical and engine components. So, for example, to dismantle the climate control water radiator, you can remove the central console without interfering with the facia (a difficult, costly operation). Then the timing of the diesel engine's injection pump needs no regulation. And the diesel oil supply circuit does not require the air to be bled.

The bodywork of the Alfa 156 is also covered by an eight-year perforation warranty and indeed is substantially corrosion-proof (around 65% of the body weight consists of galvanised steel, most of it on both sides).

EQUIPMENT AND TRIM

The Alfa 156 takes the brand's contribution to segment D into a whole new dimension. In fact this model sets this market some new standards in looks, performance, driving pleasure and safety. In doing so, it offers a comprehensive range of equipment and trim that represents real value for money right from the entry level 1.6 T. Spark 16V petrol and 1.9 JTD.

The following are standard on both these versions:

  • major equipment items like ABS and driver's airbag;
  • helpful items like central locking; like facia buttons for the boot and the filler cap; like electric front windows, headlight adjustment, electrically adjusted door mirrors, the check control, the front ceiling light with reading spotlight, three-level adjustment of lighting intensity on the instrument panel;
  • safety-enhancing features like electronic pretensioners for the front seat-belts and height-adjustable head-restraints.
Both the 1.6 T. Spark 16V and 1.9 JTD adopt 15" wheels and bear the Alfa logo on the wheel trim; 185/65 HR 15 tyres and 6Jx15" wheels; body-coloured bumpers; titanium-coloured console trim; velour carpet and cloth upholstery; radio fitment (wiring) with aerial embedded in the rear window.

The 1.8 T. Spark 16V adopts 185/65 VR 15 tyres, plus heated door mirrors, rear armrest, ski tunnel and diagonally patterned cloth upholstery.

Finally, the three most powerful versions, the 2.0 T. Spark 16V, the 2.5 V6 24V and the 2.4 JTD get even more lavish equipment. That means upholstery in ribbed velour (embellished with an embroidered Alfa logo), wooden steering wheel and gear lever knob; a deep printed mahogany-effect strip on the central console; adjustable lumbar support on the driver's seat; foglights and tailpipe in polished stainless steel.

In addition, the Alfa 156 2.0 T. Spark 16V is equipped with 205/60 15" tyres and 6.5J x 15" wheels. The Alfa 156 2.5 V6 24V also features a six-speed gearbox, automatic climate control, electric rear windows, alloy wheels and 205/50 WR 15 tyres.

That's not to mention the optional extras available on the new model. These are supplied both individually and grouped into logical packages, each created to endow the Alfa 156 with a particular style: sports car or luxury saloon. There's even a "winter" pack. It all goes to show how far Alfa Romeo is prepared to go in satisfying its customers' demands for an increasingly personalised car. By choosing one of these packs the buyer gets a car equipped with all the options he needs to give his chosen version the "all-over" look he was seeking. And with an economic advantage too, since the pack will cost less than he would pay for the same contents ordered individually.

The Sport pack includes Blitz cloth or Momo leather upholstery or Blitz cloth-covered Recaro seats; special 16" wheels with 205/55 WR 16 tyres; low ride set-up, sideskirts, leather steering wheel and knob, rear armrest with ski tunnel, a GSM aerial, an instrument panel with red graphics on a black background and a deep-printed carbon-effect console trim.

The Deluxe pack for the 1.6 and 1.8 T. Spark 16V and the 1.9 JTD includes: velour-upholstered seats, mahogany steering wheel and gear lever knob, rear armrest with ski tunnel, automatic climate control system, deep-printed mahogany-effect console.

On the Winter pack: foglights, headlight washers and heated seats.
And, of course, there are many more listed options for buyers to order individually. Among them: side airbags (see the safety chapter), third head-restraint and inertia reel for the back seat, sports-style spoiler (for enhanced aerodynamic efficiency); even a Radiophone. This combined radio and GSM phone has a power output of 4x35 Watts (4 speakers, one of them in two sections) and a keyboard for forming numbers.
The apparatus in fact also operates as a GSM telephone with SIM card acting as a key card.

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