26.10.1997

Alfa 156: Comfort


Introduction
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 vibration 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 vibration to prevent it being amplified by the body panels. Counterweights balance the crankshaft and flywheels dampen torsional vibration. Counter-rotating shafts (one on the 2.4 JTD and two on the 2.0 T. Spark) 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 an ultrasound diagnostics system to eliminate possible noise sources, soundproofing and sound-deadening materials have also been very carefully applied.

Spaciousness
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. Equally, the front seats never deprive the rear seat passengers of leg room, even when six-footers have to be accommodated. 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 rear seat passengers.

Seats
The front part of the seat structure has been given a magnesium frame. The Alfa 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 4 cm of 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 wheel. Lumbar support adjustment is also provided. The throttle mechanism is self-adaptive for the front passenger, manual for the driver (2.0 T. Spark, 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.
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.

Heating and ventilation
The Alfa 156 comes with a heating and ventilation system that creates the best climate in both comfort and safety terms. Temperature, humidity and ventilation inside the cabin all affect the driver's concentration and the way he feels, without forgetting that 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 switched off.
In addition, the variable capacity compressor guarantees good system efficiency as absorbed power is related to the difference in temperature between the inside and the outside of the car. The redesigned heating/ventilation system can be supplemented by automatic air conditioning 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.
This climate control system operates in various modes through 20 air distribution outlets:
- diffuse ventilation in which the air circulates around the walls of the cabin without attacking the occupants head-on;
- concentrated ventilation for instant comfort while the system reaches the desired cabin temperature;
- a bi-level air flow with warm air directed towards the floor and cooler air from the facia vents;
- footwell warming (since warm air tends to rise, this speeds up cabin heating);
- footwell plus defrost;
- max defrost (on climatised versions only).
Particular attention has been paid to air quality. Apart from the air recirculation function that is so valuable in traffic tailbacks or tunnels, climatised versions of the Alfa 156 incorporate a two-step cabin air filter. The first layer filters out particles over 0.5 microns in diameter as well as the pollen that can cause hay-fever. The second, active carbon, layer filters out pollutants.

Protecting the environment
The Alfa 156 come from a company which has spent many years developing products and manufacturing processes that are increasingly environment-friendly. This is 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 substances used and produced in the manufacturing process.
Like all recent Fiat Group models, the Alfa 156 has obviously been built without recourse to noxious materials like asbestos, chromium, cadmium and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which have been replaced by Kevlar, organic pigments, aluminium, zinc and water respectively. In addition, all materials selected for use in making the Alfa 156 have first been subjected to LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) analysis. This examines not just the engineering and industrial properties of the materials, but also their total environmental impact: from extraction of raw materials to eventual disposal and including processing, transportation, packaging and recycling.
It goes without saying that the Alfa 156 has been equipped with the most advanced emissions control systems around: 3-way catalyst with Lambda probe on the petrol engines; and on their diesel equivalents an oxidising catalyst that not only burns off the pollutants but also eliminates almost all the particulates (i.e. the carbon particles and uncombusted hydrocarbons). In addition, these Alfa diesels incorporate an EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) function. This is the electronic system that recirculates part of the exhaust gases, thereby eliminating most of the nitrogen oxide produced by combustion.
Together, these systems allow the Alfa 156 to comply with EU Phase 2 regulations.
As soon as it was confirmed that the new models could be built without the use of materials damaging to the environment, Alfa Romeo engineers considered the end of the car's life-cycle. Alfa 156 components can all be recycled (to this end all plastic parts weighing more than 50 grams are marked to indicate the materials they contain). In Italy, for example, they will be reused under the F.A.RE. (Fiat Auto Recycling) System promoted jointly by Fiat and the Italian Association of Automotive Demolition Companies (A.D.A.). Under this system all plastics, glass, seat padding, steel, matting, catalysts and even air conditioner coolant is retrieved for reutilisation in 'cascade' fashion on increasingly 'low-tech' products. In other words the car's components are transformed into raw materials that will be used to make items like bottles, carpeting and the simpler type of car components. And when these reach the end of their own cycle, they can be used as furnace fuel.


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