The new Alfa 156 and Sportwagon make their debut in front of the general public at the Geneva Motor Show. With completely revamped interiors, a revolutionary direct injection petrol engine, the JTS, and an even more sparkling personality, the new cars now offer boosted performance, total safety and even more lavish equipment.

The exterior styling, which was responsible for the model's great success all over the world, together with the car's excellent dynamic qualities, has remained intact, In four years, almost half a million Alfa 156 saloon and Sportwagon units have been sold, significantly contributing to Alfa Romeo's recovery, which has tripled its market share in the same period.

Today the model confirms its dynamism by presenting the new versions of the Alfa 156, cars that are superior in every way.

The revolutionary JTS engine

For example, in the field of performance, where the Alfa brand once again plays the trump card of advanced engineering, presenting a world first: the first Direct Injection petrol engine with a specific power of over 60 kW/l (82 bhp) and a specific torque above 100 Nm/l. An outstanding engine that takes the name of JTS (Jet Thrust Stoichiometric) from its specific combustion system, a name which will identify an entire family of future Alfa Romeo engines.

The new 156 is therefore powered by the first engine from Alfa Romeo (and from Fiat Auto) on which the injectors work directly in the combustion chamber. And it is an entirely original interpretation of the principles of stratified charge and the creation of motion in the mixture inside the cylinder.

It is easy to see that the Alfa Romeo approach was to exploit direct injection to increase engine power and torque first and foremost, adapting this technology to a sportier car. And adopting the stratified charge method to cut consumption only in a limited speed band close to idling.

The result was this original, all Alfa approach to direct injection in petrol engines. The 2.0 JTS engine of the new Alfa 156 operates with a lean burn system up to about 1500 rpm, which already saves fuel, albeit less than other lean GDI engines. Above this speed it burns a stoichiometric air-petrol mixture, i.e. with a normal 14.7:1 ratio between the two components. And it guarantees excellent performance. Better in fact than that achievable with a normal indirect injection engine.

First of all, this is because the petrol injected directly into the combustion chamber instead of into the duct cools intake air to increase the engine's volumetric efficiency. As the temperature drops, the gases increase in density and the volume therefore decreases: which means that more air can be introduced into the combustion chamber. Cooling the chamber also reduces the risk of engine knock, which means that the compression ratio can be increased, in our case from 10:1 on the 2.0 T. Spark to 11.3:1 on the 2.0 JTS. Compared to today's 2.0 T. Spark and the other direct injection petrol engines available today, the 2.0 JTS of the new Alfa 156 provides marginally lower consumption and a generous increase of power and particularly torque: +15 bhp and + 25 Nm.

Ten more horsepower for the 2.4 JTD

The JTS is not the only novelty; a new 2.4 JTD engine also makes its debut on the new Alfa 156s. Thanks to a different mapping of the injection control unit that optimises performance, emissions and consumption, the power output of the well-known 5-cylinder common rail turbodiesel engine increases from 140 to 150 bhp. This extra 10 bhp takes the new Alfa 156 to a top speed of 212 km/h, without increasing fuel consumption. In fact it is slightly lower. On the combined cycle, for example, the saloon returns 6.6 l/100 km (the previous figure was 6.7) and the Sportwagon 6.7 l/100 km (instead of 6.8).

The basic constructional features of the two common rail turbodiesels (1.9 and 2.4 JTD) powering the new Alfa 156 and Sportwagon have not changed. Cutting edge engines combined with efficient, precise transmissions. Like the Selespeed unit which is now offered on the new range - after its success on the Alfa 156 and Sportwagon and later on the Alfa 147 2.0 T. Spark. The operating logic has been improved, particularly when the device is used in Auto mode, which now allows the driver to 'suggest' which gear to select to the electronic control unit, without abandoning the function.

Greater active and passive safety

Safety is also enhanced on the new Alfa 156. Active safety now includes VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control), standard on all versions, to guarantee the dynamic stability of the vehicle, intervening in extreme conditions to help the driver to control the car. To achieve this result, the device constantly monitors tyre grip on the road, and if the car skids, it cuts in to recover direction and ride stability. And if the driver changes down suddenly in conditions of poor grip, the MSR system (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) kicks in, restoring torque to the engine to prevent skidding caused by locking wheels.

The new Alfa 156 also has an emergency braking assist device known as HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) which helps the driver during 'panic' braking, guaranteeing maximum deceleration, regardless of the force exerted on the pedal.

To guarantee excellent visibility in all driving and weather conditions, the car is fitted with Xenon headlights with automatic alignment correction, which provide a more intense light and greater efficiency than normal halogen lamps (from 25 to 28 lumen), as well as lasting twice as long.

On the passive safety front, window bags are now standard equipment on all versions of the model; these bags drop down along the windows to protect the occupants' heads in the case of side impact. Compared to other solutions, the window bags adopted on the new Alfa 156 are more protective, because they always take up the right position, inflate faster and are less invasive for passengers.

And to anchor child seats easily and safely, all versions of the new Alfa 156 are fitted with ISOFIX attachments as standard equipment. These take the form of two pairs of brackets (located at the base of the rear seat squab) that allow child seats to be fitted and removed easily and rapidly: all you have to do is flick the two spring locks.

Enhanced comfort and more telematic equipment

The new Alfa 156 inherits from the previous model a passenger compartment that guarantees all the comfort you could expect from a sporty saloon, in terms of ergonomics and space for the driver and passenger. But it also offers all the systems made possible by technology today. Starting with the 'bi-zone' automatic climate system which provides two different temperatures at the same time, one on the right of the cabin and the other on the left. And it obviously controls air flow and distribution, compressor activation and recirculation. The new Alfa 156 and Sportwagon offer the option of three additional climate sensors: an Air Quality Sensor (AQS), a rain sensor and a misting sensor.

The former controls the recirculation function which is activated automatically to prevent the intake of outside air into the car when it is in places with high smog levels. The rain sensor activates the windscreen wipers at the first drops of rain, while the misting sensor automatically activates the climate system to ensure perfect visibility in all conditions.

Options include Cruise Control, a system that automatically maintains the cruising speed set by the driver, without his having to touch the accelerator pedal, for a more relaxed ride. A radio built into the design of the facia and complete with cassette or CD player (depending on the specification) is standard on the whole new Alfa 156 range. The sound system was studied and calibrated specifically for this model and is the same on both cars. It comprises six speakers and has an output of 4x40 Watt. Steering wheel mounted radio controls are also available. The Bose® Sound System is standard on Distinctive versions (from the 2.0 JTS), a sophisticated acoustic system that offers each passenger exceptional listening quality, in all conditions. More performance, greater safety and plenty of telematic equipment. The new Alfa saloon also sports the CONNECT system, the most advanced infotelematic tool on the market, offering the largest number of functions and services (those supplied by Targasys).

Located at the centre of the facia, it acts as an onboard assistant that can be asked, by the driver or the passengers, to make a telephone call, consult a road map or play some music. All this is done using the surrounding keys while the screen displays a detailed picture of your requests at all time. It is full of functions, offered at an advantageous price and, above all, user friendly, as you would expect of the latest technology.

CONNECT offers something more than the competition. The possibility of talking to a real person. Pressing the green CONNECT key links up to one of the 750 operators at the Arese Contact Centre, which operates 365 days a year. A mere phone call and the motorist will find an operator who speaks his language (14 are already active), and can help him find the right road, give information about traffic conditions and the weather along the route, but even reserve hotels, restaurants or buy a plane ticket. And send out a rescue vehicle if necessary.

Beautiful, more lavish interiors

Unlike the exterior styling which is practically unchanged, the appearance of the new Alfa 156 interiors has been drastically altered by major and minor changes.

First of all, the facia, which has been fully revised to make it better looking and more practical. The central part has been redesigned and now houses a multifunction display. And that is not all. Chrome inserts, like the glove compartment lock barrel, stand out against a new facia trim which is embossed with a new pattern.

The styling and materials of the range of steering wheels is also new. And the upper vents of the central air diffuser are larger and adjust horizontally and vertically, to improve air flow. The central console is also new, and the sense of space has been increased through the use of a larger ashtray and oddments compartment, and a more ergonomic position of the mirror and foglight controls. The new standard front armrest also conceals a practical storage compartment.

On the new Alfa 156 great care and attention went into the cloth and leather upholstery. The customer has a choice of three interiors: 'classic' in grey or blue, 'elegant' with the luminosity of beige, and 'sporty' with darker colours and black cloth run through with a red or grey rubber thread. The perforated leather trims come in five colours: black, blue, grey, red and natural. A sporty black leather trim is also available.

A passenger compartment full of novelties with very linear styling, in the best Alfa Romeo tradition, and the spirit of a fast, powerful sports car. This is borne out, for example, by the red instrument panel, the sill plate with aluminium insert, the range of brand new steering wheels (foam-padded, leather and wood) combined with new gear lever knobs and electrical radio controls.

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