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Monday, December 18, 2006

FULL REVIEW: ALFA ROMEO 156 2.5 V6 Q-matic

ARTICLE: Source 1:
Source 1a:
SOURCE 4: Whatcar? UK Magazine June 1999 issue.

My opinion: I never had a chance to own it, not even driving it. But I had a chance to be a passenger in one 2.5 V6 Q-matic for a brief 5 minutes only. All I can say was that the ENGINE ‘s so SWEET SOUNDING. Acceleration’s FAST, can feel the G-force.

Interior for front is okay, but once you move the seat far back, the rear legroom reduced to almost zero… Early batches have “RED LEATHER” interior (see picture). The car though small had rear a/c vents.

That’s all I can “review”, Can’t review without driving the car. All is not lost, I dished up A used car review article by "Sunday Times Online (UK),“reviews” from 4 owners of Alfa Romeo 2.5 V6 taken from the WEB, AND 1 OWNER review from Italia Auto Club Ex-President as well. Also, some useful “QUOTATIONS” from various Alfa forums… ENJOY!!!

ARTICLE: Source 1:May 23, 2004
Alfa Romeo 156
Jason Dawe

""The Alfa Romeo 156 is a confusing car. At first glance it looks like a two-door coupĂ©, yet it’s actually a four-door saloon with an interior that feels Germanic. Fire up one of the diesel versions and it even sounds like a petrol unit.

Styled by Giorgetto Giugaro, the 156 was launched in the UK in January 1998 and established itself as one of the best looking saloons money could buy. In an age when most cars merely toe the line, the 156 is a breath of fresh air. Six years on it remains a handsome car, and with good used examples available from £3,500 it’s a tempting proposition.

The heart of any Alfa Romeo is its engine. Choose the entry-level 1.6, the range-topping 250bhp V6 3.2, or anything in between, and you will not be disappointed. All produce a glorious sound, are free-revving and offer a level of driver involvement rarely found in cars costing this little.

The 156 also has the honour of being the first Alfa in the UK to be powered by a diesel engine. The largest 2.4 litre five-cylinder diesel sounds gruff and powerful even when merely ticking over. With 140bhp and 224 lb ft of pulling power at just 2000rpm, it also performs very well, with 0-62mph coming up in 9.4sec. Top speed is 127mph.

And the 156 is a car that encourages you to enjoy this performance. The supremely accurate steering — just 2.2 turns from lock to lock — allows you to place the car with pinpoint accuracy. Similarly, the suspension, firm and reassuring at speed, is compliant on motorways and shames even the BMW 3-series in terms of its blend of control and comfort.

Italian cars have traditionally had a “long arm and short leg” driving position and this is still slightly noticeable in the 156, although the adjustable steering column reduces this to a minimum.

But all this exuberance can lead to abuse. Alfas eat their front tyres if driven hard, and the 156 is particularly prone to front-wheel misalignment, so check the edges of tyre treads carefully. It’s also worth closely inspecting the car’s cabin: while the general quality is high, owners still report a number of electrical problems — most commonly associated with the climate control and sound system.

It’s difficult to buy a 156 with a bad engine, but the same cannot be said of the car’s gearboxes. Available with three different transmission systems, the standard manual gearbox (some with six speeds) is normally the best bet. The clutch is light and the changes are precise, although there is little space to rest your clutch foot when it’s not in use.

The Selespeed clutchless manual gearbox is second best: a button on the right-hand side of the steering wheel shifts up a gear, while one on the left changes down, aided by electronics that “blip” the throttle on the downchange. Least desirable and best avoided is the Q-System four-speed automatic transmission, which has a manual override shift. It somehow fails in its attempts to combine the benefits of an auto with the control of a manual.

The 156 can also be bought as an estate, or Sportwagon as Alfa romantically calls it. Basically, this is all the same good stuff, but with a bigger boot, so your spaniel can also come out and enjoy the pleasures of an Italian car.""

(Owner's Reviews 1) from Source 1a:)

Owner 1: You'll itch to drive it

by wayfarer - written on 05.02.01 - Rating: (5 of 5 possible stars)

Advantages Looks, Driver Appeal
Disadvantages Large turning Circle, Small Boot Opening, Poor Ground Clearance

I bought my 156 V6 about a year ago, importing it from Holland. The local Alfa dealer in UK never did commit himself to a firm quote for a car without sportpack (I do like white dials, but I don’t like the skirts, and the ground clearance is questionable enough in speed hump-infested suburbia, without lowered suspension) but with sunroof and leather. I understood his reticence when I found I could get the car home all paid for about £5,000 less than the price list he waved at me. So I paid the deposit and waited with growing impatience as the lease ran over on the company Golf VR6 I was replacing. I collected it from the dealer a month ahead of the six promised (the only unexpected snag was that the Dutch dealer closed all weekend), and it’s been a love thing ever since.

I won’t try to persuade you that it’s a perfect car. It’s far from that, and your head (and your accountant) will nag you to buy a BMW 3-series. But those are so common (i.e. ubiquitous) and the extras you want are ruinously expensive. The depreciation figures don’t look nearly so good if you buy them and you’ll never sell the thing if you don’t.

Let’s face it, nothing looks as drop-dead gorgeous as the Alfa 156, from any angle. How, or if, they’ll face-lift it remains to be seen, but any change I can think of would be negative. Oh, hang on, the flat, telephone-dial alloy wheels that the non-sportpack cars come with are pretty uncomplimentary, definitely room for improvement there. That’s it, though. But looks are not the most important thing (after all, I used to run a Golf), a car is for driving. The Alfa is just great to drive. On the motorway, the steering is just a little reluctant to stay on-centre, but it’s quiet and comfortable long-term, and the driving position isn’t too Italian even for a 34” inside leg. The height and rake adjustable steering wheel helps enormously here , though if Mr A. Romeo could find a way of moving the seat back just another inch or two, my joy would be unconfined. This would reduce the legroom in the back seat to approximately zilch, though, so I’d have to have my son’s legs amputated below the knee.

The lovely burbling rasp of the V6 is with you all the time, not obtrusively, and the 190 bhp whips you up and over the legal limit in no time, helped by a nice 6 (yes, six) speed gearbox. This has a lovely smooth (apart from first to second, to which there is a knack) retro feel via a longish lever that sprouts from the front of the console rather like Alfas of old. The clutch has an odd action that doesn’t bite until the very top of the pedal, but doesn’t release until the very bottom. You get used to it. Unlike the VW, the Alfa six has very little flywheel effect, and so quick changes are the best on the way up, and you can play tunes on the way down. It seems odd to have the extra gear on a V6 with 2.5 litres, and it isn’t an overdrive, but this is not an engine with massive grunt from tickover. In fact, you’ll find a quick drop from sixth to fifth a good idea in some motorway situations. It sounds so good, you’ll be thankful for the excuse. Once the engine is spinning the power is delivered strongly and smoothly all the way to the rev limiter. This will take you by surprise until you get the hang of the way the needle shoots towards the redline when you depress your size 10, so it’s just as well it works.

Off the motorway and on normal roads, the car really shines. The combination of really quick steering with great turn-in and apparently limitless grip will have you choosing the twistiest roads, and negotiating them in a fashion that will have weaker-stomached passengers searching the car for brown paper bags. If you specified the leather it cleans up well, so carry on playing with six gears and revelling in the now glorious so unds this car makes.

Back, too soon, in the 30 limit, the first speed hump reveals that the under-tray will ground unless you slow right down to residents-association approved speeds. At the supermarket, the boot reveals itself to be adequately large, but the turning circle is larger still. It’s darned embarrassing, having to reverse to get around ramps in multi-storey car parks, but believe it or not such is the case. If, encouraged by the remaining space in the boot, you call in to the electrical warehouse, you’ll find that nothing fatter than your middle-sized suitcase will go through the hole, and you’ll have to send one of your back seat passengers home by bus to get the 14” TV in. And so the Sportwagon was invented.

This sounds like a very niggly story, and I did warn you that this is not a perfect car. If you want a near-perfect, A-to-B status machine that nobody will argue with you for buying, take your accountant’s advice and get that BMW 3, probably a diesel with the badge-free option, in silver. If you can stand the dinner-party controversy and want a car that looks unusual but wonderful, goes, stops and corners in an incredibly satisfying manner, and that you will itch to take out of the garage and drive at every opportunity, get the best Alfa 156 you can afford. In red.

OWNER 2: Alfa 156 2.5 V6 24V after 3 years

by NMJP - written on 27.09.03 - Rating: (4 of 5 possible stars)

Advantages Comfort, Style, Engine
Disadvantages Fuel consumption, Turning circle

Well, I have now been driving my Alfa 156 for over 3 years and can honestly say it still remains a pleasure to drive.

What I will say though is that it is not without a few niggles. The first is that since owning this car I have picked up my first ever 3pts for speeding. I guess it is understadable given the immense power and ease with which it can be delivered to the wheels and therefore your forward velocity. The second is the odd occasion when I still get caught out by the football field like turning circle. Believe me it can be quite annoying when other drivers laugh at you or indicate their distress while you reverse back to negotiate an innocent looking mini roundabout. The third is an Air con annoyance - although now sorted - an AC pipe was damaged and the AC gas escaped. The damage - in my opinion - was due to a design fault as the pipe had been rubbing against part of the engine compartment. Interesting that the replacement part was a slightly different shape so that it no longer rubbed. The fourth is the mortgage size dent that running the car leaves in your finances - it really is very thirsty.

Anyway even with the negatives above the car remains my pride and joy and every time I start it up and hear the wonderful engine I remember why I bought it and that combined with the fantastic looks it remains one of the greatest creations ever produced by Alfa.

OWNER 3: 156 V6 tuned up

by alfatony - Rating: (4 of 5 possible stars)

Advantages performance, road holding, front room
Disadvantages no splitting rear seats, boot entry small, glove box small

I first sat in one at the nec motor show and at 6' 2" could i get a good position, no!
I left it for a few years, decided i could do without no longer and brought one all in glorious black,sports pack 3 + superb tan momo leather seats. I drove several engine sizes but V6 2.5 it was always going to be.
The car was chipped and air intake changed and on a rolling road was showing a healthy 207 BHP.This car has the damper settings at minimum and is lowered 30mm.
I have found the car fun to drive even a handful at times but always assured. The local road humps are a pain and i have to go the long way around as some brush the bottom of the engine cover even at very slow speed.
The brakes on this car seem to be a bit poor and don't inspire to much confidence and i am about to uprate them to grooved discs and better pads.The engine sounds impressive but has to be worked using the 6 speed box to the full to get the best out of it.On the motorway at 70MPH it's wasted and you soon find it creeping up.I find it hits dips in the road quite hard, but does not get thrown offline.Steering is pin sharp and it holds the road when cornering almost like a go kart as long as you keep the power on. Turning circle is rather wide which can cause a few problems, but you soon get used to it. Fuel consumption is around 24/25 mpg at the moment and it has not used any oil in 5000 miles.So far the love affair is ok and yes i did find a good driving position in the end. A splitting rear seat would have helped and would be my main moan if anything as i have a job getting my fishing gear in.I will update on the brake situation at a later date alfa say they are ok ????

18.9.02. Trouble has struck the car needs a new starting motor which is being done under warranty from garage purchased. 6.5hrs change time??.
Problem 2 alfas appalling customer care strikes , the engine had a squeak to be investigated the timing belt gear was re moved now been in the garage 5 days. Sorry mate we have not got a new belt tensioner in uk, we need to order 3 days delivery from Italy??.
You have got to be joking there must be hundreds of alfa v6 cars with 70,000 + miles where this is a standard service replacement part. They really want to pull there finger out.
The garage to avoid is Priory of mill road Cambridge, it seems they are not very competent.
It will not be serviced there will have to wait a week for a spark plug??????


Advantages Performance, Style
Disadvantages Fuel consumption

I own a 156 2.5 V6 for two years now. It's simply stunning! Let's start from the aspect many foreign people look for in Italian cars: style. It is undoubted that Walter de' Silva, the de-signer of the 156, 166 and 147, has done a great job (damn, now Seat got him!). The 156 is a very elegant car, but it doesn't lack the sporty feeling which is typical of Alfas. It almost resembles a coupe, with the back door handles that can hardly be seen. And, damn, the sporty feeling is not just a feeling! Once you start the 2.5 V6 engine you enter another world... It can quietly buzz at lower regimes, but when it's up on RPMs... You immediately recognize the typical Italian sport car sound, thanks to a fabulous exhaust system. Acceleration is very good (0-100 Km/h in 7.3 secs), and the engine is very brilliant and elastic thanks to its excellent torque curve. My 156 has Pack Sport 3, which gives her (!) a nice sporty look, and greatly enhances roadhold and stability (excellent roadhold for a front-drive car). Some of my friends have 156s too, with different engines. I've tried some of them, and I can tell you that the 2.4 JTD diesel and the 2.0 Twin Spark engine are very brilliant and powerful, despite their small size. Especially the Twin Spark series engines are a demonstration of how much a small engine can be exploited for power and torque. Still one word on the interiors: forget the cold, rational German interiors. You won't see a lot of displays and buttons on this car. Just the trip computer. And an automatic climate system, which is one of the best I've ever tried. Seats are of sport type (with Pack Sport), in very nice and strong sporty black leather. So is the turning wheel, in black leather, offering a great grip. Taller people may have some problems reading the instrumentation, somewhat covered, but... is it really a problem?

OWNER 5: Mr Eric Liew @ "redd" Ex-Italia Auto Alfa President.

Review date: 22 December 2006. Saving the best for last! Here's the review:

Rating - 5 out of 5

You've already read from the other reviewers their thoughts about the 156 2.5 V6, about the ownership experience, reliability, etc. However, italian cars are all about emotion and it wouldn't do the car any justice not to talk about the sensory experience of driving an Alfa Romeo, especially an Alfa V6.

No matter how you came about your first drive - a friend's car, a test vehicle at the dealership, your own 156 V6 - the first thing that hits you as you're walking towards the car is always how pretty it is. Some cars you can call handsome; others are labeled purposeful. Very few cars in this price range can truly be called beautiful, and the Alfa 156 is one of them. It's a feast for the eyes. The proportions are just right, with a slightly forward stance from the short back and long front overhang, making the car look as if it's constantly accelerating. The hidden rear door handles make the 156 look like a sporty coupe and are sources of endless entertainment. Alfas are traditionally best enjoyed in red or lighter tones where the styling lines really stand out, and the 156 is no different.

Open the door and the interior is more of the same. High-quality, solid plastic mixed with strategic patches of leather trim the interior, giving it that luxurious Italian feel. Those of you with Ferraris may recognise familiar design aspects in the 156 interior. Upholstery is luxurious leather embossed with the vaunted Alfa logo. Nothing is cheap here. Then it strikes you that this car is 6-years old, yet looks utterly modern and timeless. The dashboard and controls continue that trend. The 156 is the first of the modern Alfas to carry the twin cowled meters, carried over from Alfas of yore. The centre console is slanted towards the driver, clearly stating its purpose as a driver's car. Passengers tend to feel a bit left out inside a 156.

Slot in the key and fire up the engine, and it's your aural senses which are next stimulated. The Alfa V6 was voted one of the best sounding production engines of all time and the title is well deserved. At idle, there's a rich, low burble emanating from the six-pots up front. This is one car which isn't embarrassed of it's powerplant - it wants you to know it's there! Pop the bonnet and six gleaming chrome pipes stare back at you, rumbling with its own pulse. This is not merely an engine - this is automotive art at its finest. It's almost a sin to keep it covered under a metal bonnet.

Leave it in park and stab at the throttle and the low idle quickly turns into a bark as the rpms quickly climb up the rev counter. What's this? The little rev and speedo needle illuminate a reflective chrome ring at the edge of the gauges with a small spot of light. It's such a thrill to see that spot of light climb the perimeter as you rev the engine. Only the Italians would think of a little detail like that!

Ready for more sensory assault? Pop her into Drive and ease on the throttle. The 156 slides forward like any well-behaved European car as you slowly cruise the city streets. You notice that upshifting isn't the smoothest in its class but the Aisin autobox doesn't hunt for gears like in some other cars, either. This little gearbox certainly knows what it's doing. Select Sports mode and instantly, the gears drop a notch and the revs climb.

This is when you will start to see Mr Hyde making an appearance. In Sports mode, the smooth burble of the V6 quickly turns into a snarl. The car's very reflexes also seem to be heightened as a light tap on the throttle makes the car lurch forward, pinning you to your seat. Stand on the throttle and watch the rev needle surge to the vertical redline (again, another nice detail) as you're pressed deeper into the cushion. Feel your adrenaline levels climb with the rpms! Release the throttle and the animal snarl turns into a howl of regret. This car clearly likes revs and speed. The more you give it, the more it craves, driving you to an rpm-soaked frenzy.

Once you've recovered enough from your first encounter with the V6 beast, find some twisty backroads to see what this car can really do. For this purpose, it's best to slot the gears into Manual mode and drive it like real man. Find a corner, slot it into 2nd and dive into the turn. Nudge the steering wheel and the entire vehicle responds at the speed of thought! No manhandling here, this car is clearly a precision instrument capable of responding to your slightest whims. The stock suspension wallows a bit but the car hangs onto the tarmac for dear life while you hang onto the steering wheel for dear life. Still, there's no loss of confidence as every aspect of the car's handling is transmitted to you via the solid steering wheel. You're not quite sure how you know that there's still plenty of grip left in the front tire, but you know! You never knew cars could talk but this one is chatting your ears off.

Stand on the throttle as you exit the corner and the 156 slingshots like a bat out of hell, looking for more turns to devour. Turn after turn, sweepers, switchbacks, hairpins, all demolished in the same efficient manner. Efficient, but not sterile. There's no lack of noise as the engine snarls and screams it's battlecry. In fact, if you're not careful, you might find yourself adding to the soundtrack with a triumphant whoop, or a deranged laugh. The engine is screaming, the steering is talking to you, the tires are screeching in protest as you push them just a bit too hard, and you're laughing like a maniac. It's altogether possible to miss your passenger's cries of terror in that cacophony. Who said driving had to be a chore?

Even great sex must end sometime, and when you stop the 156 by the side of the road and kill the engine, it's almost with a note of regret. With the V6 shut off, the only sounds you hear are the tick-ticking of the fast cooling manifold and your own racing heartbeat. The revs may have dropped to zero, but your adrenaline high is going to last you for some time yet. Your view of what a car should be - no, of life itself - has changed. Never before did you imagine a mere car - a day-to-day tool - could bring you such pleasure and emotional release.

You step outside and walk a distance to see the car in its entirety. There she sits, as pretty as the first time you saw her, but now somehow a bit more menacing. She scowls at you, as if to say, "Now you know." Now you know why people still buy Alfas. Beneath that pretty designer dress lurks the heart of an animal. You don't know why, but you know you want one. You want one in the same way you wanted to kiss your first Valentine. You want one because you know its bad for you. You want one because it makes you want to go out and drive just for the sake of driving, not because you have to go somewhere.

As you lock the car up and walk away, you can't help but to turn around for one last look. There she is, safe and sound, right where you left her. Then it strikes you just what a silly thing that was to do - to take a last look at a car as if it was some cherished lover. You laugh, but you do it anyway, giving her one last look and looking forward to tomorrow when you get to drive her again.


What to look for:

QUOTE No 1 (from source #2, By “Redd” IA Alfa President. 15/11/2006.

“Wah! get it get it get it! anything else can fix later. sportwagons are rare, let alone V6 wagons.

the V6 engine is generally very tough as is the aisin q-system gearbox. usually no probs there. check mileage. belts are due every 60k kms, and waterpump around every 100k kms or second belt change. the V6 engine should consume very little oil. at worse mine drinks about 0.5L every 10k kms.

check for front suspension squeaks and rattles. heavy front weight of the V6 makes the front suspension go quicker than on other models. a good alfa mech should be able to verify this for you.

check brakes and tires. V6 is heavier on brakes and tires than other models.

when you buy the car do one round of fluid flushes, especially the ATF. use a good synthetic ATF like Motul ATF 1-A. flush ATF every 20k kms or 1 year and it shd last u a good long time.

It's a different engine. older tech but the V6's are generally tougher than the TS.”

QUOTE No 2 (source #3): “I would have said check the cambelt has been done, no need now! If you go for a test drive try to listen for any suspension creaks. Some need new bushes and other suspension components (top arm, antiroll bar links)

Check upper front wishbone for cracks in the rubber, front brake discs for grooves,
check brakes (97-98 might be a little soft), strange noises on tick-over from AC/service belt area (worn AC clutch/bearing) and second gear syncro (try engaging 2nd from high revs when coming into a corner/turn).”

And do not forget to enjoy the car!!!

QUOTE No 3 & 4 (Both by the same Person): Quote #3; "The thing is, though, with the exception of the simply appalling Arna, I’ve loved all Alfas. In fact I’ve argued time and again that nobody can be a petrolhead until they’ve owned one. It’s a rite of passage. Think of it as the great sex that leaves you with an embarrassing itch." - Jeremy Clarkson

Quote #4;
Referring to 79's Alfa GTV V6: ''Take the old GTV6 as a prime example. I owned one once and it was a nightmare. The worst car I’ve owned. Deeply uncomfortable, spectacularly impractical and blessed with steering so heavy that navigating into a London parking space was like navigating a donkey into a budgie cage.

Then there was the complete lack of quality. Nothing worked. And when you got one thing fixed something else would break on the way home. Once it tried to murder me. The linkage from the gearlever to the rear-mounted gearbox fell off and jammed the prop shaft, causing a sound not heard on earth since Krakatoa blew up, and the rear wheels to lock.But behind the oyster-like impregnability of its ergonomics and hidden in the sea of snot were two perfect pearls. The styling. And the howl from its V6 engine. In a tunnel, at 4000rpm, it was more sonorous than any music. It was like having your soul licked by angels.'' - Jeremy Clarkson.

156 2.5 V6 24v Brief Specification:


Cylinders: V6, FWD transverse; Bore/stroke: 88x68.3
Valve: 4 per cylinder (24 valves) variable valve timing
Capacity: 2492cc
Power: 141kw (190hp) @6300rpm
Torque: 218Nm@5000rpm
Transmission: 6 speed manual or 4 speed AISAN Q-system Automatic

Top Speed: 240km/h Man; 233km/h Auto (STOCK)
0-100km/h: Manual: 7.2 secs; Auto: 8.5 secs

DIMENSIONS: (in) Length (mm): 4350, Width: 1725; Height: 1400; Weight: 1320kg. Wheelbase: -NA- => Stupid magazine, didn’t show the wheelbase (anyone can help?) (SOURCE: WHATCAR? Magazine)
Fuel consumption: Urban 17.1 mpg, Touring route: 33.2mpg. Combined 25mpg. Fuel tank capacity: 13.9 gallons (anyone know how to convert to litres?)

Price: RM175,000 NEW car price back in 2000. RM230,000 for SPORTSWAGON’s price in 2000. Today’s price ranged from 65,000 for 1999 model to about 120,000 for 2003 model. Sportswagon adds RM10k to 20k depending on condition.

Picture 3 below: Sportswagon model.