The Alfa Romeo 156 (Type 932) is a compact executive car produced by the Italian automobile manufacturer Alfa Romeo. This range of vehicles were manufactured between 1996 and 2007 while the 156 saloon was discontinued in Europe late in 2005, leaving the Q4 Crosswagon to continue in production until the end of 2007.
Cars were assembled at the Fiat Group factory in Pomigliano d'Arco, Italy and at a General Motors facility in Rayong, Thailand. Production in Thailand began in March 2002 and ran for only a couple of years and vehicles produced there were targeted for the Asia Pacific markets). Between 1997 and 2005, approximately 680,000 vehicles designated 156s were produced.
The 156 was available in saloon, Sportwagonestate and Crosswagoncrossover bodystyles with seven engine configurations; it went through two facelifts, first in 2002 and then in 2003. The Sportwagon
advertising campaign was made with actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.
In 2007 the 159 became the replacement for the 156. This replacement vehicle went on to also spawn the Brera, the three-door coupe that replaces the Alfa Romeo GTV along with its convertible sister the new Spider.
Initially the 156 range was available with different options (packs) like a sport pack that could include either Blitz clothing, Momo leather interior or Recaro seats, it also included 16-inch (410 mm) wheels, lowered suspension and leather steering wheel and gear knob. There was also available Lusso pack with Momo's mahogany steering wheel and gear knob and for Nordic countries special winter pack consisting of fog lights, headlight washers and heated seats.
156 Sportwagon (2003 facelift)
Starting from 1999 a five-speed Selespeed sequential transmission came as an option to the 2.0 litre Twin Spark version and four-speed automatic Q-System to the 2.5 litre V6 version, the Q-system provided the option of using the car as a normal automatic or being able to shift manually with H-pattern, it has three automatic modes: city, sport and ice.
A significant addition to the 156 range came in 2000 with the introduction of the SportwagonStation wagon or estate car, a first attempt at this configuration and size for the company. The Sportwagon was also available with Boge-Nivomat self-levelling hydropneumatic rear suspension. The Sportwagon was marketed as lifestyle estate
without large carrying capacity. The Sportwagon bodystyle filled a gap in the market that Alfa Romeo had distanced themselves from since the 33SportWagon of the 1980s.
In 2001 engines were upgraded to comply with the Euro3 standards and outputed 120 PS (88 kW) (1.6 L), 140 PS (100 kW) (1.8 L), 150 PS (110 kW) (2.0 L) and 192 PS (141 kW) (2.5 L).
Interior of the first series facelift (2002)
Designed by Alfa Centro Stile under the guidance of head designer Walter de'Silva the 156s shape was distinctly Alfa Romeo. Its style included high curved flanks, retro styled front door handles, recessed rear door handles, and a dramatic deep grille, which necessitated a highly unusual off-centre licence plate holder. The car was one of the first saloons, and wagons, to feature hidden rear door handles and prominent front door handles to give it a coupé look. The design was influenced by three historical Alfa Romeo models: the 1900, the Giulietta and the Giulia. The 156 achieved a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.31.
The original interior builds on a deeply scalloped upper dashboard and simple centre console. All of the main controls and displays are angled towards the driver in typical Italian sports car style, although this can sometimes be awkward for passengers who will struggle to see the interior clock. Despite being a family car, the interior design lacks cup holders, which normally come standard in saloons.
Typically, for a smaller executive car, there is ample room up front for the driver and passenger to sit comfortably, with very comfortable seats. However, rear seat passengers may find the design restrictive in overall room. The 156 Sportwagon features the addition of fold down rear seats which increases the luggage area normally covered by a privacy screen. Ideally the 156 is a car for four people, rather than five, although later models did add a full centre seatbelt in place of the lap belt in earlier models.
2002 saw an update to both the interior and exterior of the 156.
2002 facelift (first series)
2002 also saw the arrival of a facelifted interior with different matte-finish surfacing and chrome highlights.
This new version featured the 147's dual-zone digital climate controller while the interior climate could also be controlled via an air quality sensor. A different choice of colours were available for the interior, with the option of a two-tone interior very much like that on offer from its European rivals. A wider range of options including xenon lighting, tele-informatics (CONNECT and CONNECT NAV) and a Bose stereo system were available, the stereo system could now also be operated via buttons on the steering wheel. Also the Selespeed gearbox control system was updated, buttons on the steering wheel were replaced by paddle shifters, as seen on the earlier Alfa Romeo 147. In the center console the designers added a multifunctional display with trip computer, fault and service monitor.
The upgrade also included electronic stability control VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) with an emergency brake assist device and slip control ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) came as standard. Additionally a MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) was added to the car, this device prevents wheel skidding by restoring torque to the engine for example when the gear is shifted down abruptly under conditions of low grip. Passive safety was also made better, all versions got window airbags as standard. The 2.0 L JTS 165 PS (121 kW) gasoline direct injection engine replaced the 2.0 litre Twin Spark engine, offering more low end torque and more power than the Twin Spark, diesel engines were also uprated. The only notable difference exterior-wise was body coloured mirrors and bumper strips which were earlier black.
2003 facelift (second series)
Late 2003 saw the launch of a facelifted 156, with new front and rear fascias designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. To the top of range was added new TI trim level (Turismo Internazionale) designating a sporty kit, this version was equipped with modified suspension, bigger wheels (215/45 17") and leather-trimmed interior. This mid-life facelift divided opinion with some preferring the prettier pre-facelift look with others singing the praises of the newer more aggressive demeanor of the latter models. The GTA models never received the exterior update. Diesel engines underwent a major re-working, new four valve per cylinder heads were added, second stage common rail injection with 1400 bar maximum injection pressure with up to five injections per cycle for lower noise, consumption and higher performance. They were rated at 140/150 PS (103/110 kW) for straight-4 1.9 litre 16-valve and 175 PS (129 kW) for straight-5 2.4 litre 20-valve.
Original version (black mirrors and bumper strips)
2002 facelift version (body colour mirrors and bumper strips)
New front end in second series (2003) Sportwagon
Rear end in 2002 facelift version
New rear end in second series (2003)
Alfa Romeo 156 model timeline
156 Sportwagon estate
156 GTA berlina/sportwagon
156 Sportwagon Q4 AWD estate
156 Crosswagon Q4 AWD crossover
Note: The 156 GTA did not share production changes with other variants
The 156 GTA
The 156 GTA and 156 Sportwagon GTA were launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2001. The GTA was named after the Alfa Romeo GTA from the 1960s, the letters GTA meaning Gran Turismo Alleggerita (English: lightened Grand Tourer). It was an extremely exclusive high-performance sports car with the vehicles being hand assembled on a separate production line to the standard 156 models. It continues to be highly sought after by collectors as well as keen drivers due to its rarity, pedigree and Busso-designed engine.
1,973 berlinas and 1,678 Sportwagons were built until the GTA production stopped in October 2005, citing the upcoming replacement to the 156, the Alfa Romeo 159. Very few GTA were sold, with right-hand drive vehicles holding a premium over left-hand drive vehicles due to their rarity. Further, vehicles sold new in New Zealand and the United Kingdom hold a premium over other right-hand drive markets such as Australia, Malaysia, Japan or Singapore due to more desirable specification with higher output engines.
The very first GTA was sold via online auction, from September 13 to 23, the duration of the Frankfurt Motor Show. Winning bid was €48,691.26, which was donated to "Telethon" charity fund.
The 3.2 litre BussoneV6 engine (The big Busso, so called after legendary Alfa Romeo engineer Giuseppe Busso). This engine is praised universally for its excellent tone and eagerness to rev.
This was the largest capacity version built at the Alfa Romeo factory at Arese, north of Milano. The engine has a 93 mm (3.7 in) bore and a 78 mm (3.1 in) stroke and hence a capacity of (3,179 cc (194.0 cu in)) with 250 PS (184 kW; 247 hp) and 300 N⋅m (220 ft⋅lbf) of torque. After market Alfa Romeo specialist Autodelta produced performance versions up to 3.7 litres and 400 PS (290 kW). The European Touring Car Championship winning 156 GTA was however running a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 300 PS (220 kW) engine due to class regulations.
The GTA variants shared a common interior with post-facelift 156 variants. The doors, bootlid and bonnet were also shared. All else was unique to the GTA, specifically made by Fiat Research Centre and Maserati Research Centre.
The GTA did not take the Giugiaro designed facelift introduced to the 156 in 2002, but continued with the acclaimed Walter de Silva design to the very end of production, where a total of 1,973 berlinas were made.
The steering was also made faster, only 1.7 turns from lock to lock compared to 2.1 in normal models. The GTA had also larger brakes (Brembo), at front 305 millimetres (12 in) discs and rear 276 millimetres (10.8 in). The front discs were later upgraded to 330 millimetres (13 in) to cope with the performance potential.
In 2004 Sportwagon Q4all-wheel drive versions arrived to some markets. The Q4 (short for Quadrifoglio 4) system used three differentials, the central one being of the Torsen C limited slip type; it added about 150 kg (331 lb) to the vehicle weight.
A raised ride height meant the Sportwagon Q4's was 1,458 mm (57.4 in) tall. Other than the ride height, special 5-spoke 17 inch wheels and a "Q4" badge on the tail set the Sportwagon Q4 apart from the front-wheel drive 156 versions. The Sportwagon Q4 was only available on LHD markets, with no RHD models being built or sold. The only available engine was 1.9 M-Jet diesel with 150 PS (110 kW; 148 hp).
156 Crosswagon Q4
156 Crosswagon Q4
The same year Alfa Romeo introduced the Crosswagon Q4, a Sportwagon Q4 with a crossover look and enhanced off-road capabilities.
The Crosswagon's ride height was raised further compared to the Sportwagon Q4, giving the car better approach and departure angles; at 1,497 mm (58.9 in) it was 6.5 cm (2.6 in) taller than a standard 156. Tall-sidewall all-season tyres on 17 inch wheels were standard. The only available engine was 1.9 M-Jet diesel with 150 PS. The Crosswagon was made to look more like all-terrain vehicle by unique front and rear bumpers and door sills with steel inserts. After the introduction of the 159 in 2005 the Crosswagon remained in production, and in 2007 it was the last 156 to be discontinued.
The Alfa Romeo 156 GTAm was shown at Bologna Motor Show in December 2002. The car was built by Fiat Group's partner N.Technology. The GTA 3,179 cc (3.2 L; 194.0 cu in) engine was bored to 3,548 cc (3.5 L; 216.5 cu in) and power pushed to 300 PS (220 kW). The car had widened wheel arches, 19 inch tyres and was equipped with N.Technology limited slip differential. This car never reached production phase.
Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon GTA 3.5 Autodelta
At the 2004 Geneva Motor Show Italian-based tuning firm Autodelta unveiled a 156 Sportwagon prototype equipped with a 3,548 cc (3.5 L; 216.5 cu in) V6 engine that developed 300 brake horsepower (220 kW) at 6800 rpm. The car was fitted with Bilstein adjustable shock absorbers, Eibach springs and Brembo front brakes with a diameter of 330 millimetres (13 in). The car was lightened using a composite engine bonnet.
Autodelta 156 GTA 3.7 V6
Supercharged Autodelta 156 GTA.
London-based tuning firm Autodelta made two high performance versions based on 156 GTA, in GTA AM version Alfa Romeo V6 engine was bored to 3,750 cc (3.8 L; 228.8 cu in), which was capable to push 328 PS (241 kW) at 7300 rpm. With this power the car could reach top speed of 310 kilometres per hour (193 mph).
The other one GTA AM Super was "upgrade" of the first version, now fitted with Rotrex supercharger and pushing out 400 PS (290 kW).
Platform and suspension
The 156 uses a platform derived from the Alfa Romeo 155, which in turn was derived from the Fiat Group's "Tipo" platform. However it is sufficiently different from the original "Tipo" one to be seen as a new platform. The 156 is a highly developed front-wheel drive car; (the Cross/Sportwagon Q4 offered four-wheel drive in left-hand drive markets) with a double high wishbone front suspension and updated version of MacPherson type rear suspension, which consists of a telescopic vertical strut with coaxial spring and two transverse links of different lengths and a longitudinal strut. This structure means that the rear wheels have a tiny passive steering ability. Weight saving material (aluminium) has been used in several parts both front and rear suspension.
For the 156 GTA, weight saving materials were also used in many other parts like magnesium framed front seats and dashboard frame. The 156 GTA only shared common parts with other 156 variants with respect to the facelift interior, doors, bonnet and boot lid.
The 156 offered various engines and power levels during its lifespan, four and six cylinder petrol engines and four and five cylinder
diesel engines, all produced at Pratola Serra except the V6 engines, which was produced at Alfa Romeo's Arese plant, with the GTA engines being produced at the Maserati Research Centre. The 2.4 JTD diesel was world's first common rail diesel engine in a passenger car.
In 1998, an international jury of 56 journalists (40 of whom voted for the 156) representing 21 countries awarded the Alfa 156 the European Car of the Year award; it was described as having a "very refined suspension layout so to offer an impeccable roadholding". The 2.5 V6 engine was awarded with the International Engine of the Year award in 2000. The 156 has won more than 35 awards, including:
Technical Innovation Award – Common Rail 1998 – (Autocar – Great Britain)
Best Compact Executive 1998 – (What Car? – Great Britain)
Best Compact Executive Car 1998 – (Auto Express – Great Britain)
Die Besten Autos 1998, Paul Pietsch Preis – Innovation prize for Common Rail, (Auto, Motor und Sport – Germany)
Auto 1 Europa 1998 – (panel of engineers, drivers and journalists from the eleven European magazines, headed by Auto Bild)
Auto Trophy 1998 – (Auto Zeitung – Germany)
Trophee Du Design 1998 – (Automobile Magazine – France)
European Award for Automotive Design – (Belgium, 1998)
Car of the Year 1998 in Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal, France, and Croatia
Car of the Year in South Africa 1999 – (South African Guild of Motoring Journalists)
Prix de l’Innovation Technique pour le Common Rail 1997 (France)
L’automobile più bella del mondo ("The most beautiful car in the world") 1997 (Italy)
Italian race car constructor Coloni made a one-off racing car prototype for FIA Group-E Formula Libre called the Coloni S1 Alfa Romeo 156, or 156 Maxiturismo. The car is a carbon fibre silhouette racing car on a tubular frame, powered by a 3.0 litre Alfa Romeo V6 engine producing between 380 bhp (280 kW) and 500 bhp (370 kW). The car has a 6-speed Hewland-Coloni sequential gearbox and weighs around 900 kilograms (2,000 lb). It is capable of achieving over 310 kilometres per hour (190 mph).
Sponsored Links. Become a Supporting Member to hide this ad & support a small business