The Alfa Romeo 156 continues to go from strength to strength and by the end of August 2000 will have won Alfa dealers more than 230,000 orders since its launch. The impact the model has made in 66 countries throughout the world has been mainly responsible for the relaunch of our brand and our regained share of the international market.
One of the reasons for this success is the Alfa Romeo 156's ability to satisfy a well-informed, demanding breed of customer. Such customers perceive Alfa's sporty saloon as an excellent product that keeps the spirit of the brand alive while staying abreast of the latest developments in automotive engineering, just like its bigger brother the Alfa Romeo 166.
Visitors to Frankfurt will be able to admire the Alfa Romeo 156 2.5 V6 and the model's latest offspring: the 2.0 Selespeed. This car is fitted with a robotised sequential gearbox with steering wheel controls. This technology derives directly from the Ferrari 355 F1 and ensures this is an out-and-out sporty version because it allows fast, precise gear changes for great performance.
The car's other strengths include comfort and driving ease. The Selespeed is less tiring than a conventional gearbox: it does not have a clutch pedal and gears are engaged quickly without effort.
The Selespeed is also safe: you do not have to take your hand off the wheel to reach the selector lever and so can keep full control of the car even during gear changes.
The heart of the system is an electronic transmission control unit (in constant communication with the engine management unit). When you request a gear change the unit automatically opens the clutch, reduces torque regardless of the amount the accelerator is pressed and then selects and engages the gear.
The speed to be engaged is always chosen by the driver, who can control the gearbox using a lever between the seats or controls on the steering wheel: the right control for sequential gear shifts during acceleration; the left control to change down and decelerate.
Due to electronic wizardry, this manual gearbox can also be used in fully automatic mode. To activate the second operating mode, simply press the 'city' button on the central tunnel and the Selespeed system will assume responsibility for deciding which gear to use and when to change.
Differences between this version and the normal 2.0 T. Spark outfit include the wording Selespeed on the rear of the car, exclusive 16 inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel with gearbox controls, display in the rev counter indicating the gear engaged, carbon-coloured central console, climate control system, electric rear windows and front armrest as standard.
Remember that the Alfa Romeo 156 range is made up of another six versions over and above the two on show in Frankfurt: 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 T. Spark; 1.9 and 2.4 JTD; 2.5 Q-System. The Q-System version comes with a gearbox that can work in automatic mode but also allows the driver to select gears manually as with a conventional manual gearbox.