The Alfa Romeo 166 has arrived - another important milestone for the development of the Alfa Romeo brand. The new model is a big saloon and a flagship destined to head the Alfa Romeo product range and conclude the phase of overall range renewal that began in 1994. Its appearance and dynamism clothe a host of engineering and comfort features that Alfa's designers have managed to pack into it with great precision.
The result is a stylish car that displays all the good looks with which the Alfa Romeo Style Centre customarily cloaks its handsome engines. This car's winning card is its personality: a combination of heritage and character.
Its heritage allows it to compete on equal terms with the best cars offered by the competition within this Ã©lite market band. The result is a model with sufficient image and substance to satisfy a highly demanding class of customer.
Its character allows it to distinguish itself among other thoroughbreds and offer something extra: typically Alfa Romeo. This will be a favourite feature of those who appreciate the fact that a great prestige saloon is capable of offering driving satisfaction too - those who will be glad to discover that the Alfa Romeo 156's big 'sister' shares all the former's award-winning power and sporty feel.
The Alfa Romeo 166 offers various different engine-transmission combinations which are among the most powerful and efficient currently available on the market. The suspension ensures absolute car control in all situations. A host of electronic features allows customers to enjoy the great performances that all Alfa Romeo 166 versions offer, in absolute safety: from ABS with electronic brake distribution to antislip regulation for automatic traction control.
But this is not all. Alfa Romeo believes that a flagship like the Alfa Romeo 166 should also be designed to please passengers. The new model immediately reveals itself to be a very pleasing car to ride in, either as driver or passenger on short trips or long motorway journeys. Enjoyable environments are enhanced by the advanced climate control system, excellent sound-proofing and comfortable, efficient suspension.
Sophisticated technology is incorporated to make life simpler: an efficient electronic interface, cruise control useful when driving on the motorway, a "smart" radio able to adjust its volume level to the surroundings - and a satellite navigation system that suggests the best route to the required destination.
The result is a great saloon able to give its best under a wide variety of different situations. The car's most outstanding attribute is probably its ability to achieve a balance between comfort, performance, safety and style. And this is the cardinal virtue one expects of a car in this segment of the market.
AN AUTHORITATIVE SALOON
The high-ranking Alfa Romeo 166 confirms its personality on the open road. Because it offers all the comfort and refinement one expects of a flagship. Because its standards of roadholding and handling are everything you expect from an Alfa Romeo. Distinctive features it shares with other Alfas include reduced roll, advanced rear suspension geometry for sure-footed behaviour on corners and smooth and accurate steering.
The Alfa Romeo 166 is particularly easy to drive because it allows itself to be corrected so easily by the driver. The car drives so well due to very direct steering. You never have to get your arms in a twist, yet can tackle any bend with flair without taking your hands off the wheel.
The secret of this performance lies in a sophisticated mechanical layout. The suspension, for example, combines a double wishbone configuration at the front with a new multilink system at the rear.
From a technical viewpoint, this means that the front tyres always work optimally in relation to the road, with uniform specific pressure over the tyre contact patch.
This kind of behaviour is naturally important for active safety reasons. When it needs to avoid a sudden obstacle, the Alfa Romeo 166 makes the most of its attributes during the two most crucial stages of the manoeuvre: the beginning and the end. At the beginning, it responds swiftly (due to the front suspension layout) and offers maximum lateral grip. At the end, it realigns itself smoothly and instinctively. This action is facilitated by small steering movements imposed by the rear suspension. The car can also call on a braking system that would be more at home - in terms of structure, size and materials - on a high-powered sports car than a model in the Alfa Romeo 166's segment.
It is easy to imagine how much driving pleasure enthusiasts will gain from a car able to exploit its truly outstanding suspension response to the full. The front suspension configuration makes the car's behaviour neutral on corners, with hardly any understeer, and ensures the car goes exactly where the driver wants it to. The rear suspension steers the rear wheels slightly to follow any manoeuvre smoothly and progressively.
The advantages are immediately apparent when the car is cornered at speed. The Alfa Romeo 166 completes the first part of the trajectory with all the precision of a front wheel drive car. When the accelerator is released slightly half way round the bend, the car 'tightens' its line to complete the bend with a touch of oversteer. At this point, all that remains is to accelerate out of the bend for the car to line up again with smooth immediacy.
The Alfa Romeo 166's agility is obvious straight away to anyone (even a novice) who drives it over a mixed-fast route. The car's responses are so immediate, gentle and smooth (without lag, roll or two-stage reactions) that the overall impression is of a much more compact car.
Solid and imposing, but also nimble and ready for action, the Alfa Romeo 166 is outstanding for its smooth, uncluttered and appealing style.
The Alfa Romeo 166's family resemblance to other models in the Alfa Romeo range is obvious, as is its link to its glorious past. Tradition has been revised and reinterpreted in the light of current taste and awareness, but the Alfa Romeo 166 also boasts two essential attributes for a great saloon: the balance and understated consistency that are the most effective expression of Italian style.
The new model is aimed at demanding motorists who appreciate sophisticated engineering and who demand great quality of life on board, safety and - naturally - driving satisfaction from their car.
Five power units are available: four of which are petrol - (the 155 bhp - 114 kW 2.0 Twin Spark 16V; the 205 bhp - 151 kW 2.0 V6 turbo; the 2.5 and 3.0 V6 24V units developing 190 bhp - 140 kW and 226 bhp - 166 kW respectively). There is also a diesel unit: the 136 bhp - 100 kW 2.4 JTD. With their excellent levels of power and torque, these engines offer outstanding engineering, performance, reliability and environmental compatibility.
The 2.0 Twin Spark is Alfa Romeo's classic twin overhead camshaft engine, here seen in its latest manifestation with multivalve cylinder head, variable valve timing, twin spark ignition, and a variable geometry intake manifold for optimal torque and thus driving ease, even at low rpm. The 2.0 V6 turbo combines all the power of a turbo with the satisfaction of a 6 cylinder engine: a compromise unique in this category. The 2.5 and 3.0 V6 24v units both possess superlative standards of power and torque for their category.
Lastly, the 2.4 JTD offers superb diesel-powered performance, high torque from low speeds and great driving flexibility due to its innovative Unijet common rail direct injection system and variable geometry turbine.
The Alfa Romeo 166's transmissions are also up-to-date and reliable. The manual unit is quiet, slick in operation and requires very little effort to engage the gears. The five-speed version is mated to the 2.0 Twin Spark and 2.5 V6 engines. A six speed version is fitted to the 2.4 JTD, 2.0 turbo and 3.0 V6. The sixth speed enhances sportiness and ease of driving with the petrol units but helps reduce fuel consumption and noise levels with the diesel unit.
Both normally aspirated V6 units can optionally be fitted with an electronic automatic transmission. This new, highly advanced gearbox is known as a self-adaptive Sportronic system. The system offers sequential manual operation; i.e.: the user is free to change gear - or the system is able to adapt to the driver's driving style and route conditions by choosing the best speed change strategies on the basis of numerous parameters.
From gearbox to suspension. The Alfa Romeo 166 owes much of its excellent road behaviour to the latter. The front suspension features a double wishbone layout, which is a development of the system used on the Alfa Romeo 156. The rear suspension is multilink. This sophisticated combination succeeds in reconciling handling and comfort to ensure the car benefits from maximum stability and driving satisfaction.
To offer the driver complete control under all conditions, the Alfa Romeo range leader also benefits from a host of other state-of-the-art engineering solutions: an active sensor ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution; Antislip Regulation and a Traction Control System for more effective traction control - and also Sport Throttle Response, which allows drivers to choose their favourite driving style.
The now-traditional safety package - including two airbags (one with passenger presence sensor), front pretensioners and a fire prevention system - has been extended on the Alfa Romeo 166 to include xenon headlights and sidebags. All this plus 140,000 daNm/rad of torsional rigidity that provides an excellent basis for an intrinsically safe car.
Driving satisfaction has always been the main attribute of Alfa Romeo cars, but travelling satisfaction is also an essential quality of a large top-class saloon. Nothing has been left to chance on the Alfa Romeo 166. The generous, evenly-proportioned passenger compartment uses all available space to the full. The seats are sporty, but comfortable and easy to adjust. The automatic climate control system maintains ideal conditions for driving alertness while ensuring the wellbeing of driver and passengers.
The excellent quality of life on board is also aided by a Cruise Control system which maintains a cruise speed set by the driver for a more relaxed journey. The Integrated Control System is a sophisticated electronic device responsible for governing the climate control system, trip computer, radio, Hi-Fi system, GSM phone and satellite navigation system.
Plenty of comfort, sophisticated technology, powerful engines and original styling: these are the new model's strong points. All this plus minute attention to detail, a huge array of options and accessories, and a wide choice of material and colour matches.
Alfa Romeo 166 buyers can choose one of three interior environments in different colours that are designed to satisfy even the most demanding customers within this market sector: the elegant environment is based on warm beige tones; the sports environment juxtaposes dark grey and black - while light grey shades predominate in the classic environment. Red Style and Blue Style leather interiors can also be chosen as options. The first is reserved for Super versions (2.0 V6 turbo and 3.0 V6). The other is available for all other Alfa Romeo 166 versions.
The final result is completed by 12 gleaming exterior colours. These include two pastel and eight metallic shades, plus two iridescent shades based on pearlised enamels: the now-classic Nuvola and the new Aurora.