The numbers add up… and so does the price!
Prestige, power and (the right) price are hallmarks of the new Alfa Romeo 159
In the past if you were in the market for a compact executive, it was a case of ‘default me to a German sedan’. Fortunately with the introduction of Alfa Romeo’s revitalised 159 range, life doesn’t have to be that predictable.
Alfa Romeo is a brand on the move and newcomers in the guise of the B-segment MiTo and C-segment Giulietta have been hogging all the limelight. However, the protagonist in this instance is the elegantly seductive 159 sedan. And, in re-launching this model, Alfa Romeo SA is striking right at the heart of the ultra-competitive D segment.
Customers shopping at this end of the market are very badge-conscious; they’re also financially astute – they want a car that reflects the prestige and status they feel they’ve earned in a good value-for-money package.
According to Oscar Rivoli, Managing Director of Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa, the new 159 fulfils that brief: “Alfa Romeo has always been an evocative nameplate, but now the revamped 159 range most definitely also delivers when it comes to performance, luxury, refinement and affordability. We are really pleased to be able to add excellent value for money to the 159 equation. New engines, new trim levels, new market positioning and new price make the new 159 an unbeatable package.”
Under that highly personal exterior Alfa Romeo offers a choice of two engines that will satisfy even the most power-hungry executive. Starting from September 2011, the refreshed 159 will be available with a brand new engine: a 1750 cc turbocharged petrol unit that conforms to Euro 5 standards and develops 147 kW between 4,750 and 5,500 rpm with 320 Nm of torque at only 1,400 rpm.
The new 1750 cc turbo petrol engine (manufactured by FPT – Fiat Powertrain Technologies) comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and boasts advanced ignition control solutions including direct fuel injection, two continuously variable valve timing units, a turbocharger and a revolutionary scavenging control system.
The resulting performance is comparable to – or better than – that of many 3 litre engines while still delivering fuel consumption typical of a compact four-cylinder unit. This engine takes the Alfa Romeo 159, with its refined Italian styling and typical sporting elegance to an impressive top speed of 235 km/h and propels it from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.7 seconds.
Of interest is the fact that the latest model adopts the same 1750 cc displacement as one of the most successful saloons ever made by Alfa Romeo. Alfa Romeo aficionados will certainly remember the refined and powerful 1750 Berlina introduced in the late 1960s, bearing the ‘Berlina’ name made famous by its 1930s predecessor and powered by a 1779 cc twin cam four cylinder engine developing 118 HP / 87 kW (the specific power of this engine set new standards for its time).
The second engine – Alfa Romeo’s sonorous V6 3.2-litre petrol engine pushing out 191 kW and a peak torque of 322 Nm at 4,500 rpm – is not new to the 159 range, but its application is. For the first time this sporty V6 is available without the Q4 all-wheel drive system when mated with the six-speed manual gearbox. When paired with the automatic 6-speed gearbox (also a first for this engine), the Q4 all-wheel drive system is standard.
Highlights of the 1750 TBi engine
The engine’s brilliant performance is largely the result of using advanced scavenging technology to maximise torque even at very low revs and to produce an incredibly rapid response to driver input.
Effective scavenging is achieved by monitoring and optimising, instant by instant, the engine operating parameters of fuel dosage, valve, ignition and injection timing. In practice, the new valve timing system defines valve overlap angles and times with extreme precision, generating a direct flow of air from the intake manifold to the exhaust manifold and driving the turbocharger in ultra-short times.
This new system therefore makes far better use of the turbocharger than conventional turbo petrol engines. It is controlled by an innovative ECU implementing ultra-modern engine parameter control software. The result is surprising indeed: torque at 1500 rpm is 70% greater than that of a conventional turbo petrol engine and response times have been more than halved, closely approaching those of a naturally aspirated engine.
Direct injection reduces temperature in the combustion chamber through fuel evaporation and dramatically reduces any tendency towards detonation. This allows superior performance to be achieved even at quite high compression ratios (around 9.5) and guarantees low fuel consumption at partial throttle settings.
Direct injection is also essential for reducing emissions in conjunction with an advanced, two-stage fuel injection system. Direct control over the injection process also ensures that no fuel escapes from the exhaust port during the scavenging phase to compromise the functioning of the catalytic converter.
The 159’s second generation injection system also features a new, high pressure pump (capable of operating at fuel pressures of 150 bar) and innovative 7-hole injectors capable of guaranteeing perfect fuel vaporisation under all engine operating conditions.
Two valve timing units
Continuously variable valve timing units on the intake and exhaust cams optimise valve timing at all engine speeds and loads, minimising both fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. By linking the two valve timing units with the turbocharger, the engine’s ECU can implement a constantly ideal scavenging strategy and establish ideal valve opening and closing overlap. When the driver demands a sudden increase in torque, the system ensures rapid response even at low revs.
The engine is fitted with a latest generation turbocharger linked with an innovative pulse converter exhaust manifold that uses exhaust pressure waves to optimise torque at low engine speeds. Both the manifold and the turbocharger itself are made from microfused steel to withstand the very high operating temperatures (up to 1020 °C) needed to reduce fuel consumption under medium-high speed and motorway driving conditions.
The inlet ports have been designed and optimised using the latest 1D and 3D calculation techniques to achieve the necessary high level of turbulence. The result is a correct air-fuel mix and a faster, more stable fuel burn even at low revs.
The design of combustion chamber too has been optimised by extending the squish areas and minimising the ratio between surface and volume to the benefit of combustion efficiency. Finally, the exhaust ports have been designed to work in sync with the exhaust manifold and to maximise its pulse converter effect.
Low friction design
The entire engine has been designed to minimise power losses through friction. The pistons feature rings with low tangential load and are made from advanced, low wear materials. The cylinder head incorporates roller rocker arms that have reduced sliding contact losses at 2000 rpm by 65% compared to the old Twin Spark cylinder heads. Optimised crank design based on a very long con-rod but a moderately short piston stroke has cut to a minimum the high speed vibrations normally associated with straight four engines. This has enabled balancer shafts to be dispensed with, further improving fuel consumption.
Advanced scavenging and an innovative valve timing system enable the new engine to set new performance benchmarks. Specific torque is exceptional at 185 Nm/l, one of the highest figures for any modern engine.
Maximum torque of 320 Nm is developed at only 1400 rpm – another excellent value. This guarantees superb acceleration and allows you to drive in a relaxed manner without having to change down frequently. The engine develops a high specific power of 86 kW/l at the relatively low speed of 4750 rpm and keeps this power level constant up to 5500 rpm.
To conclude, though the 1750 TBi boasts a level of torque similar to that of a naturally aspirated V6, downsizing has made it possible reduce weight by over 100 Kg, giving a further 25% improvement in acceleration.
Thanks to a two-stage fuel injection system with a high start pressure, a relatively small catalytic converter is sufficient to ensure conformity to Euro 5 standards, with positive effects on performances.
Highlights of the 3.2 V6 24v engine
Twin overhead camshaft with low friction drive;
direct petrol injection;
double continuous variable valve timing on the inlet and exhaust;
cylinder head in light aluminium alloy;
hydraulic tappets with automatic play uptake;
crankcase in light aluminium alloy;
maintenance-free timing gear drive chain;
Poly V automatic tensioner belt to drive the engine accessories;
throttle valve with electronic drive-by-wire activation;
single ignition coils;
low specific consumption and emissions;
4 lambda probes to control emissions;
double knock sensor to improve knock sensitivity and to optimise peak performance;
high performance exhaust manifold with built-in pre-catalysts;
Euro 4 emission levels
The 3.2 V6 engine features an exhaust system that envisages a first group of catalysing elements relatively close to the cylinder heads to reduce the emissions level at the start of operation. Two catalysts under the floorpan and four lambda probes complete the system, so that the engine respects Euro 4 limits without adopting special systems such as secondary air or electric heating.
Direct injection system
Another feature of the 3.2 V6 engine is the direct injection system (the fuel is supplied directly to the combustion chamber) whose main advantage is that it improves evaporation and this increases the engine’s volumetric efficiency.
As a result, the supply of air and petrol is both denser and colder, which allows the compression ratio to be increased to 11.25, even with an octane index of 95 RON; a high compression ratio is useful because it makes it possible to increase both the performance and the energy efficiency of the engine.
And ignition is provided by a single sparkplug per cylinder. Direct injection combined with 4-valve-per-cylinder geometry creates a mix that tends to be more concentrated at the centre of the combustion chamber. The ignition system fits a single ignition coil per cylinder.
Q4 four-wheel drive system (standard on the 3.2 V6 auto only)
The Alfa Romeo Q4 four-wheel drive system splits torque constantly and dynamically between the four wheels, reaching the highest levels of active safety and sportiness. The Torsen C self-locking differential sends drive torque 57% to the rear wheels and 43% to the front. The system also guarantees excellent traction in all grip conditions by automatically checking slip.
The torque split between the front and rear axles is modulated constantly by the Torsen C central differential on the basis of grip. This feature harnesses sportiness to enhance active safety. Modulation is mechanical, continuous and gradual, to enhance the perception of optimal, enjoyable, easy driving.
There are no gaps in the torque delivery. Where grip is concerned, the behaviour adapts gradually and smoothly to changing road conditions. This “mechanical” control is backed up by electronic stability control, which boosts performance and safety margins, in line with the Alfa Romeo philosophy.
The four-wheel drive car is the state of the art in technical terms and offers some important advantages:
Q4 permanent four-wheel drive with a Torsen C self-locking differential makes for better roadholding, entertainment and smooth responses. Other technological archetypes with electronically controlled joints do not achieve the optimal balance between understeer and oversteer or the smoothness that are innate in the Alfa 159, and translate into superb active safety.
The torque split in favour of the rear axle makes driving even more entertaining, because it makes the car even easier to handle, without detracting in any way from stability during sudden lane changes on the motorway, or other emergency manoeuvres.
The ability to travel safely in poor grip conditions without the aid of electronics in torque split for constant driving pleasure.
One could say that the Alfa 159 Q4 interprets four-wheel drive from the Alfa Romeo point of view: it is basically a “mechanical” system enhanced by cutting edge electronic technology to guarantee maximum comfort and entertainment, combined with superb performance and absolute safety.
Q-Tronic Six-speed Auto Transmission (optional on the 3.2 Distinctive)
The ‘Q-Tronic’ automatic six-speed transmission which is optional on the new 159 3.2 V6 Distinctive allows the car to be driven in automatic mode with all the functions typical of an automatic transmission (parking, reverse, neutral and drive) or in sequential mode by simply moving the selector. When the 3.2 Distinctive is specified with the autobox, the Q4 all-wheel drive system is part of the standard package.
The ‘Q-Tronic’ name continues the Alfa Romeo tradition of using the letter ‘Q‘ to indicate the most sophisticated technology developed by the Company: from the famous Quadrifoglio to the ‘Q4’ of the permanent four wheel drive to the very recent ‘Q2’ for the front wheel drive. The term Tronic, on the other hand, tells us that the system is controlled by a smart electronic control unit that governs optimum gear shifts.
This is how it works… Automatic transmission in itself ensures more effective use of engine performance and greater comfort, particularly around town. The Q-Tronic backs these advantages with very comfortable gear shifts, i.e. a reduction in the number of pulses felt by the driver.
The innovative system also allows those who do not wish to renounce the pleasure of a sporty drive to use the system in sequential manner in the same way as a gearbox with fixed ratios controlled in sequence: when the gearbox is pushed up (‘+’ sign), the gearbox shifts to the next gear up while when it is pushed down (‘-’ sign), the gearbox shifts down a gear. In this mode too, the system ensures the driver is able to maintain a sporty drive because, unlike sequential gearboxes offered by rival cars, the Q-Tronic does not force gear shifts at high speeds and the change may be made when the driver wishes.
As an exclusive feature on the 3.2 Q4, the Q-Tronic also offers a Sport – Winter function that allows the driver to choose between two operating modes (Sport and Winter) in addition to the default setting. In detail, the Comfort mode which is active when the car is started with the lever in position D, facilitates smooth gear shifts and balanced management of fuel consumption because gears are engaged at relatively low rpms.
When the key beside the lever is pressed, the system changes to Sport mode. This lays the stress on performance and ensures a lively, entertaining drive because the gear shifts are set at higher engine speeds for a more sporty performance. When the same button is held down for longer, the system switches to Winter mode. This ensures maximum grip when the road surface is particularly hazardous, for example when the roads are snow-covered.
To coincide with these drivetrain changes, Alfa Romeo has introduced a new range structure which now features three trim levels – Progression, Distinctive and TI. (Please note that all 159s are 5-star EuroNCAP rated and feature seven airbags including a driver’s kneebag, isofix attachments on the rear seats, follow-me-home headlights as well as a full complement of active safety kit including Stability Control or VDC, Traction Control or ASR, BAS with EBD and Hill Holder. Electronic Q2 is standard on the 1750 TBi models.)
The Progression trim level is available exclusively on the 1750 TBi and it offers drivers sporty upgrades including double chrome exhaust pipes, 17-inch spoke-design alloy wheels, front foglights and halogen headlights. Moving indoors some of the highlights of the 1750 TBi Progression include an electronic key with start button, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, sport ‘3D’ fabric upholstery, trip computer and leather multifunction steering wheel (with leather knob).
The new Distinctive Trim on the 3.2 (manual and auto) adds additional style to the already highly specified Progression equipment, including electrically folding heated wing mirrors, interior trim inserts in black aluminium, leather/fabric combo upholstery, sports instrumentation with white backlighting and multifunctional display, Blue&Me hands-free communication system with USB port, the Visibility pack (rain sensor, light sensor and electrochromatic mirror) as well as sports leather steering wheel and gear knob with black stitching.
The new Ti outfit is of course the cherry on the cake and is available with both engines (manual only). Only a small number of Alfa Romeos have ever carried the famous two-letter designation, TI and now it’s the turn of the Alfa 159 to carry the famous TI initials. Short for Turismo Internazionale, the TI badge is now available on both engine versions.
The range-enhancing Alfa 159 TI line-up benefits from a unique body kit that comprises a special Ti exhaust, lowered sports set-up with red Brembo brake calipers featuring Alfa Romeo designation, sports skirts and 18” turbine-design alloy wheels with matt black finish. Ringing the changes inside are extra adjustment for recline angle on the front seats, sill inserts with the Ti decal, sports pedals and aluminium heel guard, sports leather/alcantara upholstery, heated front seats as well as sports leather steering wheel and gear knob with red stitching.
More value for money
Alfa Romeo 159 1750 TBi Progression – R340 000 (incl VAT & emissions tax)
Alfa Romeo 159 1750 TBi Ti – R370 000
Alfa Romeo 159 3.2 V6 Distinctive – R398 500
Alfa Romeo 159 3.2 V6 Ti – R428 500
Alfa Romeo 159 3.2 V6 Q4 auto Distinctive – R430 000
Like their stablemates, the new Alfa 159s enjoy full after-sales backing in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory and to trained technicians at Alfa Romeo dealerships countrywide.
They come standard with Alfa’s 5 year/150 000 km warranty and they are covered by a 6-year 105 000km service plan (services are carried out every 35 000 km). The new model range is also covered by the AA Fleet care roadside assistance for three years. The service is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is available by calling the dedicated toll-free number 0800 223 727.