BEHIND THE WHEEL: Alfa Romeo 159
SATURDAY OCTOBER 23, 2010
Alfa Malaysia had three 159s in their showroom, two of which are 2.2 and a 3.2 variant. I personally did some inspection on the cars since the neglecting salespeople couldn't quite care if you stole any of their cars away. It was absolutely acceptable as I soon learn that their sales team aren’t an experienced nor particularly bright bunch. The first time I was in their showroom, I wasn't entertained while this time, a man popped up half asleep.
When I went his direction for enlightenment on the 159, he went “this Audi…” then I asked “Audi?” From that point, he preached on the things I already know so I requested for a test drive. The man in charge went first and it was soon my turn to have a go. Reporting from the rear seat, the ride is harsh but I soon got used to it. Also the rear seats are quite steep which makes long journeys uncomfortable. That aside, the gear shifts are neck breaking which could probably be the man's fault on the throttle. So I took over to see what’s what.
Driver oriented cockpit
After sales concerns
6-speed Robotised Manual
0-100 km/h: 8.7s
Top speed: 224 km/h
Being Italian, the cockpit gives the driver a racy feel which is an advantage from a driver's point of view. Then the 6-speed robotised manual gearbox thingy where there is no P mode. To move backwards, shift the leaver to the left while to go forward it is to the right. Addition, the 159 would not move until you give it some beans. Semi-automatic gearbox, stressed the salesman. I tried my best to balance the throttle and hoped for the fastest gear shift but it was worse than what I experienced earlier. So screw that, I pushed the Sports button and instantaneously it became much more fluid. I then shifted the leaver to the right once more to engage the full manual mode and welded the pedal to the floor on a straight.
As said earlier, I was on the manual mode which meant I had to do the up and down shifting. The result is me going at 60km/h and at 7000 rpm. Well that’s quick. Matter is this Italian is swift but I didn’t get to go fast because the gearbox isn’t like those in the Germans. Being an Audi, BMW or Mercedes its transmission up shifts by its own when the needle has gone 500 rpm off its redline. In this Alfa, it does have a rev limited at 7K rpm but it does not grab the next gear for the person behind the wheel. Thus, the user determines when to select the next gear. The acceleration is respectable but the exhaust note couldn’t be heard.
That aside the interior quality is not up to par with the Germans and buyers have to agree on what the distributor have selected on the options list. Buyers do not get the privilege to select what they desire in their Alfa Romeos even if they do not mind waiting for their 159s to ship all the way from Italy. The few things you have a choice on is choosing the colour, 10 thousand ringgit 19” optional rims and some bodykit. The Malaysian 159 does not come with electric seats, front parking sensor and LCD screen.
To be fair, a sedan that costs just over 200 thousand ringgit on the road I’d say the Alfa 159 to be extremely value for money. Surprisingly at this price, it comes with a sunroof, 18” alloy rims and a limited slip differential (LSDs are only available in things like the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63). Adding to the icing, the appearance of the 159 grabs quite a degree attention from the public. The direct steering and precise handling can be explained by the stiff suspension and road noise. If I were to get one, it really does say whether or not I am defining my own character. If you are looking for something filled with taste, the Alfa is the one to go for if not let’s just join the hot-rod GTI mob.