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Alfa Romeo 159 JTDM 136bhp

The Alfa Romeo 159 is a car that's been overlooked by many company car drivers, but a more efficient 136bhp diesel engine could change that. Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

It's been with us since 2005, but take a look at Alfa Romeo's 159 and ask yourself if there's a better looking executive saloon on sale today. If there is, I can't picture it. Alfa is looking to prove that the 159 is more than a pretty face with a sweet-spinning 136bhp diesel engine that takes the fight to its big-selling German rivals.

Background

Perhaps we'd better get used to Alfa Romeo's 159 for a little while longer. Rumours from reliable sources inside Alfa Romeo claim that the styling of the 159's replacement, the Giulia, which was due to be launched in 2012, has failed to impress Fiat Group boss Sergio Marchionne and that a restyled car will now appear in 2013 at the earliest. That means the 159 needed more than a new set of mats and flaps in order to tempt buyers to stick with it. With a vast pool of diesel engine design talent at its disposal, Alfa has fitted a more efficient 136bhp 2.0-litre JTDM to the 159 in a bid to grab some business purchases. It's a bold but sensible move and while the 159's chances of elbowing aside the likes of the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4 have long since passed, if you don't want to be seen driving yet another base model Teutonodrone, the handsome 159 still has a heck of a lot to offer.

Driving Experience

Alfa Romeo continually gets flak from rather tedious old-school purists who refuse to acknowledge that a front-wheel drive Alfa saloon is in any way proper. This version of the 159 is a better car for diverting power to its front wheels. With a relatively modest 136bhp troubling the front tyres, it's not as if it's struggling to deploy the power. Rear wheel drive would just add weight, complexity and rob the cabin of space. The engine is a state of the art Euro 5 power unit equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger able to deliver an impressive 350Nm of torque from as little as 1,750 rpm. The upshot is a sprint to 60mph in 9.6 seconds and a top speed of 126mph which is brisk enough for most and won't be embarrassed by similarly-priced rivals. The 159 uses a suspension setup that's fairly typical for the class with strut front suspension and a multilink rear end. The JTDM engine is a relative lightweight (for a diesel at least) so the handling balance isn't unduly compromised.

Design and Build

The 159 is a big car - longer and wider than a BMW 3 Series, an Audi A4 or a Mercedes C Class - yet it never appears bulky, the well judged proportions working as well now as they did when the wraps first came off the car at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. It's inside where the ageing process is a little more obvious. The facia is basically an evolution of its predecessor's, the 156, which first saw the light of day in 1998. Alfa has given it a nip and a tweak in the intervening years, but the fundamental design owes very little to the modern layouts with their huge swathes of dashboard real estate devoted to colour touch screens. The optional carbon dash finish looks a good deal tidier than the rather plain silver plastic. There can be few complaints when it comes to space, with creditable rear legroom and headroom. The 460-litre boot comes as a welcome surprise and if you need more in the way of carrying capacity, you'll be relieved to learn that this engine is also offered in Sportwagon estate guise.

Market and Model

This 2.0-litre JTDM engine is offered in three trim levels, ascending through entry level Turismo trim to a comfort specification, Lusso and topping out with the sporting TI version. Turismo specification features six airbags, electric front and rear windows, dual zone automatic climate control, new sports cloth upholstery, cruise control, front fog lights, car radio with CD/MP3 player and eight speakers, Blue&Me (a Bluetooth hands-free system), black leather trimmed steering wheel with remote controls, black leather gear knob and 16-inch alloy wheels. That'll be enough for most and at £22,500 it looks the pick of the bunch. The Lusso version features leather upholstery, visibility pack, sports dials with white illumination, darkened interior headlining, black aluminium centre console and steering wheel trim inserts, dark chrome painted dashboard and door trim inserts, rear parking sensors, stainless steel kick plates and 17-inch multi-spoke design alloy wheels. Spring for the TI versions and there are 19-inch TI spoked alloy wheels, side skirts, lowered sports suspension and red painted brake callipers. Inside, the TI sees wraparound seats trimmed in black Sports leather and Alcantara, a sports pedal set in aluminium and kick plates with the TI logo.

Cost of Ownership

If you're utterly intent upon minimising your tax bill to the utmost, you might find that the Alfa 159 2.0 JTDM 136 just misses the mark. If that's an overriding concern, buy a BMW 318d. It's a great car and you'll love it. If, on the other hand, you take the view that a car should be about the experience and if it's something that you're spending a lot of time in, it should be something you find appealing and likeable, the Alfa is in with a very real shout. With emissions of 134g/km it's far from a disaster and the fuel economy figure of 55.4mpg is hardly going to have you on first-name terms with the staff in your local filling station. What's more, it's best to take the list price as a fairly fuzzy guideline, with just two minutes Googling turning up an offer saving more than £5,000 off the entry-level price. Yes, it's irredeemably fixed when it comes to P11D value, but what the exchequer thinks you've paid and what you actually do pay can have quite a bit of fresh air between them, helping to offset the inevitable hit in residuals the 159 will suffer when the Giulia does arrive. Still, the Alfa's not alone in that particular boat, with all-new replacement models well under way for all of the major German rivals.

Summary

I was in Starbucks last week, people watching as usual. One guy arrived at the counter and ordered two Americano shorts. It's a drink size that's not even advertised and he'd done the sums and figured out that two of these drinks worked out more cost effectively than a medium sized one. Undoubtedly a very smart chap and he would doubtless drive a BMW 318d. The next guy ordered the biggest cappuccino and stood waiting for it with his hand deep in the coffee bean display, enjoying the feel of the roasted beans trickling through his fingers like pebbles on a beach. An Alfa 159 driver. Alfa Romeo has worked hard to punt the 159 back into relevance with this latest 2.0-litre JTDM diesel engine. Indeed, its 134g/km emissions figure might pique the interest of a few company car buyers. Those who have worked the numbers to the nth degree will shop elsewhere. If you're halfway through a venti cappuccino and spot the prettiest looking saloon car you've ever seen drive by, it's an Alfa Romeo 159. Buy one and thank me later.

I was in Starbucks last week, people watching as usual. One guy arrived at the counter and ordered two Americano shorts. It's a drink size that's not even advertised and he'd done the sums and figured out that two of these drinks worked out more cost effectively than a medium sized one. Undoubtedly a very smart chap and he would doubtless drive a BMW 318d. The next guy ordered the biggest cappuccino and stood waiting for it with his hand deep in the coffee bean display, enjoying the feel of the roasted beans trickling through his fingers like pebbles on a beach. An Alfa 159 driver. Alfa Romeo has worked hard to punt the 159 back into relevance with this latest 2.0-litre JTDM diesel engine. Indeed, its 134g/km emissions figure might pique the interest of a few company car buyers. Those who have worked the numbers to the nth degree will shop elsewhere. If you're halfway through a venti cappuccino and spot the prettiest looking saloon car you've ever seen drive by, it's an Alfa Romeo 159. Buy one and thank me later.

I was in Starbucks last week, people watching as usual. One guy arrived at the counter and ordered two Americano shorts. It's a drink size that's not even advertised and he'd done the sums and figured out that two of these drinks worked out more cost effectively than a medium sized one. Undoubtedly a very smart chap and he would doubtless drive a BMW 318d. The next guy ordered the biggest cappuccino and stood waiting for it with his hand deep in the coffee bean display, enjoying the feel of the roasted beans trickling through his fingers like pebbles on a beach. An Alfa 159 driver. Alfa Romeo has worked hard to punt the 159 back into relevance with this latest 2.0-litre JTDM diesel engine. With emissions of 134g/km it's far from a disaster and the fuel economy figure of 55.4mpg is hardly going to have you on first-name terms with the staff in your local filling station. What's more, it's best to take the list price as a fairly fuzzy guideline. If you're utterly intent upon minimising your tax bill to the utmost, you might find the Alfa 159 2.0 JTDM 136 just misses the mark. If that's an overriding concern, buy a BMW 318d. It's a great car and you'll love it. If, on the other hand, you take the view that a car should be about the experience and if it's something that you're spending a lot of time in, it should be something you find appealing and likeable, the Alfa is in with a very real shout. If you're halfway through a venti cappuccino and spot the prettiest looking saloon car you've ever seen drive by, it's an Alfa Romeo 159. Buy one and thank me later.

It's been with us since 2005, but take a look at Alfa Romeo's 159 and ask yourself if there's a better looking executive saloon on sale today. If there is, I can't picture it. Alfa is looking to prove that the 159 is more than a pretty face with a sweet-spinning 136bhp diesel engine that takes the fight to its big-selling German rivals. Alfa Romeo continually gets flak from rather tedious old-school purists who refuse to acknowledge that a front-wheel drive Alfa saloon is in any way proper. This version of the 159 is a better car for diverting power to its front wheels. With a relatively modest 136bhp troubling the front tyres, it's not as if it's struggling to deploy the power. Rear wheel drive would just add weight, complexity and rob the cabin of space. The engine is a state of the art Euro 5 power unit equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger able to deliver an impressive 350Nm of torque from as little as 1,750 rpm. The upshot is a sprint to 60mph in 9.6 seconds and a top speed of 126mph which is brisk enough for most and won't be embarrassed by similarly-priced rivals. The 159 uses a suspension setup that's fairly typical for the class with strut front suspension and a multilink rear end. The JTDM engine is a relative lightweight (for a diesel at least) so the handling balance isn't unduly compromised. The 159 is a big car - longer and wider than a BMW 3 Series, an Audi A4 or a Mercedes C Class - yet it never appears bulky, the well judged proportions working as well now as they did when the wraps first came off the car at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. I was in Starbucks last week, people watching as usual. One guy arrived at the counter and ordered two Americano shorts. It's a drink size that's not even advertised and he'd done the sums and figured out that two of these drinks worked out more cost effectively than a medium sized one. Undoubtedly a very smart chap and he would doubtless drive a BMW 318d. The next guy ordered the biggest cappuccino and stood waiting for it with his hand deep in the coffee bean display, enjoying the feel of the roasted beans trickling through his fingers like pebbles on a beach. An Alfa 159 driver. Alfa Romeo has worked hard to punt the 159 back into relevance with this latest 2.0-litre JTDM diesel engine. Indeed, its 134g/km emissions figure might pique the interest of a few company car buyers. Those who have worked the numbers to the nth degree will shop elsewhere. If you're halfway through a venti cappuccino and spot the prettiest looking saloon car you've ever seen drive by, it's an Alfa Romeo 159. Buy one and thank me later.

Scores
Performance 7
Handling 8
Comfort 7
Space 6
Styling 9
Build 7
Value 8
Equipment 8
Economy 9
Depreciation 7
Insurance 7
Total 83
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