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The Mercury Cars Guide : April 25th 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009 Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au CARSguide —15 found its way on to the front inboard disc brakes, the driving position was abysmal, and the general build qual- ity in 1983 was not a patch on the Japanese cars of that time. But I didn’t want a reliable Japa- Seduced by Italian beauty I STILL have fond memories of my Alfa Romeo Alfasud Ti. Sure, the ignition key jammed — regularly — oil constantly nese hatch. I wanted an Italian car with razor-sharp handling and steer- ing, a throaty note from the engine, and some European cachet. The Alfasud provided that and more. It wasn’t fast, but you felt fantastic every time you slid behind the wheel and fired up the 59kW 1.5-litre boxer engine. Driving involvement is what Alfas are about, and it is something that continues today with a philosophy of injecting passion into their cars. The 159 sedan is a perfect example. Both the sedan andwagonseduce you with beautiful looks and cabins that have been designed by someone who appreciates what a driver wants. Fortunately, too, quality is no longer a problem. The 159 JTDm we drove was solid and the cabin pre- sentation as good as the Germans. The more powerful 2.4-litre five- cylinder diesel should expand the car’s appeal. Power goes up an extra 7kW to 154kW for this year. The sedan is a big step up in size and comfort over the previous 156, and adding a Ti version gives shop- pers more option. Visually, the 159 is still one of the best-looking modern sedans on the road. With the 2009 Ti upgrade comes nice alloy touches, like the rear-view mirrors and pedals, a subtle body-kit and stylish 19-inch alloys. It also gets a 20mm lower sports suspension. The Ti has a five-star crash rating, and when it comes to safety gear is well-equipped. Stability control, sev- en airbags (including driver’s knee airbag) and anti-skid brakes are part of the package. Inside there are some new gauges and easier-to-use climate controls on the centre console. The gauges are set deeply into the dash, with the air vents in the centre stack turned towards the driver. Soft grey alloy highlights on the dash and around the cabin complete the picture. The start button is now computer- controlled so the driver does not have to hold the button until the engine starts. TheJTDmopener is $59,990 for the six-speed manual, or $62,990 for the Q-tronic six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. It sprints to 100km/h in a respectable 8.4 seconds and, according to Alfa’s figures, has a top speed of 224km/h. Apart from the JTDm, there is still plenty of choice in the line-up. Entry into the 159 family starts with the 2.2-litre four-cylinder petrol JTS from $50,990, a 1.9-litre JTD diesel from $49,990, culminating in the cracking 3.2-litre V6 at $76,990 for the six-speed manual. Driving WHEN we first started up the latest Alfa diesel, it sounded like a tractor.Thediesel rattle, particularly in a confined space, was loud and chattery. Fortunately, from the cabin this noise is reasonably muted, and once the 2.4-litre five cylinder warms up it recedes a little. The only way to tell this 159 is improved is the small ‘‘m’’ after the JTD badge on the rump, which signals this is an updated version of this engine. Apart from the seven extra kilo- watts, the JTDm has better low-end response. Torque remains un- changed ata very usableandsizeable 400Nm at just 2000 revs. It is an engine that is certainly full of character, the five cylinders deliv- ering a gravelly edge and a distinct soundtrack that becomes more ob- vious when revved. SEDUCTIVE: Alfa Romeo injects passion into its designs. TheTibadgestands for Tourism Internationalandis used to denotean Alfa withalittle bit extra. Neil McDonald explains The Ti also manages to ride comfortably and handle better than any Alfa we have sampled recently, even though the car has a sports suspension set-up and 20mm lower ride height. The steering has consistent bal- ance, with plenty of feel and little kickback in sharp corners. The Pirelli low-profile tyres also have lots of grip, but generate a bit of noise on our coarse-chip roads. Alfa has improved the software between the engine and optional Q-Tronic six-speed automatic, but there are still some hiccups. Starting off, there issometurbo lag under 1500 revs, but at mid-range speeds response is good. The JTDm’s substantial torque helps it crush hills and seize overtaking opportunities. Once you have experienced a modern ‘‘sports’’ diesel you will be hard-pressed to turn back to a petrol- engined car, regardless of the extra cost of diesel at the pump. The latest common-rail diesels deliver huge amounts of torque from MORE LEGROOM: The seating has been redesigned. relatively small-capacity engines. The economy is also a plus. Against a claimed 7.0 litres/100km combined fuel economy figure for the automat- ic, we managed the high eights in mostly city driving. After an Alfasud and a brief fling in a Brera and Spider, I fully expected the 159’s driving position to be a little, well, Italian. Fear not. It has surprisingly good seats and a comfy driving position. The electric and heated sports seats are supportive and lushly uphols- tered in Italian leather. Negatives? The steering wheel- mounted buttons are too fiddly ini- tially, but with familiarity most drivers will get used to them. Back-seat passengers get a tad more legroom thanks to the rede- signed seats, and there is more compact headlining to improve head- room. But compared with some of its competitors, the 159 still has some way to go with interior storage options. Like the Citroen C5, the door pockets are virtually useless. Not so the boot. It is roomy, and the rear seats fold for extra space. The boot has a compact opening but 405 litres of space. This expands to 770 litres with the seats folded. The 159 is a handsome Italian thoroughbred that is entertaining to drive, comfortable to ride in, and reasonably spacious. It seduces you. You come away from the experience really wanting to love the JTDm engine. The box it comes in is beautifully crafted, but the diesel does let the side down. After Alfa’s delightful four and V6 engines, the chatter of the JTDm might be too much for many. Pricewise, it is also pitched into some competitive diesel territory for buyers cross-shopping against the accomplished German diesels from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. RECEPTIVE: The Alfa offers a comfortable driving position. small torque AlfaRomeo159JTDm $61,990 four-doorsedanas tested Engine: 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel Power:154kWat4000revs Torque:400Nmat2000revs Transmission: Six-speed sequential automatic Length:4660mm,width 1828mm,height1422mm, wheelbase2700mm,tracks 1578mm/1555mmfront/rear Steering: Rackandpinion Suspension: Front double- wishbone, rear multi-link Fuel tank:70litres Fuel type: Diesel Fuel consumption: 7.0 litres/ 100kmcombined Spare: Full-size Brakes: Four-wheelBrembo discs Wheels: 19-inch alloys Tyres:235/40x19 Safety: Dual front, side curtain airbags, anti-skid brakes, electronic stability control Warranty: Three years/ 100,000km Features: Air-conditioning, cruise control, alloy wheels, climate control, leather seats, heated seats, automatic wipers. THOROUGHBRED: The 2009 Alfa Romeo 159 Ti JTDm turbo diesel is one of the best-looking sedans on the road.
April 18th 2009
May 2nd 2009