Undisputedly the most stylish contender in the medium sedan sector, the achingly beautiful Alfa Romeo 159 makes its South African debut. The founder of the new family that replaces the much-loved 156, and therefore the heir to a successful model (from 1997 to the present day over 680,000 units have been sold), this original saloon takes up the baton, to become the new benchmark in its segment.
Born from Alfa’s long, acknowledged experience in the production of prestigious sports saloons, the Alfa 159 heralds a new generation of cars from Alfa. The 159 Project is the result of innovative design methodologies developed by an international team that has succeeded in combining performance and formerly irreconcilable targets – a highly entertaining driving experience, outstanding performance and distinctive styling – with outstanding levels of safety, comfort and sturdiness, without compromise. The results include a completely new chassis with new suspension, and a new generation of engines and gearboxes. In other words, this is an extremely interesting new model that adds lustre to the remarkable history of Alfa Romeo saloons. The designers drew on this very history, creating a design that is unmistakably Italian.
The new Alfa 159 is a prestigious saloon that combines refined Italian styling with the sporty elegance typical of Alfa Romeo. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with the Alfa Romeo Styling Centre, the new car has an elegant, sinuous line, which combines generous dimensions with the compactness typical of Alfa Romeo sportiness: the car is 4,660 millimetres long, 1,828 mm wide and 1,417 high, with a wheelbase of 2,700 millimetres.
Starting with the strong, essential front, which is dominated by the large Alfa Romeo shield. The line of the entire car springs from here, combining a light stylistic “aggressiveness” with strikingly elegant forms. This impression is underlined by the lateral air intakes, the beautiful (unadorned) light clusters and the deep “V” of the bonnet which underlines the presence of a generous engine, the compact, tapered passenger compartment and the wings which represent the widest point of the body.
The rear end with its horizontal design, speaks the same language as the front: from the curve of the rear window over the rear wheels to the wraparound light clusters, small spoiler and double chromed exhaust tail-pipe that increase the sporty impression.
The profile of the Alfa 159 reminds us that the car’s elegance is based on harmonious relations: on one hand the relation between the long bonnet and the compact passenger compartment gives the car prestige, while the ratio between the windows and the sides gives it a sporty personality, highlighted by the compactness of the cabin, an effect created primarily by the pillars (the front pillar set back and the “elbow” shaped rear pillar). The deep slash in the side also emphasises the car’s sleekness.
Like the external styling, the interior of the Alfa 159, designed by the Alfa Romeo Styling Centre, combines superb styling and a sporty personality. Starting with the excellent driving position, which is defined by precise ratios between the pedals, the seat, the steering wheel and the gearbox, evolved to provide maximum control and comfort.
The interior is developed around the driver in the characteristic “cockpit” structure, which incorporates the classic three-spoke steering wheel, the two ribs of the lip, the instruments on the console and the gear lever, achieving continuity between the facia and the console. The uniformity of the stylistic language is also evident in the circular shape of the analogue dials, the air vents, and the buttons and knobs. Even the symbols and graphics conform to the same pattern, and the principle of immediate clarity and easy legibility.
The supportive, sporty front and rear seats pay homage to Italian craftsmanship: painstakingly made with top quality materials, an almost fastidious attention to the overstitching, and the traditional detail of the segments and piping. The interior of the new Alfa 159 embodies the balanced combination of elegance and sportiness that is the hallmark of all Alfa Romeo cars. It is underlined by essential, sober, clean lines and superb materials: quality fabrics, precious fine grain leather, aluminium that is cold to touch, and exquisite craftsmanship with the appeal of artisan handiwork.
The Alfa 159 surrounds the driver and passengers with technologies that guarantee a high level of dynamic, acoustic and climatic comfort. The efficient soundproofing and the high torsional and flexural rigidity of the bodyshell create a muted, enveloping vibration-free interior ambience. That is not all. The new model also features a generous luggage compartment and numerous storage units, plus exclusive equipment to enhance wellbeing on board. This includes Cruise Control, automatic climate system with dual-zone air distribution and temperature control, radio with CD player and pushbutton ignition control on the console, to mention but a few of the convenience items.
The Alfa 159 guarantees the extraordinary roadholding that is innate in all Alfa Romeo models. The merit goes to the new suspension (high double wishbones at the front and Multilink at the rear) and extremely precise steering (the most direct of the standard saloons, with a small turning circle). This prestigious new saloon also features numerous electronic systems that control the car’s dynamic behaviour, including a sophisticated Vehicle Dynamic Control system (VDC), Anti Slip Regulation (ASR), Hydraulic Brake Assistance (HBA) which intervenes during emergency braking and ABS complete with EBD and Hill Holder.
One aim of the new Alfa 159 Project was to set the benchmark for passive safety. To do this, the Alfa Romeo engineers designed and developed the new “premium” floorpan, with high performance materials, multiply sheet metal and laser welding. The architecture of the bodyshell also benefits from numerous measures such as the use of boxed elements that are connected rigidly both transversely and vertically, three load lines in the front, longitudinals that run the whole length of the car, built-in structures and a larger number of spot welds around structural nodes. The result is the excellent torsional rigidity of the bodyshell, the best in its segment at over 180,000 daNm/rad.
The Alfa 159 boasts a full complement of airbags (seven), innovative restraint systems (pretensioners on the clasps and decreasing load limiters on the seat belts), and front seats with an “anti-whiplash” device that brings the head restraint nearer to the occupant’s neck in the event of a rear impact.
Altogether, these features make the Alfa 159 the new benchmark for its segment in terms of safety, underlined by the ease with which it sails through the most difficult tests simulating all types of accident (head-on, side-on, overturning, rear impact and fire), taking into account the various speeds at which impact may occur, the different types of obstacles, and the need to protect occupants with very different physical characteristics. It’s no wonder that the 159 achieved a 5-star EuroNCAP rating.
Engines and gearboxes
The new model is equipped with a broad, comprehensive range of engines. At launch, the 159 will be made available with two all-new JTS engines featuring continuous dual variable valve timing (inlet and exhaust): the 2.2 (136 kW) and the 1.9 (118 kW). All the engines meet Euro 4 standards, exploiting the direct petrol injection in full thanks to a particular combustion system known as JTS: Jet Thrust Stoichiometric. For the customer, this means brilliant engine performance, which enhances the driving enjoyment and the performance of the car. The torque values of the two engines are equally outstanding, and 88% is already available at 2,000 rpm: 230 Nm (23.4 kgm) at 4,500 rpm for the 2.2 JTS, and 190 Nm (19.4 kgm) at 4,500 rpm for the 1.9 JTS. The highly-anticipated 3.2 V6 24v (191 kW) powerplant will join the local range a little later on this year. And, of course, no Alfa Romeo range would be complete without a leading-edge diesel engine, this too is planned for the not-too-distant future.
And finally, the range includes new mechanical gearboxes, all with six speeds, short strokes, precise engagement and limited loads.
The Alfa Romeo 159 was designed to embody uncompromising quality. This target was pursued throughout the development of the car, starting from its conception, through all the many tests that the car was subjected to, right up to the manufacturing process.
The quality of the Alfa 159 is also expressed in the choice of materials used in the interior, which are smooth to the touch, and perfect, precise coupling, in the external treatment which envisages water-based paint protected by a double layer of varnish to maintain its brilliance in time, and in the fine tuning of the Alfa Romeo engines to obtain outstanding performance and comfort.
For the Alfa 159, “quality” also means dynamic quality at the top of its class, achieved with a sophisticated suspension system and the excellent torsional rigidity of the bodyshell. And finally, “quality” also means a world of dedicated services for our customers, with solutions for every possible requirement.
Contribution of other Fiat companies
To develop this prestigious car, the company deployed its best resources and ensured that maximum quality and reliability standards were applied throughout the product development and construction process. It forged a fruitful cooperative relationship with outside suppliers and other Fiat companies, including Magneti Marelli, Centro Ricerche Fiat and Elasis. And this collaboration was responsible for the many innovative solutions that make the Alfa 159 the new benchmark in its category.
The distinctive styling and roomy interior of a large saloon
A long bonnet, compact passenger cabin, side scored by an elegant stroke and a capacious rear end that is perfectly balanced in optical terms. These are the stylistic features of the new model which is roomier than the 156, to enhance comfort on board: it is 4,660 millimetres long (225 mm more than the Alfa 156), 1,828 mm wide (+ 85 mm) and 1,417 mm high, with a wheelbase of 2,700 mm (105 mm longer). The Alfa 159 is elegant and sinuous, in spite of its generous measurements, and never betrays the compact sporty character of the Italian brand. The car’s brief is to guarantee the enjoyment of a car with extraordinary performance, without accepting any compromise where functionality is concerned, and ensuring superior comfort in terms of ergonomics and the living space for the driver and passengers.
Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with the Alfa Romeo Styling Centre, the new car has a number of distinctive features that highlight its strong personality and make it immediately recognisable, in the best Alfa tradition. Starting from the front, which is strong and essential, dominated by the Alfa Romeo family feeling of the characteristic cloverleaf sporting the large shield. The line of the entire car springs from here, combining a light stylistic ‘aggressiveness’ with strikingly elegant forms: an impression that is underlined by the light clusters, which are delightful design features, with a striking cylindrical shape.
The trapezoid shape of the front view accentuates the car’s sensation of solidity, highlighted by the way the passenger compartment rests on a powerful ‘shoulder’. This runs all along the waistline of the car, broadening considerably when it reaches the rear pillar. This pillar has a double stylistic function: it links to the curve of the rear window, above the rear axle (another clear stylistic expression of strength, robustness and dynamism), and embraces the passenger compartment thanks to the stylistic device of the classic Alfa Romeo ‘elbow’. The front pillar is set further back to make the line look sleeker, underlining the presence of the powerful engine, and making the passenger compartment look more compact, improving visibility on bends.
In other words, sleek but solid, dynamic but robust: only outstanding stylistic balance can combine such different characteristics. For example the ‘muscular’ wing which, next to the generous wheels, marks the widest point of the car, unequivocally conveying the ideal of a car that is firmly ‘anchored to the ground’.
In spite of its capacious size, the rear end, with its beautifully balanced form, blends perfectly with the front, setting off its unique personality, and has a horizontal design, underlined by a chromed double exhaust tail-pipe on the more powerful versions. And it is topped off by a small spoiler which combines styling and practicality, right above the logo which is positioned where it is immediately visible, and the elongated lights, divided by the slit of the boot, which include cylindrical shapes derived from the styling of the front headlights. Double side lights ensure that the car is immediately recognisable, even at night.
And finally, the new model can be “dressed” in 9 different colours which enhance its curves and volumes: an aspect that is even more effective with the original styling of the Alfa 159.
Like the external styling, the interior of the Alfa 159 also represents an evolved expression of the sportiness and elegance embodied by Alfa. The Alfa Romeo Styling Centre defined the car around the driving position, focusing attention on the driver: excellent ratios for the distances between pedals, seat, steering wheel and gearbox give him a sense of total control over the car, which produces the enjoyable driving so typical of Alfa Romeo. The facia and wrapround centre console incorporate all the driving instruments and are turned ergonomically towards the driver. The speedometer, rev counter and other instruments, all strictly analogue, are circular with clear, refined, extremely legible graphics. The anti-glare lip accentuates the ‘boat’ shape of the main instruments, confirming a feature peculiar to Alfa Romeo design that is based on a deep-rooted attention to volumes and mature treatment of surfaces. The instruments are practical, precise and easy to read even at night; the multifunction display remains perfectly legible even if there is a strong incident ray, and it incorporates a heating system to minimise switching times at low temperatures.
To underline the functional continuity between the facia and the console, the designers aimed to achieve stylistic continuity between them: the console, which is raised as if stretching towards the facia, has a sporty gearlever with short, precise movements, and a comfortable armrest that incorporates a large insulated storage compartment. The interior achieves a perfect balance between elegance and sportiness, an equation that Alfa Romeo translates into refined colour combinations, quality fabrics, precious fine grain leather by Frau® and luxurious materials (like the aluminium mouldings).
Comfort and technology to enhance wellbeing on board
The Alfa 159 surrounds the driver and passengers with technologies that guarantee the highest levels of dynamic, acoustic and climatic comfort. The result is a muted, enveloping environment, free from vibration thanks to the careful soundproofing and the outstanding torsional and flexural rigidity of the bodyshell. The new model was created around the driving position (the ratios for the distances between the pedals, seat, steering wheel and gearbox), producing a distinctive environment that is innovative even for Alfa Romeo. Features that enhance the comfort, the harmony between spaces, and great attention to detail mean that whoever gets into the car immediately perceives a higher level of quality.
The sense of wellbeing does not vanish, but is actually enhanced when the engine is started and the car starts to move. The acoustic comfort on the Alfa 159 is significantly better than on the 156, thanks to the excellent torsional rigidity of the bodyshell, designed to prevent creaking; the soundproofing of the car has also been modified, for example the passenger compartment carpet now incorporates a thick layer of sound-absorbing foam, and the window glass of the front doors is thicker (now 5 mm).
The Alfa 159 is as spacious as a family saloon ought to be: its generous external dimensions allow the volumes to be distributed perfectly. This is evident from the overall longitudinal living space: even if a tall person (188 cm) is seated on the front seat of the Alfa 159, another person 178 cm tall can sit comfortably on the rear seat (169 cm on the 156). The roominess parameters of the new car ensure that it leads its class; the distance between the front passengers has been increased by 30 mm, and that between rear passengers by about 15 mm.
Compared to the 156, the following have been improved on the new Alfa Romeo saloon:
- Vertical headroom front and rear: the front and rear percentile accommodation has been improved. At the front: from 97.5° to 99° (25 mm more height), at the rear from 70° to 82.5° (28 mm more height).
- Longitudinal front legroom: the driver’s perception of space and sportiness has been increased. More room to stretch his legs and to find a comfortable posture (27 mm).
- Longitudinal rear legroom: the rear legroom is in line with the best competition.
- Longitudinal rear foot room: more space for the rear passenger to move his feet (157 mm). Seat higher from the floor (13 mm).
- Vertical front access: improved height of doorway in relation to trim (13.7 mm higher).
- Vertical rear access: improved height of doorway in relation to trim (32.5 mm higher).
Storage areas and luggage compartment
There are up to 14 storage areas of various sizes on the Alfa 159 for small and large items. These convenient, practical units include a large glove compartment in the lower part of the facia in front of the passenger, storage compartment and an insulated box in the armrest between the two front seats, a storage compartment in the pull-out central rear armrest, and a ceiling-high spectacles holder. The various units provide a total of about 13 dm3 of storage space (a 70% increase compared to the Alfa 156); the luggage compartment is also more easily exploited and has a capacity of 405 litres (27 litres more than the previous model).
Facia and controls
The driver of the Alfa 159 is immediately aware of the excellent layout of the instruments, the easy handling and convenience of the controls, which are all turned towards him and grouped by function. The driver’s position is built around the “cockpit”, where all the various driving controls are concentrated. The controls for the climate system, stereo, gear lever and the ignition button are all on the centre console. The circular analogue speedometer and rev counter are linked by a high resolution reconfigurable digital display, and perfect illumination guarantees clear, easy reading of all the instrumentation, particularly at night. And finally, hand grip is perfect on the three-spoke steering wheel (equipped with remote stereo controls), even when negotiating difficult manoeuvres.
The Alfa 159 features an innovative ignition system comprising an electronic key with three buttons, an electronic key reader on the facia, a starter button next to the electronic key reader, and an electric steering wheel lock on the steering column, where it is inoffensive in a collision. To turn the control panel on and start the engine, the key must be inserted in the reader on the facia, after which, for security reasons, the button has to be pushed together with the clutch and/or brake pedal.
Front and rear seat comfort
The seats on the new saloon are larger and more comfortable than those on the 156, guaranteeing superb comfort and safety. To enhance comfort even more, and in particular to absorb vibration, an efficient spring system has been incorporated in the front seat cushion, while a modern lumbar support system in the squab supports the back better. Nor must we forget that the front seats are padded with foam that adapts to the occupant’s shape. The following adjustments are possible on the front seats: height, with a vertical excursion of 5 cm, reach, squab rake by a knob that provides continuous adjustment, tilting, seat cushion horizontal inclination, and lumbar support.
The climate inside the car is a major factor of comfort on the road, and it is also important for preventive safety, because the temperature, humidity and ventilation affect the driver’s well-being and therefore his attention level. And it is the heating and ventilation system that demists the windscreen and side windows. This is why the Alfa 159 offers an automatic dual-zone system.
The dual-zone system features automatic control of the temperature, air flow, air distribution, compressor engagement and recirculation. On the 159, this system incorporates an “equivalent temperature” climate control strategy. A number of sensors register the indoor and outdoor temperature and evaluate the sensation of thermal well-being perceived by the passenger, i.e. the energy exchange between the human body and the passenger compartment, which is affected by the humidity, the temperature and the flow of treated air. Another sensor, positioned centrally at the base of the windscreen, measures the solar radiation in the vehicle and the angle at which the rays hit the passenger compartment. It can then inform the climate system to ensure that the sun’s rays do not cause the interior temperature to climb too high. The system also provides two different temperatures and air flows simultaneously: one on the right of the passenger compartment, and another on the left.
In addition to the standard sensors that measure outdoor and indoor temperatures, the Alfa 159 also offers an AQS Air Quality Sensor that verifies air quality. It means that passengers on the new model will always breathe clean air, even in town traffic, tailbacks and tunnels. This device controls the recirculation function, which is triggered automatically to block the input of outdoor air into the car in areas where the smog level is high.
Bose® Sound System (optional)
The optional Bose® Sound System, developed for Alfa Romeo by the American company that leads the acoustic hi-fi market, guarantees exceptional listening quality for all passengers in all travelling conditions. The hi-fi system has a power output of 570 Watts, an acoustic system with ten speakers and a subwoofer with a 6-channel digital amplifier (200 Watts) built into the luggage compartment, which reproduces the lowest frequencies.
The Bose® Sound System produces the emotion of a live concert. Reproduction is realistic, with crystal clear high notes and full, rich low notes, and it refuses unnatural timbres that may seem attractive at first, but tend to tire the listener in the long run. The merit goes to the new arrangement of the tweeters, on the facia with a central diffuser. The latter lets the sound envelop all the occupants, giving the sensation that it is propagated into a much vaster environment, because the audio system was designed specifically for the passenger compartment, to guarantee perfect harmony between the technical characteristics of each one.
To achieve this result, the Bose® engineers carefully selected the components of the stereo system, establishing the best position for the diffusers in relation to the listeners, helped by advanced design software.
A built-in signal processor automatically adjusts the bass notes so that they are perfect at any volume. This device is more sophisticated than a conventional volume control, and guarantees natural, top quality sound at all times. An active equalisation circuit automatically guarantees excellent electronic balance of all frequencies, great balance and clear tones over the entire audio range. Which means being able to enjoy impeccable musical reproduction in all driving conditions.
The clarity of the sound is also the effect of the active compressor circuits, thanks to which there is never any distortion, even at high volume. And it is the interaction between all these sophisticated components that produces the extraordinary sound effects that have been made famous by Bose® all over the world.
Rain, dusk and parking sensors and built-in anti-theft protection
The equipment on the new model includes a number of significant technological devices that enhance life on board. For example, the rain sensor (standard on the 2.2), which automatically activates the windscreen wipers at the first drops of rain; the dusk sensor (standard on the 2.2) which turns the headlights on when the car enters a tunnel; and the front and rear sensors (optional on both models) that make parking easier, informing the driver with acoustic and graphic warnings (on the display) about the distance between the car and any obstacle. And finally, the Alfa 159 includes a sophisticated “built-in protection system” that comprises the volumetric, anti-lift, anti-break-in, anti-theft Safe Lock device. It can mechanically disconnect the lock and the inside and outside handles of the doors, making it impossible to open them from inside, even if the window is broken.
Roadholding: an entertaining drive and active safety
The new Alfa 159 states that it is an Alfa through and through, by guaranteeing control and entertaining driving that admit no compromise. Travelling comfort and dynamic behaviour have always been hallmarks of Alfa Romeo cars, and they become real strengths on this model. To start with, the Alfa 159 has a very interesting suspension layout, the fruit of a new project that set extremely high standards of excellence: it has “high” double wishbones at the front, and a multilink system at the rear. This means a greater capacity to absorb road roughness, more linearity and precision in response to the steering (the most direct of the standard saloons, with a small turning circle), superb roadholding, maximum stability in high speed manoeuvres and the agility of a true Alfa Romeo on narrow mixed routes. The solutions adopted and the advantages perceived immediately by the motorist are described in detail below.
Front suspension and steering
The new high wishbone layout adopted on the front suspension is the ideal solution to guarantee precise control of wheel movement, with a clearly defined steering axis. The architecture was borrowed from racing and endows the car with outstanding dynamic performance, and extremely sensitive, pinpoint steering. The high double wishbone was already used on the 156 and has been further improved on the new Alfa 159.
First of all, the steering axis was brought closer to the centre of the wheel, increasing the Ackerman level (to increase parallel wheel movement when steering) for better response when cornering, thanks to the steering which is the most direct in its category. The steering of the new Alfa 159 has an excellent ratio (12.7° steer for every degree of wheel steer) which translates into a more direct response for the driver, more responsive steering and better stability control.
What is more, painstaking analysis of the matching of the steering geometry and the wheelarch volume, made it possible to achieve high steering angles even with the largest tyres, and this significantly improved the turning circle between kerbs (11.1 metres).
Great attention was paid to the new wheel upright where it connects to the levers, exploiting the available space inside the rims in full, and this has significant advantages in terms of lateral rigidity; the size of the coaxial damper spring unit has been increased to improve its capacity to absorb road roughness; the aluminium lower wishbone combines excellent structural characteristics and a much lower weight; the upper aluminium arm fits a pair of dry friction sliding bushes, a solution chosen because it is stronger and more reliable, and guarantees a more progressive action.
And finally, the suspension is connected to the chassis by a closed geometry frame which is stiffer than the previous solution which had a simple crossbeam.
The new Multilink rear suspension allows wheel movement to be controlled in a sophisticated manner, reaching the best possible balance in terms of performance. The system with three levers and a transverse blade highlights the performance of the various components subject to a longitudinal load, to improve the filtering of roughness and under a lateral load, achieving faster responses, enhanced stability and extreme grip.
The rear suspension of the Alfa 159 now features:
- A higher anchorage point of the longitudinal link, which is now positioned higher than the centre of the wheel, allowing the suspension to perform a longer, more flexible stroke, with an optimal response when negotiating an obstacle.
- The aluminium upright, fitted with a third generation, extremely rigid hub, supports the connection bushes for the camber lever and the longitudinal link.
- The bi-tube spring-damper unit is larger than other conventional solutions, this achieves a better compromise between handling and comfort.
- The camber link, which allows the static camber to be adjusted and produces a geometry capable of guaranteeing a good camber recovery with wheel shake to ensure that the wheel rests perfectly on the road and wear is thus uniform, even when the car is pushed to the limit.
- The rear hydraulic bush guarantees excellent filtering of roughness, and allows the wheel to retract slightly when negotiating an obstacle.
- A high yield steel crossbeam isolated from the bodyshell by four elastic bushes that dampen high frequency vibration.
Sophisticated technology for total control
The Alfa 159 adopts the most sophisticated electronic systems to control the car’s dynamic behaviour, and to raise the dynamic limits even higher, so that they increase safety but are not intrusive for the driver. The intervention of these devices was studied in simulations and exhausting track tests to ensure that the car is always entertaining to drive. The lavish safety equipment is described below.
ABS complete with EBD
The Alfa 159 features an excellent braking system backed up by the BOSCH 5.7 ABS anti-lock braking device, one of the most advanced on the market. It has four active sensors and a hydraulic control unit with 12 solenoids. The ABS system incorporates Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), which distributes the braking effort to the four wheels so that it prevents them from locking, maintaining full control of the car in all conditions. The system also adapts to the grip conditions of the wheels themselves and the efficiency of the brake pads, thus preventing the latter from overheating.
VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control)
VDC is Alfa Romeo’s interpretation of ESP (Electronic Stability Program), the system that intervenes when conditions are close to the limit and the car’s stability is at risk, to help the driver to control the car. VDC is a sporty device, as you would expect of an Alfa, with excellent roadholding, and lets the driver enjoy total control of the vehicle as long as conditions are normal, only intervening just before the situation becomes critical. The VDC system is always engaged.
On the other hand, MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) intervenes if he changes down suddenly in poor grip conditions, giving torque back to the engine to prevent skidding due to wheel lock. To do this, VDC constantly monitors tyre grip on the road, both longitudinally and laterally, and if it detects a tendency to skid, the system intervenes to recover direction and stability. Sensors measure the rotation of the car around its vertical axis (yaw speed), the lateral acceleration and the steering lock set by the driver (which indicates his chosen direction). It compares these data with the parameters elaborated by an electronic control unit and uses a complex mathematical model to establish whether the car is taking a corner within the grip limits, or if it is about to skid at the front or the rear (understeer or oversteer).
To recover the correct trajectory, the system generates a yaw contrary to the one that is causing the instability, braking the relevant wheel (inside or outside) individually and reducing the engine power (by adjusting the throttle valve). This is the peculiar feature of the device developed by the Alfa Romeo engineers. The brake adjustments are modulated so that they are as smooth as possible (and will not disturb the driver) and the reduction in engine power is also limited, to guarantee excellent performance at all times and superbly enjoyable driving.
VDC performs this complex task by communicating constantly not only with the brake sensors and the engine control unit, but also with:
- the “Body computer” which constantly exchanges information with the ABS system, and the control units of the engine and automatic transmission;
- the electronic throttle valve (which in turn dialogues with the ABS system);
- the instrument panel (active telltales);
- the steering wheel and steering column (via the steering sensor);
- the gyroscopic sensor installed on the cabin floor to record yaw and lateral acceleration.
ASR (Anti Slip Regulation)
ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) is an integral part of the VDC system, optimising traction at all speeds, assisted by the brakes and the engine control. The device monitors the wheel speed calculated by the ABS sensors to establish the amount of slip and triggers two different control systems to recover grip. When an excessive demand for power causes both drive wheels to slip (for example, aquaplaning or accelerating on an uneven, snow-covered or icy road surface), the system reduces engine torque by decreasing the throttle valve aperture and thus the air flow. If, on the other hand, only one wheel slips (for example the wheel on the inside of the bend, after acceleration or a dynamic change in the load), this wheel is automatically braked without the driver having to touch the bake pedal. The effect is similar to that of a self-locking differential. This gets the Alfa 159 out of any difficulties on surfaces where grip is poor.
ASR is engaged automatically every time the engine is started, but can be excluded by a pushbutton on the central console. ASR must be excluded when snow chains are fitted because in this case, in order to transmit torque to the ground, the wheel needs to be able to “accumulate” the snow, with small slips that the ASR tends to avoid.
HBA and Hill-holder
The standard safety equipment on the Alfa 159 is completed by the HBA system, the hydraulic electronic hydraulic braking assistant which automatically increases the pressure in the braking circuit during emergency braking. And by the Hill-holder system, which maintains the braking pressure for a few moments after the driver removes his foot from the pedal, to simplify hill starts and prevent the car from slipping backwards.
Unrivalled passive safety
The Alfa 159 represents the state of the art where passive safety is concerned, thanks to the new chassis and the other sophisticated devices that equip the new saloon. Plus the excellent braking system, Xenon headlights and generous tyres which guarantee the highest levels of active and preventive safety.
A new chassis for exceptional torsional rigidity
The chassis of the Alfa 159 is of a new generation, which combines the latest European experience in the fields of safety, rigidity, innovative materials and quality. The new “premium” floorpan is built with high performance materials, multiply sheet metal and laser welding. From the viewpoint of the architecture, the bodyshell also benefits from numerous measures such as the use of boxed elements that are rigidly connected transversely and vertically, three load lines in the front, longitudinals that run the whole length of the car, built-in structures and a larger number of spot welds around structural nodes. The result is the bodyshell’s excellent torsional rigidity, the best in this segment: over 180,000 daNm/rad.
This is an excellent result, and it is essential for both safety and comfort; it was achieved thanks to numerous measures that ensure that the passenger compartment of the new model is a real survival cell. It is no chance that the Alfa 159 has passed the tests set by the strictest criteria of European and U.S. standards.
Airbags and new restraint systems
The Alfa 159 features innovative restraint systems (pretensioners on the clasp and decreasing load limiters on the seat belts) and front seats with an “anti-whiplash” device which brings the head restraint nearer to the occupant’s neck in the event of rear impact. But the new model really stands out for its array of airbags: all versions of the Alfa 159 are available with up to eight airbags (seven are always standard equipment). First of all, two new devices designed to protect the driver’s knees, by preventing any contact with the facia, guaranteeing the highest safety levels.
Added to this are two dual stage front airbags, for the driver (with a capacity of 60 litres) and the passenger (120 litres). They are controlled by an electronic control unit on the tunnel, which assesses the intensity of the impact by sensors calibrated in the laboratory in a series of crash tests. The system incorporates a diagnostic system that verifies the components electronically, and these are tested by a computer that monitors their operation constantly. The airbags are not activated by low intensity accidents (such as a rear bump or one caused by a parking manoeuvre) or stress not caused by a collision (e.g. a hole in the road taken at speed). The front passenger bag can be deactivated manually by a switch at the extreme left side of the facia using the ignition key, to allow a child seat to be mounted facing backwards (the pretensioner remains active).
To protect the pelvis and chest of front seat passengers in a side-on collision, the Alfa 159 provides two sidebags built into the squab of the front seats, where they protect the occupants better, regardless of their stature, position or seat adjustment. The geometry also allows a 12 litre cushion to be used, smaller than would be necessary to guarantee the same level of protection if the airbag were mounted in the door. The sensors that activate these airbags are in the central pillars. In the event of an accident, they receive a signal of lateral acceleration and send it to the electronic control unit that controls the front airbags and seat belt pretensioners. All the systems are managed together to ensure total, smooth protection of all the occupants.
The Alfa 159 also fits curtain bags designed to inflate downwards along the windows, to protect occupants’ heads in a side-on collision. The curtain bags adopted on the new model are more protective than other systems because they inflate faster and are less invasive for passengers. They open from the top down and their movement cannot cause secondary injury to the occupants’ arms. They also effectively protect the heads of both front and rear passengers because they cover the whole window and guarantee protection even if the car overturns. The two bags (one for the left and one for the right) are positioned underneath the roof longitudinals, folded into a closed compartment. At the opportune moment, the cover folds, allowing the bags to inflate and descend.
The new model also features a mechanism that releases the pedals in a frontal impact, to protect the legs.
Bi-Xenon headlights (optional)
Excellent visibility by day and at night and in tunnels is an important aspect of preventive safety. On request, the Alfa 159 can be equipped with Xenon full and dipped beam headlights, which emit a brighter, whiter light, with excellent efficiency in all atmospheric conditions. In a gas discharge lamp, the filament of the conventional bulb is replaced by two electrodes a few millimetres apart, which generate an electro-voltaic discharge in an environment saturated with low pressure Xenon. These lamps provide three times the luminous intensity and lifespan of normal halogen lamps.
The power-assisted hydraulic braking system is the most competitive in its class and upholds Alfa Romeo tradition in this field. It comprises two cross-over independent circuits, and is particularly effective, guaranteeing prompt, smooth braking combined with minimal stopping distances: 36 m to decelerate from 100 Km/h to 0. The most powerful versions mount 330 mm ventilated discs, and aluminium callipers with four pistons on the front wheels, and 292 mm ventilated discs with floating callipers on the rear wheels.
Powerful, flexible engines that respect the environment
At launch, the Alfa 159 is equipped with two petrol engines, all combined with new mechanical six-speed gearboxes, with short strokes, precise engagement and low loads. (After the launch, automatic transmissions will be available on some versions, all with six speeds.)
The 2.2 JTS and 1.9 JTS were developed to respect the brief from the Alfa Romeo engineers and represent the brand’s interpretation of the direct injection petrol engine, which translates into enjoyable driving and high performance for the customer. These two engines adopt the direct injection JTS (Jet Thrust Stoichiometric) combustion system, which produces brilliant engine performance. These powerplants deliver the quality one expects from Alfa Romeo, having been fine tuned on the Balocco test track, while final assembly takes place in the Alfa plant in Pomigliano. All the JTS engines obviously meet Euro 4 limits.
The highly-anticipated 3.2 V6 24v (191 kW) powerplant will join the local range a little later on this year. And, of course, no Alfa Romeo range would be complete without a leading-edge diesel engine, this too is planned for the not-too-distant future.
The 2.2 JTS and the 1.9 JTS
The 4-cylinder engines of the Alfa 159 are extremely light because they have aluminium cylinder heads and crankcases (they are approximately 20% lighter than the engines they replace). The timing gear control is particularly evolved, featuring a system of rocker arms and rollers, which significantly reduces dispersion due to friction in the cylinder head, and the “Twin Phaser” continuous variable valve timing system on the intake and exhaust valves, which optimises power output, torque and consumption.
The 2.2 JTS delivers 136 kW and peak torque of 230 Nm at 4,500 rpm, taking the car to a top speed of 222 km/h and accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.8 seconds. Torque is also excellent on the 1.9 JTS (190 Nm – 19.4 kgm at 4,500 rpm) 88% of which is already available at 2,000 rpm. And with a power delivery of 118 kW, the brilliant 1.9 JTS has a top speed of 212 km/h.
Main technical features
To start with, the Twin Phaser system adopts new cam lobes which allow the phase angle to be varied by 50° on both axes; this makes it possible to improve performance on one hand because the best phase can be chosen at all engine speeds, and to reduce consumption and emissions with partial loads, by the so-called Miller cycle. This combustion system, which is based on the postponed opening and closing of the inlet and exhaust valves – extends the expansive phase (converting more heat into energy), guarantees internal EGR (by preventing the release of the last exhaust gases, full of unburned particles) and postpones the closure of the inlet valve (reducing pumping losses).
Another peculiar feature of the 2.2 and 1.9 JTS engines that equip the Alfa 159 is the camshaft drive system which uses a chain; unlike a conventional belt drive, this system has the advantage of not needing to be replaced during the lifespan of the engine.
And to guarantee the performance one expects of an Alfa Romeo, the timing diaphragm has also been reviewed, adopting larger profiles which made it possible to achieve a maximum power output of 6500 rpm (the system is fine tuned to operate at over 7,000 rpm, the maximum rev speed allowed by the electronic speed limiter).
That is not all. To achieve the best volumetric efficiency, the maximum lift reaches 10.3 mm, while to enhance vibrational and acoustic comfort, the engine is equipped with two counter-rotating balancer shafts which virtually eliminate the second degree alternate forces that are typical of straight-4 engines. The generous power delivery of the engine made it necessary to adopt sodium-cooled exhaust valves.
The combustion chamber is shaped like a roof with four valves per cylinder: with a bore of 86 mm, the large inlet valves measure 35.3 mm and the exhaust valves 30.3 mm, guaranteeing excellent permeability to enhance engine performance. And, in spite of the stroke of 94.6 mm, in order to limit the overall height of the engine, the engineers have modified the piston height, achieving a compression value of just 28 mm, which is excellent in view of the high power delivery.
The contribution of other Fiat companies
An elegant car with a strong personality, yet one on the cutting edge in terms of equipment, power units and mechanicals. This was the brief given to the Alfa Romeo engineers and technicians. To achieve it, the company deployed its best resources and ensured that maximum quality and reliability standards were applied throughout the product development and construction process. It also forged profitable co-operative relationships with its outside suppliers and some Fiat Companies including Magneti Marelli, Centro Ricerche Fiat and Elasis. This collaboration was responsible for many of the innovative solutions that make the Alfa 159 the new benchmark in its category.
Magneti Marelli has contributed elegance, comfort, technology and safety to the development of the Alfa 159, the prestigious new saloon that aims to be a benchmark for the entire segment. The exterior look of the car is expressed to a large extent by the headlights developed by Automotive Lighting in its plant in Venaria Reale (Turin), which define its personality and harmonise forms and volumes. There is a choice of two types: halogen headlights with a 70 mm elliptical module and H7 lamp, or headlamps with Bi-Xenon technology. The car’s lights are important design features, confirming the “family feeling” that links the Alfa 159 and Alfa Romeo Brera.
Magneti Marelli also supplies the body computer, the electronic control unit that manages the CAN networks and other important functions such as diagnostics, the immobiliser, various sensors, the lights and the fuel level.
And finally, Magneti Marelli has completely redesigned the suspension system to set a new benchmark for the balance between handling and comfort. A high double wishbone layout borrowed from racing experience was chosen for the front, because it guarantees high dynamic performance, extremely responsive steering and pinpoint driving. For the rear, the choice went to a Multilink system which controls wheel movement in a sophisticated manner, guaranteeing the highest performance. The Pomigliano d’Arco and Sulmona plants are involved in the industrial panelling, mechanical engineering and assembly operations.
Centro Ricerche Fiat
- The Quality Indices (IQ), which make it possible to link the vehicle’s technical specifications to the customer’s perception of them, and therefore to design a car around the motorist that is consistent with the brand values. In the case of the Alfa 159, for example, this means defining the qualities that determine “uncompromisingly entertaining driving”.
- Setting, deploying and achieving targets, which means starting from assigned “customer targets” and translating them into “technical design objectives” for the various systems on the vehicle (suspension, brakes, steering, engine, gearbox, etc.).
- Optimisation of the multidiscipline structure, to achieve efficient structures for the project by maximising performance and minimising weight. Where the Alfa 159’s Premium floorpan project is concerned, this resulted in the targeted, effective use of multiply sheet metal, high performance steel and laser welding.
- Crash and biomechanical methodologies, which ensure that the passenger cells effectively protect the occupants and that the front of the car is compatible with vulnerable subjects (pedestrians, cyclists, etc.), respecting the demands of current and future legislation.
- Computational fluid dynamics, which optimise external aerodynamics in order to lower consumption and aerodynamic noise, while respecting the car’s distinctive styling, but also define interior comfort and well-being in terms of climate and air quality.
- NVH (Noise-Vibration-Harshness) methods, to minimise noise and vibration creating a passenger compartment that is comfortable and quiet in all travelling conditions, reducing stress and enhancing well-being and alertness.
- Vehicle handling methodologies, that guarantee an enjoyable, predictable drive in all speed, manoeuvring and grip conditions, through painstaking design of the suspension and controls (steering, brakes, etc.). The Alfa 159 achieves excellence in terms of roadholding and of the steering response.Physical and cognitive ergonomics, supported by Virtual Reality to correctly design the interior space and systems (seat, facia, etc.), the primary and secondary controls, the mobile parts and the communication interfaces, which focus on the interaction between the driver and the vehicle, at the design stage.Bench validation methodology of the Instrument Panel Node. This methodology generates test patterns that comprehensively verify the correct functioning of an instrumental panel node.
- Analysis of the virtual key: electrical/electronic architecture (definition of the system and components) for the electrical steering lock and “smart key”.
The stoichiometric direct injection combustion systems developed for the new JTS engines for the Alfa 159, were developed by CRF. The features developed and optimised were the definition of the inlet manifolds and the type of injector jet that would optimise the air-petrol mix in the combustion chamber and guarantee outstanding performance; the definition of the piston surface geometry necessary for the double injection that results in a 70% reduction in HC emissions during warm-up and, if possible, allow it to function with stratified charge idling; definition of the compression ratio to maximise performance and reduce fuel consumption; and definition of the mechanics and functioning of the continuous double variable valve timing system adopted on the inlet and the exhaust, and optimisation of their management to enhance performance and fuel consumption.
These experiments adopted CFD fluid dynamic analysis to design the inlet manifolds, and thermofluid dynamics to manage the variable valve timing. In view of the considerable increase in performance this produces, the most crucial engine components were verified and optimised using FEM thermo-structural and reliability analysis.
Elasis was involved in the development of the electronic control units for the new direct injection petrol engines for the Alfa 159. Elasis developed a Hardware In the Loop (HIL) simulator to verify that the electronic control unit functioned correctly and the way it was incorporated on board the vehicle well before the car went into production. The idea behind this technology is to simulate in the laboratory the environment in which the control units will operate, using a real-time system. With this technology it is possible to achieve levels of accuracy that cannot be obtained with manual testing based on conventional systems.
What is more, during the development of these engines, Elasis also contributed to the development of the engine control software, concentrating in particular on all the functions related to management of the variable valve timing by means of “phasers”. When the car went into production, Elasis was involved in the verification and calibration of the diagnostic systems for the engine components, focusing its attention on components considered “Emission Relevant” (by EOBD). Elasis also contributed to the verification of the manufacturing process at the Pomigliano plant.
Engine-gearbox-differential, Methodologies and Technologies
Elasis performed the following activities to support manufacture of the Alfa 159: emissions analysis on fleet vehicles; support to the plant during the launch: analysis/solution of specific NVH problems. Elasis also worked on the M32 gearbox grid, being involved in its development, by designing shafts, gears, differential, casing and caps, performing bench tests on all the versions for the petrol engines, and taking charge of NVH fine tuning.
Virtual simulation of biomechanical processes in head-on collisions helped to optimise the Alfa 159’s restraint systems, while ergonomic verification improved visibility inside the passenger compartment. And finally, together with the Process Engineering department of Fiat Auto Manufacturing, Elasis developed the methodology and industrialisation of Panelling and Assembly processes at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant, attributing particular attention and responsibility to the “Qualification of Manufacturing Processes”. The joint Elasis–Fiat Auto team collaborated successfully, starting with the development of Process Verification systems at the pilot plant of Turin-Beinasco, and evolving machining cycles and undertaking workplace analysis to respect process documentation developed in simultaneous engineering by the Fiat Auto Technologies department, in order to achieve the model process targets, the reference gates for the “authorisation to manufacture”.
Pricing and servicing
Alfa Romeo 159 1.9 JTS – R246 000
Alfa Romeo 159 2.2 JTS – R271 000
The new Alfa 159 enjoys the full after-sales backing in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory and to trained technicians at Alfa Romeo dealerships countrywide. The good news is that the newcomer is now covered by a 5 year/100 000 km maintenance plan. The new models are also covered by the AA Fleet care roadside assistance for 12 months. 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.
Services are required at 30 000 km intervals