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Alfa addresses a weighty issue

Alfa has provided some reasons for delaying purchase of 159 Sportwagon until next year.

Alfa has provided some reasons for delaying purchase of 159 Sportwagon until next year.

Or at least reasons for delaying any purchase until much later this year. That's when the improvements Alfa is showcasing at the Geneva Motor Show will reach the local 159 line-up.

Front-wheel-drive MY09 models will gain the Q2 electronic differential, some new colours and various fiddly-dids. Far more important, though, is what the 159 will lose.

That's kilograms, to the order of 45.

The lightest model in the range, the petrol 2.2 JTS sedan, is listed at 1480kg unladen. The heaviest — the variant before you — is an obese 1700kg.

So the dashing road manners suggested by the Giugiaro design are blunted, and consumption of 98 RON is horrific. Try an indicated average of 24 litres per 100km in city driving.

Mazda engineers are ingenious in shaving grams, and the Alfa approach appears to be no less surgical.

The liposuction begins with such measures as hollowed out-stabiliser bars and the use of lighter grades of steel everywhere.

Technically, that Q2 diff may provide only half the surety of the very good, rear-biased Q4 all-wheel drive system, but it adds less kerb weight and is also, reportedly, most clever in the manner it splits torque between the two front wheels according to driving conditions.

It's hard not to see how that won't enhance the bum-draggers, particularly the understeery 2.4 JTDm diesel.

As it stands, however, the range-topping Q4 V6 wagon with six-speed auto can't escape its physical weight. Or that of its price tag.

Some $81K is a vast ask for a marque that might entertain Germanic ambitions but which your prestige shopper by no means perceives as belonging in the same parking lot.

You'd have thought autos would have attracted more punters in this land of scared-shiftless drivers. There are few grounds for complaint about this one, apart from its penchant for holding the lower ratios longer than necessary.

On the whole, it's preferable to the manual, which is geared way too tall for this country's constrained conditions.

Irritatingly, though, the shift paddles don't become active until the gearstick is slotted into manual mode, so there's none of the temporary over-ride of drive that Audi transmissions feature.

It's been eons since the last Alfa whose front wheels didn't have to do some or all of the driving, but a return to RWD looks to be a certainty for some next-generation models.

This all-paw model — rear-biased to the tune of 57:43 — provides miles of mechanical grip before its fat, 18-inch rubber is troubled.

Would that the bent six could make more of it. One might mind less that it feels less than 191kW if it sounded like something. The joyous rasp of the GTV6 is the stuff of memory.

What the MY09 revision won't alter is design's triumph over function.

The wagon provides not much more space than the sedan, although what it has is more versatile. And, if you're unlucky enough to be seated behind a tall driver, you have the consolation of knowing their head is as cramped as your legs.

Although the V6 sportwagon can be rewarding to drive, the supposedly lesser 159s make a better case. For now, anyway.



Alfa 159 Sportwagon V6

Price: $80,990

Engine: 3.2L/V6; 191kW/322Nm

Transmission: six-speed auto, AWD

Economy: 12.3L/100km combined claimed, but 24L/100km urban as tested. Appalling!


Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

1.9 JTD 1.9L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $5,000 – 7,700 2008 Alfa Romeo 159 2008 1.9 JTD Pricing and Specs
2.2 JTS 2.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $5,100 – 7,920 2008 Alfa Romeo 159 2008 2.2 JTS Pricing and Specs
2.2 JTS Ti 2.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $4,500 – 7,260 2008 Alfa Romeo 159 2008 2.2 JTS Ti Pricing and Specs
2.4 JTD 2.4L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $6,100 – 9,460 2008 Alfa Romeo 159 2008 2.4 JTD Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


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