The compact executive car Alfa Romeo 156 was introduced and produced by the Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo in the year 1997. It was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show and was warmly accepted. The 156, which replaced the Alfa Romeo 155, won the European Car of the Year award in 1997.
Alfa Romeo 156 was available in Sportswagon estate, saloon, and Crosswagon crossover body styles. Although the production of the Q4 Crosswagon continued until 2007, the 156 saloon was discontinued in 2005. The 156 also had seven engine configurations while going through two facelifts in 2002 and 2003.
The 156 GTA
The 156 GTA and the 156 Sportswagon GTA which was launched in September 2001 at the Frankfurt Motor Show was named after the Alfa Romeo GTA from the 1960s. The exclusive high-performance sports car continues to be one of the most sought-after by collectors, thanks to its rarity, pedigree, and the impressive Busso-designed engine.
The production of the 156 GTA ended in October 2005 before the arrival of the Alfa Romeo 159. Until that point, 1,973 Berlinas and 1,678 Sportswagons were built. Right-hand-drive 156 GTA's were more in demand than left-hand drives due to their rarity. The vehicles that were sold in the United Kingdom and New Zealand hold a premium over other right-hand-drive markets due to their specifications with higher output engines.
156 Sportswagon Q4
All-wheel-drive versions of the 156 arrived in some markets in 2004 with the introduction of the Sportswagon Q4. The Quadrifoglio 4 system featured three differentials with the central one adding 150 kg to the weight of the vehicle. The Sportswagon QA was also 1,458 mm tall with five-spoke, 17-inch wheels while the 'Q4' badge on the tail set were some distinctive features compared to the front-wheel-drive 156 versions.
156 Crosswagon Q4
The Crosswagon Q4 was introduced in 2004, the same year the Sportswagon QA arrived. The model came with a crossover appearance with enhanced off-road capabilities. The height was further raised to 1,497 mm, which meant that the Crosswagon Q4 was 6.5 cm taller than the standard 156.
The unique front and rear bumpers and door sills featuring steel inserts gave the Crosswagon an all-terrain look. The 1.9 M-Jet diesel with 150 PS was the only available engine for the Crosswagon Q4. It was the last 156 to be discontinued (in 2007) after remaining in production even after the introduction of the 159 in 2005.
Alfa Romeo 156 GTAm
The Alfa Romeo 156 GTAm never reached production after appearing at the Bologna Motor Show in December 2002. It was built by Fiat Group's N Technology with a 3.2-litre engine bored to 3.5-litre with the power being pushed to 300 PS. The car also featured wider 19-inch tyres as well as N Technology's limited-slip differential.
Alfa Romeo 156 Sportswagon GTA 3.5 Autodelta
The 156 Sportswagon featuring a 3.5-litre V6 engine was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show by the Italian-based firm Autodelta in 2004. It was fitted with Bilstein adjustable shock absorbers, 13-inch diameter Brembo front brakes, and Eibach springs. The car was also lighter, thanks to its composite engine bonnet.
Autodelta 156 GTA 3.7 V6
The high-performance 156 GTA 3.7 V6 was created by the London-based tuning firm Autodelta with a 3.8-litre engine. The car had the ability to reach a top speed of 310 kilometres per hour.
First Series – 2002 Facelift
A facelifted 156 with chrome highlights and a matte-finish was introduced in the year 2002. While the only notable exterior differences were limited to the body-coloured mirrors and bumper strips (previously black), the face-lifted model included many enhancements and options such as a digital climate controller (similar to that of 147), interior climate controller, air quality sensor, Xenon lighting, Bose stereo system, and tele-informatics.
The stereo system could be operated using buttons on the steering wheel while the updated gearbox control system featured paddle shifters instead of steering wheel buttons.
The centre control featured a multi-functional display with a trip computer as well as a fault and service monitor. The availability of a different colour choice for the interior was also available along with the option of a two-tone interior keeping in line with the 156's European rivals.
This facelift featured many other upgrades such as electronic stability control, vehicle dynamic control, emergency brake assist decide, slip control, and an MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) with window airbags improving the model's passive safety. The previous 2.0-litre Twin Spark engine was replaced by a 2.0-litre JTS 165 PS petrol direct-injection engine adding more low-end torque and power to the Alfa Romeo 156.
Second Series – 2003 Facelift
The year 2003 saw another facelifted 156 with front and rear fascias that were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. A new TI trim level sporty kit was also included with modified suspension, bigger wheels, and leather-trimmed interior.
The engine also went through a lot of re-working with the addition of new four-valve per cylinder heads, second stage rail injection with 1400 bar maximum injection pressure resulting in lower noise, fuel consumption, and improved performance. It must be noted that the GTA models did not receive the exterior upgrade of this facelift.