Few motor makers can lay claim to such a long and illustrious history as Alfa Romeo, the Italian maker a builder of sports cars – and latterly sporting saloons – par excellence yet which is often overshadowed by the might of Ferarri whose founder, Enzo, actually started his career working for Alfa and was, before he left to found the prancing horse marque, their racing manager.
With an awesome 10,000 race victories in their near 80 year sporting history, the company has impeccable credentials to build a fine sports car or, in the case of the 155 launched last year, a quite superb sporting saloon.
The Twin Spark Lusso that I drove is around the middle of a 5 car range and shares it’s engine with the larger 164 saloon which tops out the Alfa range and is one of the great undiscovered treasures among sporting saloons.
With the Lusso pack, the car comes fitted with most desirable goodies, airconditioning, power windows, mirrors, sunroof, power steering, ABS, front fog lamps alloy wheels and a fine 6 speaker stereo, all at a price well under £18,000, an outstanding package.
From the moment that you climb into the plush cockpit, the 155 feels like an Alfa and as soon as it fires up it sounds exactly like an Alfa should, as throaty as a high speed Tom Waits, raring to go, a real drivers car.
The heated seats are multi adjustable and very supportive in most areas although a bit lacking in support under the knees for very tall drivers. The lucky pilot faces a dash chock full of large, traditional, instruments and all of the switchgear is precisely placed exactly where it is needed. With twin spark plugs and coils per cylinder – to improve the ignition and thereby both performance and fuel consumption – the smooth 1995 cc engine has double overhead camshafts, is multi point injected and pumps out a solid 143 bhp and a remarkably flat torque curve making for seamless acceleration and great tractability.
The short throw 5 speed gearbox is a delight to use and makes the engine buzz with that traditional Alfa sound at every gearchange, a delight to the ears and senses.
Handling is the equal of the wonderful engine, taut, responsive, alive, from the well weighted steering to the firmish ride with minimal roll and maximal agility, torque steer – the bane of front drive sporting saloons – is only noticeable by it’s near absence.
Braking is very firm from the all disc set up – although the pedal feel is rather dead – and there is ABS in support.
The 155 has enjoyed tremendous success in the German Touring Car Championship and one may yet be seen in the British Touring Car Championship later this season. It’ll be a welcome addition, one of the great Italian sporting saloons doing battle with the best that Europe and Japan have to offer.
Top Speed 127 mph
0-60 mph 9 seconds
Fuel Consumption 29 mpg ( Urban Cycle ) 45 mpg ( Constant 56 mph )
First Published 1993 – Article © Graham Benge 2007