Internazionale. Even the
name sounds exciting. Why choose
a conservative German sports
saloon when for the same money
you can enjoy yourself behind the
wheel of a flamboyant Italian
car like the 3.2-litre V6 Alfa
TI. IF YOU'RE AN ALFA AFICIONADO, YOU'LL KNOW exactly what
that stands for. If, however, you just love Alfas for themselves
without the fervour of the truly converted then you may not know
that TI is short for Turismo Internazionale, a model designation historically
used to denote motorsport-oriented Alfa Romeos. Well, now it's back
this time on the very latest 159 sports saloon.
The 159 TI is a smoulderingly good-looking machine and if you were buying a
sports saloon on looks alone the others really wouldn't get a look in. There's
something about Alfas. Like Alice, it's best to begin at the beginning. And
that means the traditional shield-shaped grille topped by its symbolic serpent-and-red-cross
badge. Six small individual circular headlights three each side of the
Alfa grille stare boldly out from beneath the leading edge of the arrow-shaped
Walk back towards the 159's tail but do it s-l-o-w-l-y, savouring the
neat design details: the teardrop indicator repeater on the front wing; polished
alloy door mirror; and shapely door handles, also finished in polished alloy.
Subtle side-skirts link the striking 19-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels filling
the arches. A sharply defined shoulder line flows to the tail, where rich ruby-coloured
tail lights thrust deeply into the boot lid like bloodied spear blades. Two
large tailpipes one at each corner signify that a 3.2 V6 heart
beats beneath this particular Alfa's sculpted bonnet.
Step back a few paces for a better view of the elegant Giorgetto Giugiaro design:
the standard 159 is already a looker, but in TI guise it radiates a purposeful
sporting stance that makes it a real head-turner.
Traditionally, the two-letter 'ti' insignia denotes the sportiest and most luxurious
models. Swing open the driver's door of the 159 TI and, before you get behind
the wheel, note the classically-ribbed leather sports seats with perforated
centre panels emblazoned with unique embroidered Alfa motifs. Directly ahead
of you is a circular rev-counter and 160mph speedometer and angled towards you
is a brushed aluminium centre stack with secondary dials showing oil temperature,
coolant temperature and fuel.
Which reminds me of the only issue I have with the 159 one that concerns
the fuel gauge. When the trip computer warns that you're getting low on petrol
and displays a fifty-mile range reminder, that's the last mile-specific warning
you'll get. Fill up as soon as you can because from then on all it shows is
'limited cruising range'. So if you haven't logged the trip reading at this
point, you could at around 18mpg quickly find yourself with a
dry tank. Once you're aware of this, you get used to it.
Gripe over. Cabin fit and finish is good; whatever you touch feels well put
together and the overriding impression is of quality especially the leather
and real metal trim. The 'ti' badging also stamps its mark on the aluminium
kick-plates, while an aluminium sports pedal set brightens up the driver's footwell.
A left footrest is provided for those times when you're using cruise control.
There's a lot of black in the cabin, the majority of it leather in TI
spec the roof lining is also darkened; and while the cabin is not dark in a
sombre sense, there is a hint of purposeful menace about it that makes you think
of Batman: The Dark Knight. So perhaps the word is Dramatic.
The only concession to colour is the red embroidered Alfa logos on all four
seats and the inner stitching on the steering wheel rim. Settle back in the
classy low-slung seats they're firm but immediately comfortable and very
supportive, with effective but non-intrusive bolstering. In fact, the first
unsolicited comment from front seat passengers was most often 'Great seat!'
Both front seats have three-stage heating, extending under-thigh support and
adjust electrically eight ways. The driver benefits from a 3-setting memory
function but it is unlikely that, once behind the wheel, you're going to let
anyone else in there!
The driving position is spot on. As is the satisfying-to-hold, leather-wrapped
sports steering wheel perforated leather covers the 'work' areas, there's
good height and reach adjustment and multi-function controls are mounted on
the horizontal spokes. Clearly anybody who drives such a smart-looking car as
the 159 TI is already perfect and has no need to check their appearance, as
only the front passenger is provided with a vanity mirror in their sun visor!
A thoughtful touch deserving a mention is the extra cleaning sweep from the
wipers several seconds after a wash-wipe, to remove any leftover moisture so
the screen dries perfectly clear.
Other standard kit includes cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control
with a pollen filter and Air Quality System, rear parking sensors, a Bluetooth
hands-free system with voice recognition and media player with USB port in the
glovebox as well as electric one-touch operation front and rear windows and
a temperature-controlled storage compartment in the centre front armrest.
So even before you thumb the start button below the electronic key slot on the
centre stack to the side of the steering wheel, you feel you're sitting in something
somewhat special a proper, close-to-the-tarmac driver's car. Rear passengers
sit in the same style of classy-looking seats as those travelling up front;
they also get their own A/C vents and a centre armrest with a built-in storage
compartment. A load-through hatch adds ski-carrying versatility.
One consequence of the 159's low roofline is that anyone over six-foot tall
will be better off travelling next to the driver. Other than that, travelling
in the back is fine and comfortable. The good news is that the 60:40 split rear
seats fold almost completely flat across the full cabin width, so you're not
restricted to the standard 405 litres of boot space. The three rear headrests,
incidentally, drop down over the rear seatback when not in use.
Having verified the luxury part of the TI spec, it's time to check out the other
associated TI trait sportiness. And with the 3.2 V6, we're already off
to a good start. This engine embodies Alfa-ness: when it revs, it sings. Its
song is a gloriously tuneful howl; and the more of its 260bhp you liberate,
and the closer the needle of the rev-counter gets to peak power at 6,200rpm,
the more charismatic is the V6's song. Maximum torque is 238lb ft at 4,500rpm
and with four cams, 24 valves, continuously variable valve timing and direct
injection the mechanically smooth and punchy V6 provides plenty of deep-chested
The TI spec enhances the 159 saloon's dynamics with lowered (by 20mm) sports
suspension, special 19-inch alloy wheels and red-painted aluminium Brembo brake
callipers front and rear carrying 'Alfa Romeo' branding.
For the record, drivers can choose any one of three engines two petrol
(2.2 and 3.2 V6) and a 2.4 diesel for their TI 159. Both manual and Q-Tronic
auto 'boxes are available, as is the option of Alfa's Q4 4WD system. Tested
here is the 3.2 V6 with the six-speed manual gearbox.
Time to play: drop the clutch and grab the gears as you graze the redline
the six-speeder's change action is light and precise with an easy gate. Right
away the TI feels stiff, low and eager to please. The steering is well weighted
and direct and, despite 260bhp hitting the road at a gallop through the front
wheels, straight line performance is uncorrupted and spirited. The V6 gets the
159 off the line and to the benchmark 62mph in 7.1 seconds; top speed is 155mph.
Winding secondary roads are equally pleasurable as the firmly sprung sports
chassis plays at home here too. Guided by accurate steering that's not too highly
strung a set-up that adds reassurance when you're swooping through S-bends
the 159 TI is eager to thrust its nose into challenging corners. It helps,
too, that the 159 is easy to place and that's another benefit of the good driving
position. It's also of a good road-wieldy size which works to its advantage
Body roll is well controlled and the 159 feels agile and composed, inviting
you to make good use of the V6's pace. The ride is sportingly pliant but never
harsh or hostile, although poor surfaces can be unsettling. The Brembo brakes
are all you'd expect: the middle pedal serves up progressive and meaty braking
and at all speeds. Driving the 3.2 V6 TI 159 is not short on fun.
While you're busy enjoying yourself behind the wheel, it's reassuring to know
that you're well-protected not only from other drivers' but also from
your own mistakes by a comprehensive array of safety kit. The 159 is
equipped with two full-size driver and passenger front airbags, two full-size
window airbags (front and rear protection), two front side airbags and a driver's
knee airbag. A passenger's knee airbag is available as an option.
Also fitted as standard is a fire prevention system, ABS with ABD and HBA, VDC
electronic stability programme, ASR anti-skidding system and Hill Holder to
make it easier to pull away on slopes along with key deactivation of the front
passenger airbag and Isofix attachments on the rear seats.
Overall the 159 is a well-rounded and capable sports saloon. Not only can it
be driven with verve by keen drivers, but it's also a refined and secure real-world
car in which you can cover ground rapidly in decent comfort and with magnificent,
sporting Italian flair. Cabin insulation helps: surprisingly, given the large
alloys, you're not aware of any road roar from the 235/40 Pirelli P Zeros and
wind noise is notable for its absence.
Okay, so in V6 form the 159 can be a bit of a heavy social drinker our
test average worked out to 18.3mpg (our road-testers do suffer from heavy right
feet!) although the official fuel consumption figures are 17.2, 25.7 and 35.8mpg
respectively for urban, combined and extra-urban.
What's not in doubt is that the 159 TI makes a flamboyant and exciting alternative
to the prestigious but conservative German sports saloons. Especially finished
in bright Alfa Red. MotorBar
Alfa 159 3.2 JTS V6 TI | £27,306
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 7.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 18.3mpg | Power: 260bhp | Torque: 238lb ft
CO2 260g/km | Insurance group 16E