The Alfa Romeo 159 Q4 is the top-of-the-line 159, with a new 3.2-litre V6 and four-wheel drive

Our Verdict

Alfa Romeo 159

Fleet-friendly Alfa 159 leaves too much to be desired on quality and refinement to rival the best in class

What is it? The Alfa Romeo 159 Q4 is the top-of-the-line 159, with a new 3.2-litre V6 and four-wheel drive. It is propelled by the replacement for one of the most sonorous recent motors of them all: the V6 that made its debut in the otherwise disgraceful Alfa 6 of 1980. The new 256bhp 3.2 V6 brings a touch of sophistication, with direct injection and continuously variable valve timing for all four cams and 32 valves. Better yet, this engine issues more than an echo of that old V6. There’s the same deep-chested roar when you demand big acceleration from low revs, and the same higher-pitched, lightly resonant warble at the top end, which now extends to 7200rpm. And it’s bolted into another mechanical confection with a reputation: an all-wheel drive system that is an evolution of that found in the legendary Lancia Delta Integrale. This is an entirely mechanical set-up whose self-locking Torsen centre diff divvies 57 per cent of the twist action to the rear wheels – and can vary the split anywhere from 22/78 front/rear to 78/22. The result should be enhanced chassis balance, and seamless torque transfers between axles, in contrast to the Haldex systems used elsewhere.What’s it like? The 159 is big and, like almost every modern car, heavy. So while it feels brisk and covers ground fast, it’s no rampant tearaway. It’s to Alfa’s credit, then, that it has resisted decking it out with warpaint; in fact, only badges distinguish the Q4 from the 2.4 JTDm diesel. On the road, you feel very insulated aboard an immensely stiff shell, the seats cosset and you won’t hear much wind noise. There’s a bit of road roar on coarse surfaces, but that’s countered by a satisfyingly pliant ride, even on the biggest (18in) wheels. Some may reckon there’s a smidge too much roll, but this mild cushioning suits the car’s demeanour, especially as the brakes and steering aren’t the sharpest. The middle pedal might be progressive, but it feels frustratingly wooden. The steering will surprise those used to Alfa’s quick-acting racks, because it’s not terribly incisive or feelsome. It’s accurate, though, and once you discover how fast you can attack a series of S-bend swoops, you realise that the absence of twitchiness is a bonus. The Q4 is wonderfully fluent through bends, its line easily adjusted, its suspension well up to absorbing hard-hit bumps and camber changes.Should I buy one? A razor-sharp, rapid-reaction 159 will surely come – likely labelled GTA – but the fact that this isn’t it does not diminish the appeal of this highly capable, subtly cultured piece of kit. The Q4’s character is less obvious than in Alfas past, but it’s not short of depth.

Join the debate

Comments
3

29 April 2009

Sexy. We should make the most of these kinds of cars coz it wont be long before it's illegal to have anything other than a hairdryer for an engine.

2 May 2009

Does any one know if the GTA will ever see the light of day? I remember seeing a while back in Auto Express a scoop of the GTA testing at the Nurburgring, which apparently was powered by a V8. Is Alfa missing a trick here by not releasing it, or is the project dead as a dodo as a result of global recession? Answers on a postcard please.

3 May 2009

I remember my first (and last) Alfa Romeo, it was a 155 in black. it was typically temperamental some days it wouldnt start then the next it would, the front bumper dropped off over night with no external force. there were so many reasons to hate it but when it worked on the right road it was the best car I've had, it sounded like nothing I'd had or had since. then one morning it wouldn't start and it never started again. now they are more reliable im so tempted to get another one. If a GTA appears I may well get out the cheque book! I'm sure over the next few years anything more powerful than an electric screwdriver will be outlawed! We don't know it yet but the next few years may be our last opportunity to buy a nice gas guzzler!

I see the 2020 lambo gallardo news story...... 'lambo enfuriate european parliament by squeezing a 1.4 in to new gallardo, greenpeace have chained themselves to factory rails!'

Here's to the crazy ones......

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    9 December 2016
    Audi Sport drops a sub-4.0sec-to-60mph bomb into Porsche Cayman territory
  • First Drive
    9 December 2016
    Plug-in-hybrid 3 Series shows the benefit of BMW's experience with the i3 and i8. Sophisticated, swift and broadly talented to drive – and sweet-handing, too
  • Car review
    9 December 2016
    Italian brand emerges as a true luxury power with a large SUV
  • 2016 Porsche Panamera Turbo
    First Drive
    8 December 2016
    A smaller engine doesn't prevent the new Porsche Panamera Turbo being a ridiculously quick and capable sporting GT. We've driven it in the UK
  • 2016 Vauxhall Adam 1.0i Turbo Unlimited
    First Drive
    8 December 2016
    The 1.0-litre turbo engine and Unlimited trim combine to make this the best Adam in the line-up