FACTfile - The new Alfa Romeo 156 JTS

The new Alfa Romeo 156 - looks the same... but with new muscles, new brain

The new Alfa 156 has burst onto the Australian market in a blaze of publicity - straight from the horse's mouth here is a complete run-down of the new model as described by Alfa Romeo themselves...

Alfa Romeo has made no changes to the stunning good looks of its award-winning Alfa 156 to produce the new 156, but it is all-change under the skin with new engines, technology, trim and equipment ensuring that the Alfa 156 remains the benchmark car in its class.

Leading the changes to the 156 is the new JTS engine, the most advanced engine of its type in the world. The JTS engine has set a new standard for direct injection lean burn technology, delivering the performance, fuel consumption and emission gains promised by this cutting edge technology and removing the drawbacks encountered by other car makers. Fitted with the new JTS engine, the Alfa Romeo 156 in both five speed manual and Selespeed sequential manual gearbox versions now has a top speed of 220 kmh and it dispatches the dash to 100 kmh in just 8.2 seconds, while also offering average fuel consumption in the EU test of 6.6 litres per 100 km.

Alfa Romeo has also revised the 2.5 litre version of its legendary V6 engine to make it cleaner and more powerful. With this engine under the 156's shapely bonnet, it has a top speed of 230 kmh in six speed manual form and it dispatches the 100 kmh sprint in 7.3 seconds. With the Q-System automatic gearbox, the figures are 227 kmh and 8.5 seconds.

Safety is enhanced at all levels. Active safety - the ability to avoid accidents - is enhanced with the standard fitment of Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Motor Speed Regulator (MSR) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA). These, respectively, help the driver maintain control of the car in emergency situation, stop wheel lock up skids caused by sharp gear changes and take over braking in emergency situations for the fastest possible stop, reducing braking distanced by up to 35 per cent in an emergency. Every Alfa Romeo 156 is now fitted as standard with six airbags, with window air bags joining the front air bags and the side impact airbags fitted in the sides of the front seats. This combination of six airbags enables the new Alfa Romeo 156 to offer, combined with features such as the occupant safety cell surrounded by deformable sections, a new level of occupant safety in the event of an accident.

Inside the new Alfa Romeo 156 the classic style that made the 156 such a breath of fresh air compared to the cold clinical interiors of its competitors remains, but it has been enhanced with new equipment, a new finish to the dashboard and a new centre console. The new equipment includes a multi-zone climate control air conditioning system that enables the front seat occupants to set their own temperature settings. Its efficiently is enhanced by larger dashboard top vents in a new unit that also houses the Alfa Romeo InfoCentre, an LCD screen that houses the trip computer and external temperature readout.

Even in an Alfa Romeo there are times when the road is so ordinary or where speed limits mean that the natural ebullience of the 156 must be suppressed that a cruise control is required and a sophisticated electronic cruise control is now standard. Working directly on the engine management system, the new cruise control provides smooth, unfussed operation. Complimenting the glorious sound made by Alfa Romeo engines, the new JTS and the refined and reworked 2.5 litre V6 engine, the Alfa Romeo 156 has a new Blaupunkt audio system that is fully integrated into the new centre console. In addition to its powerful amplifier, six speakers and state of the art CD player, operation is simplified by new steering wheel mounted controls. Completing the new interior is the new centre console trim that leads to redesigned panels around the handbrake and a new armrest that includes a storage box.

Compared to the out-going car, the new Alfa Romeo 156 - already a very well equipped car - gains Split Climate Control Air Con, automatic rain sensing wipers, headlight washers, window airbags, ASR Traction Control, leather upholstery (the standard car had cloth, leather came either as an option or with the Monza versions), Blaupunkt stereo system integrated into the dashboard, trip computer, Side Skirts (not standard on the entry level car, they were part of the Monza versions), VDC and EBA on the ABS brakes.

The new Alfa Romeo 156 range opens with the Alfa Romeo 156 JTS - which replaces the 156 Twin Spark versions - and this model is available with a choice of a five speed manual gearbox at $49,950 or with Alfa Romeo direct-from-Formula One Selespeed sequential manual gearbox at $52,950. Fitted with a revised version of Alfa Romeo legendary V6 engine, the Alfa Romeo 156 V6 24V is now priced at $57,500 with the six speed manual gearbox and $59,950 with the unique Q-System automatic gearbox with its "H-Gate" operation. "These changes to the award-winning Alfa Romeo 156 now only enable it to maintain its benchmark position in the sports sedan class," says Kevin Wall, General Manager for Alfa Romeo in Australia, "they will enable it to extend it position in the Australia market and contribute even further to Alfa Romeo's Australian success."


THE ALFA ROMEO JTS ENGINE

Delivering the lean burn promise

It has long been known that lean burn technology and direct fuel injection held out the promise of better fuel economy, lower emissions and more power and torque for a given engine capacity. However, until now, the drawbacks of poor high engine speed performance, the requirement for low-sulphur fuel and the requirement for extensive emission equipment to cut the nitrogen oxide emissions (and which lead to nitric acid rain) have proven substantial barriers to putting this technology in production.

But for Alfa Romeo, renown for its highly efficient engines - the 2.0 litre Twin Spark engine, with 114 kW was, until the arrival of the JTS, one of the most efficient and highest specific output engines in the world - direct injection and lean burn technology offers a significant step up in efficiently, emissions and performance.

That Alfa Romeo has met its targets is clearly illustrated by the figures. The new JTS engine has exactly the same capacity as the Twin Spark engine it replaces, yet power is up from 114 kW to 121 kW; torque rises from 187 Nm to a remarkable 206 Nm. The new engine meets the ultra tough Euro 4 emissions standards and yet, despite the performance gains, fuel consumption stays virtually the same. And, particularly important in Australia, there is no requirement for low sulphur fuel. It also delivers smooth and potent performance to the top of its rev-range. On the road this translates into providing the Alfa 156 with more tractable performance in all the gears, a smoother torque and power curve delivers more refined performance and, in raw figures, top speed rises from 216 to 220 kmh and the zero to 100 kmh time is cut from 8.6 to 8.2 seconds.

So how has Alfa Romeo managed to achieve what other car makers have been trying to do for decades? Alfa Romeo's answer is a simple as it is sophisticated. At low engine speeds, which the engine operates for the major it of the time, it operates as a lean burn engine, while at higher engine speeds it progressive switches to a normal fuel air mixture to provide the top end performance so beloved of Alfa Romeo drivers. The latter is both enhanced and enabled by the use of direct fuel injection, with the fuel pumped directly into the cylinder head around the sparkplug, boosting volumetric efficiency and performance.

With regard to emissions, the combination of the direct injection and lean burn only at lower engine speeds means that Nox emissions are similar to normal engines and the large Nox catalyst converters are that are typically needed and which reduce performance with high back pressures are not required. The absence of these catalysts also means that JTS owners do not have to worry about high sulphur fuel. In all, the Alfa Romeo JTS engine is a technical tour de force and is worthy successor to the array of advanced, high performance engines on which Alfa Romeo has built its reputation.

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