FACTfile - Alfa 156 Crosswagon
Alfa releases first 4WD since 164 Q4
Alfa have recently announced the impending arrival of their new 4WD off-roader the Crosswagon. Presumably named after how you can use the car as opposed to how it makes you feel - the Crosswagon is a departure for Alfa as they join all the other major manufacturers in catering to the growing global SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) market. Alfa Romeo have given us an extensive run-down of the new model -
The Alfa Romeo 156 Crosswagon will make its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the first of a range of four wheel drive cars from Alfa Romeo and providing the European sports wagon segment of the market with an entirely new dimension. The 156 Crosswagon, due to go on sale in New Zealand at the end of the year, is designed by the Alfa Romeo's Arese Style Centre, features the unmistakable Alfa Romeo shape of the 156 Sportwagon. But the trait that really typifies the Crosswagon is the crossover appeal that combines the off-road performance of an SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) with the driving satisfaction and handling of an Alfa Romeo while offering a versatile, functional Sportwagon passenger compartment.
The Alfa Romeo 156 Crosswagon expresses its greater versatility with a higher ground clearance with improved approach and exit angles when cornering, a strong personality, great safety and overall solidity plus outstanding comfort in all conditions. These features make the new model perfectly at ease around town or on unsurfaced roads yet do not detract from its sporty, stylish, clean-cut line: a trait common to all Alfa Romeos.
The 156 Crosswagon owes its all-terrain look in particular to door sill aluminium protection, special front and rear bumpers with aluminium inserts, an original bumper grille and carrier bars. The 156 Crosswagon was created to overcome any road situation without ever stooping to compromises. This is also evident in a ride set-up that is nearly 6 centimetres higher than the Sportwagon and the 225/55 R17 all season wheels with special compound and tread. The tyres are also designed to offer great comfort under normal driving conditions with good grip and a safe drive on snow, unsurfaced or uneven roads, mud or treacherous roads in general. Inside, the new model features an instrument panel with brand new design, a compass built into the mirror plus special carpets and mats, an elegant, new hi-tech trim for the central console and, optionally, new top quality leather upholstery.
Four wheel drive is delivered via three differentials and a Torsen C system, enabling each wheel to offer the maximum torque for its grip level at all times.
The Alfa Crosswagon is immediately recognisable for its unmistakable Alfa shape made up of exactly the right mix of surfaces, style, poise and sportiness. The new vehicle also has its own specific identity and is highly versatile due to its higher ground clearance and improved approach and exit angles. Despite its strong personality, it never strays beyond the boundaries of sporting good taste imposed by Alfa Romeo stylistic canons. The power and attitude of the Crosswagon are emphasised by a bigger gap between the wide tyres and wheelarches that is not, however, as exaggerated as on a conventional off road vehicle. The new model also conveys a sense of safety and overall solidity. The bumpers, for example, play a fundamental role in characterising the vehicle. They are designed with lines that confer strength without ever losing sight of style and good taste.
They include a metal alloy insert in a central area that acts as a protective shield. The sill covers also speak the same stylistic language: they are bound to be generously sized to offer side protection but are made slimmer and more dynamic by a longitudinal metal insert. A two tone body is used to sophisticated and exclusive effect in line with the vehicle's style. It offers a functional exterior for unsurfaced country roads and looks stylish around town as well. The nine body shades - four are new - are all based on a palette of natural colours and available in fine grain and medium-coarse grain versions to enhance the colour highlights created by the Crosswagon's sinuous shape.
Four Wheel Drive
The Alfa Crosswagon transmission features four permanently engaged drive wheels, three differentials and torque distribution preferentially to the rear. The Torsen C differential continuously modulates torque distribution between front and rear axles according to grip. This feature makes for a sporty drive that in turn increases active safety.
The mechanical modulation is continuous and progressive. It conveys an optimum driving sensation that is satisfying and easy for the driver. Torque distribution takes place without any time lag. The car's grip performance adapts gradually in linear fashion to changing road conditions. This mechanical system is complemented by an electronic system for extra performance and safety margins in line with the Alfa Romeo philosophy. The Crosswagon is absolutely cutting edge as far as engineering is concerned and offers unexpected benefits.
1. Ride comfort. The increased ground clearance and generous tyre size brings a decided improvement when driving over obstacles while the stiffer body helps lower sound resonance effects. Because not all the torque needs be transmitted through the front axle, it has been possible to configure the geometry of the double wishbone front suspension for ride comfort.
2. Permanent traction makes it possible to increase roadholding, driving satisfaction and smoothness of response. No other four wheel drive, implemented using electronic couplings, can offer the same optimum balance between oversteer, understeer and smoothness of response typical of the Crosswagon, that translates into great roadholding and active safety. Preferential torque distribution to the rear axle adds further driving satisfaction because vehicle handling is improved while guaranteeing maximum stability during sudden high speed lane changes on the motorway, as sometimes happens during emergency manoeuvres.
3. Off-road performance is also better than expected. The driver need no longer fear transmission lag and the combination of electronic and mechanical control makes differential locking effective in extreme conditions. For example, the car negotiates demanding obstacles like twists, where one wheel is completely off the ground, with complete aplomb.
In short, the Crosswagon is four wheel drive Alfa Romeo style: an essentially mechanical system complemented by the most advanced electronics to assure maximum driving comfort together with optimum performance and total safety.
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