Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Get bitten by the serpent!

If you have $120k to spend on a car, would you opt for the Teutonic-inspired Mercedes Benz C180, the driving machine in the guise of a BMW 320i, or the lean-mean technological machine Audi A4?

These are the traditional choices of the young and successful yuppies, focusing on the badge to show that they've arrived. Which is funny though... if they've arrived, where are they supposed to be heading towards after they have "arrived"? Throw your car keys casually on the table during your reunion with your classmates, and they know instantly that you are successful in your career and you are one of the herd who heads towards the premier marques' showrooms once you have achieved something. That used to be true for an executive continental saloon car, because you only have three sensible choices (trust me, you wouldn't want to be caught in a Citroen C5 because everyone will be wondering why you bought a "corporal" brand car when you could have gotten a "star").

Now the universe has changed with the introduction of the Alfa Romeo 159 1750 TBi. Alfa Romeo (pronounced ro-may-o, not Romeo as in the love story) has one of the richest heritage in automobile history. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, Alfa lost their direction and churned out great sports cars which were great when they worked. Their unreliability became as legendary as their driving prowess, and as Jeremy Clarkson put it "Alfas depreciate as fast as they accelerate". But these were still true-blue sports cars, which prompted Clarkson to claim that you are not a petrolhead unless you have owned an Alfa. That's pretty strong endorsement for Alfa Romeo from the man himself.

So recently, Alfa Romeo got its act together, and began producing cars that not just look gorgeous, but they actually work. The new age of Alfa began a few years ago with the Alfa Romeo 159, an executive saloon which makes the competition look like they have been styled with a sledge hammer. The strong sexy curves and delectable triple headlamps make you want to drool all over the car. Nobody can design cars like the Italians can, and the strong emotive styling continues inside the car with some really strong racy elements centred towards the driver. Everything about the Alfa Romeo 159 is perfect...

Well... almost. You see... in a bid to build a better car, Alfa went overboard with its engineering and made a overweight car. Everything works like they ought to in this car, but the car was slightly sluggish with the excess weight. Mind you... it feels sluggish only because we can comparing to the great Alfas of the good old days (those rust buckets!), but they deliver pretty decent performance against the Mercedes C180 or BMW 320i. So what they have now is a sexy looking number without the soul and passion of an Alfa Romeo.

Other than the weight, there were a couple of other issues. The engine was not inspiring like the old Alfas, which compounded the problem with the heavy body. The 159 was styled by the great Giugiaro, so now Alfa needs to make the 159 as fast as it looks. And it does look fast!

Fast forward to 2009... Alfa announces the arrival of the new Alfa Romeo 159 1750 TBi. With a new turbo charged direct fuel-injection 1.75 litres engine, the new 159 delivers a sparkling performance of 7.7 seconds for the century-sprint, and it develops 200bhp (4750-5500rpm) and 320Nm from just 1400rpm! That is phenomenal - imagine pulling away from the traffic at the lights or overtaking in the city traffic!

To make it perfect, the new 159 is rumoured to have a dual-clutch motorized gearshift like the DSG, to deliver power and convenience (but worrying bout jerkiness for newcomers to Alfa). Detractors will wince at not having a manual gearbox, but hey... Alfa developed a modern turbo petrol engine. Nothing is sacred anymore... Alfa needs to get more market share to thrive, so you can get your new Alfa GT the way you want it!

So if you are in the market for ane executive saloon, take a good hard look at the new Alfa Romeo 159 1750 TBi, and take it for a test spin. With competitive pricing and a good reliability trackrecord, owning an Alfa Romeo is not the unthinkable thing it was. Why arrive with the rest when you can lead the pack?

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