Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Middlesbrough, UK
20V JTD preview, Autoexpress
Theres a preview of the 20v 156 JTD on Autoexpress......
Alfa Romeo 156 2.4 JTD
Not that long ago, the mere mention of diesel engines in a conversation about Alfa Romeo would draw disapproving looks and provoke a stony silence.
Despite the fast-growing popularity of the fuel, the Italian brand was seen by its fans and keepers as too vibrant and too passionate to sip from the black pump. But times change - and so do diesel engines, which are now beginning to set performance benchmarks that some petrol units can't match.
Take the new Alfa 156 2.4 JTD. It offers blistering mid-range acceleration and in-gear urge to match its £27,240 3.2-litre petrol-engined GTA brother. Boasting 175bhp, the car's 8.3-second 0-60mph time puts it firmly in performance saloon territory, yet fuel consumption is only 43mpg and the engine produces less CO2 then Alfa's entry-level 1.6-litre 156.
The newcomer is very refined once up to speed - and on long journeys it proves a superb cruiser. But is it the pick of the range? Although the answer is yes, there are still areas for improvement. Under full throttle, the car loses some of its refinement, sending noise and some vibration into the cabin.
It's worth pointing out that the Euro III-compliant powerplant is more refined than VW's 1.9-litre TDI, but it can't match the latest-generation Euro IV units from either the German firm or Vauxhall. The six-speed gearbox could be better, too, and would be improved by a crisper, slightly shorter shift.
However, the Alfa Romeo's handling remains impressive, despite the addition of the heavy diesel powerplant. Although the car doesn't feel quite as light on its toes as, say, Honda's excellent new 1.7-litre Accord CDTi, it certainly offers an involving drive. And neither has this been achieved at the expense of ride refinement.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the versatility of the newcomer, which not only provides an exciting drive, but range-topping economy, too. It's hard to see why the manufacturer waited so long to take the performance diesel plunge. Chris Thorp