I also owned a very expensive 2003 Stilo Abarth when it was under three years old and really low kilometres (21,000), and yes, that Selespeed worked perfectly. The Stilo got a bad rap from just about everyone, being criticised as 'underpowered', 'bland', etc. but with 175bhp it was more powerful per-litre than any of the small-engined models in the range. Maybe not deserving of the Abarth badge (too soft, quiet, and comfortable) but it could do wheelspin starts if you switched off the ASR. The icon in the speedometer was that of a pizza with round pepperoni slices and bits falling off.
I notice my 2003 156 (which cost me one fifth of the Stilo's price) has only the exclamation-mark-within-a-triangle-and-circle (ESP symbol) and the Selespeed can't do a wheelspin start even with ASR off
I suspect the programming doesn't allow it except on 'performance' versions.
Anyway, I think the Selespeed in both my 156 and the Stilo is less aggressive than the Selespeed in early ('98-'02) 156s. Having driven both types, I think the later type tends to remain in higher gears while slowing down in town, which suits me fine. It drives like I would drive a manual gearbox - it only selects 1st (uncommanded) when moving very slowly. It seems to be more aggressive in CITY mode (unnecessary downchanges) so I rarely use CITY.
Of course, sometimes you want maximum response and you change it into 2nd or maybe even 1st, but most of the time all those downchanges can be saved, which must be extending the life of the synchros.
So the point of my post is to say: make sure you actually test-drive a Selespeed for sale; don't assume it will behave exactly like other Selespeeds, as there seem to be different versions out there.
I'm definitely in agreement with blueji on this one, and my 156 has 240,000km on the clock. I don't know how much of the system has been replaced, but it certainly seems to be working well. A bit jerky when I bought the car, but a clutch adjustment worked wonders. I notice it occasionally slips the clutch during the engagement of 2nd (revs can flare up if the throttle is open during the gearchange), but of course that can be avoided by closing the throttle (as you would with a manual transmission). However, maybe it is a symptom that my clutch is nearing the end of its life. As a Selespeed driver, you are definitely more in tune with the machine than you are with an automatic (and in CITY mode, it actually feels like a person is driving...)
I know the original poster has now moved on, but anyway... thought this might apply to someone else some time