A bit late on this thread granted, but, what replacement pads do people recommend? I was thinking low dust EBC green stuff pads (I think they are called) all round plus a good bleed. I too have had moments when it seems the 156 wasnt going to stop - admittedly when jumping on brakes at last minute!
I am in the process of getting new brakes for my 2001 156 2.0 Selespeed. A friend of mine (who is a mechanic) recommended Black Diamond grooved discs combined with Ferrodo DS-2500 or EBC Red Stuff brake pads. Yes, it is overdoing things a bit, but I prefer sharp brakes.
He said that if you plan on using the brakes hard (ie track use) he would advise against Green Stuff since he has experienced pad failure during track use with these. But again, this was on a 164, which is considerably heavier, and during track use, so for regular street use on a 156 they are probably fine.
As for 156'es having dull brakes, I have mostly driven 156'es from 2001 and older. 2 with mediocre (though not bad) brakes, 3 with very good brakes and 2 with really sharp brakes. The two mediocre ones had no problems locking the wheels, but they required more pressure than I like. The first time I drove a 1999 156 I was caught a bit off guard with regard to initial bite -- they had quite a lot of bite for very light pedal pressure, but now I have come to prefer it. It takes some getting used to, but it suites my driving style.
When I got my 156 at 76.000km it still had its first set of discs and pads and the brakes were still pretty sharp. Now, at 115.000km the brakes are still better than most cars the same age, but they are a bit dull for my taste.
I tried the 159 when it came out. I can't remember the brake performance in detail, but I think they were a bit more progressive than in my 156.