Well, I'm just back after spending today's hours of daylight conducting an extended (120+ miles) test drive in one around south-central Scotland - a good mix of city centre, cross-country and motorway miles. This -
- says it all really! Just as well since I've already put a deposit down on one last week,
OK, with the stiffened suspension and 19" wheels it did 'crash' around a little bit in the city streets compared to my current Lusso on 18s but, hey, some of those roads resembled the surface of the moon and would have been a bumpy ride in a hovercraft,
. Compared to 'my' 2.4JTDm (and even more so my previous V6) engine, this one is a bit quiet and initially I was disappointed by its lack of 'Alfaness' in the aural department. However, once out on the open road, it takes on a character all of its own and any sound deficiences very quickly became insignificant. Turbine smooth and almost clinical in its power delivery with a virtually instantaneous rush of power at an revs, it seems to combine the best of both worlds - all the best characteristics of a nice free-revving smallish (relatively) capacity petrol combined with loads of low-down diesel-like torque,
. Quite addictive really!
The handling is pin-sharp, almost go-cart like and feels more like a MiTo than any 159 I've sampled before. I was always fairly satisfied with my current Sportwagon's road manners, but I now realise just how much it is compromised by that big heavy 5-pot oil burner over the front wheels. A series of mixed-radius S-bends had me grinning like a Cheshire cat,
, as it went through as if on rails, rather than gritting my teeth at the fast approaching terminal understeer that my 2.4 would exhibit under similar circumstances. So, progress through the bends can be at a much swifter pace than I would have previously thought possible, and down the straights is almost akin to sitting in an Exocet missile - something the driver of a Focus ST170 bore witness to when he had to concede defeat (eventually) and let me through so that I could leave him struggling in my wake,
Roll on the 1st of March.