The car is almost run in now and I thought it would be worth bringing folks up to date on my experiences so far.
Pre-purchase and collection was a pleasure - thanks go to County Motors in Carlisle for this. I was introduced to the Service Manager and the senior technician who have been considerate and conscientious in my (minor) dealings so far.
In the early days the car suffered bad turbo-lag and, until recently, an annoying ticking noise under hard acceleration. Both have improved considerably and the engine is also much smoother with a lovely growl on acceleration and burble at speed.
Fule consumption was also very poor to start with, averaging 28 mpg in the beginning improving rapidly to 32 mpg. It hung about at that for a while buit since the run to Bath late in July it is improving again. On my trip to Wester Ross I averaged 37 mpg on the way up and 38 mpg on the way down.
The car is supremely comfortable on long drives (I've had a few of those) and it just eats up the miles. On twisty roads it just seems to grip forever and is very responsive to steering input. It's best to grab it by the scruff of the neck if you're pushing on; if you're hesitant or untidy the handling is less "comfortable" (although perfectly safe). Brakes are immense, particularly compared to the 156.
The build quality and the interior design are up there with the best of them, and certainly a lot more interesting. I had one rattle that sounded like a cable had dropped out of a clip behind the dash and that turned out to be manufacturing "detritus" (paint fragments etc)behind the windscreen seal. 10 minute job and some silicon lubricant to clean it out and cure the rattle (Others may have this - it is apparently a common problem and is an easy fix. Probably picked up at the pre PDI depot now).
To date I have one small stone chip on the bonnet. I got this the day I collected the car so the paint seems hard enough. It does, however, have the slight orange peel effect on the vertical panels, but you have to look carefully to notice it and it doesn't detract from the shine when the car is polished.
Problems? Blue and Me is fantastic system but doesn't work perfectly with my ipod, but I can live with this (it still beats cassette tapes hands down). The phone is brilliant for me but apparently I sound like a frogman in a barrel to people I'm speaking to. County Motors are trying to source a fix actively with AR in Italy as this, also, appears to be a common problem. Slightly dodgy autowipers can be a bind but they seem to become more efficient with time as well (don't ask me how).
Overall I just love the car - it exudes class and is a real presence on the road (people move out of the way for me on Motorways without me pressing them - never had that before
). And I've had more Alfa waves in the 159 than any other Alfa.
I suppose there is one other problem - I can't stop driving the car and I'm clocking up way too many miles.