Replaced Water Pump,
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New Zealand
This is a real subjective one isn't it. While I haven't upgraded, when I was looking for my 156 I started by wanting a V6 and test drove about 20 different vehicles over a two week period, because I wanted a really good one. I tested V6s, Seles and manual Twinnies, and eventually chose a 2 litre manual Sportpac over the V6. My previous daily driver was a Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth (killed when I got rear-ended while stationary at a pedestrian crossing). The Twinnie was a drop in engine power but the general handling was more like the Cossie.
I don't think its very easy to make a comparision between a Twinnie and a V6 unless you are comparing them side by side. If you jump into a V6 after driving a Twinnie and floor it, the first impression is 'whoa, this is much better' which it is... in a straight line. When you 'upgrade' from one car to another you adapt your driving style and unless the car has a fault it will always feel good, if not better.
Jumping back and forth between V6s and a Twinnies I came to my own personal conclusions and made my choice. I drove both V6s and Twinnies on country roads and gave them a solid thrashing.
My conclusions were that the Twinnie was a neutral handler with adequate power, and that the extra weight up front combined with power of the V6 through the front wheels made the car less able/accurate in tight going. The driving experience was dominated by the engine (which some people would see as a great thing) but it was also a bit distracting. The V6 felt a bit ponderous in the braking/turn-in transition.
In New Zealand we are blessed/cursed with narrow twisty roads that we call State Highways, but you guys in the UK would probably call single carriageway B roads -these have low traffic volumes most of the time. While the blanket speed limit on these roads is 100 km/h, these roads can (and do) contain twisty sections with corners posted as low as 25 km/h (read blind hairpin), and have caused many Kiwi kids much car sickness over the years.
Just this month I drove a section of our SH1 (our main 'highway'), south of Kaitaia in Northland that is about 10-15 km of continous turns with very few, very short straights. The road rises over and decends a set of hills and passes through a native forrest reserve. The Twinnie spent most of its time in 2nd gear (and occassionally 3rd) the tacho hunting between 3500 and 6500 rpm, the 156 carving accurately from apex to apex, responding surgically to wheel and pedals, the rear tyres gently breaking away and regaining grip when unsettled by mid corner bumps, the sports exhaust howling. It was just utterly sublime.
Reflecting on the drive I thought that this is what is really meant by the Twinnie being a balanced car, (the Cossie was also a well-balanced car). I really think that a 156 V6 would have been slower through this section of road because the extra engine power wouldn't have been of any advantage, and heavy nose and slower turn-in would have made the V6 more of a handful and ultimately less rewarding. Weight distribution really makes a difference when your pushing on, and has been emblematic of Alfa Romeo engineering for so many years. Rear mounted gearboxes, batteries in the boot, etc, all to try to get as close as possible to 50:50 balance. The V6 might only be an extra 60kg (which is quite a bit actually) but its in the wrong place....
Yeah, I would like the Twinnie to have to have a bit more power, but only for overtaking. I don't really miss it for the type of driving that 'floats my boat'. I don't mind being passed by a more powerful car in a straight, if I've managed to pull away from them in the corners.
Darryl in New Zealand
Last edited by KiwiAlfa156; 29-01-10 at 19:49.