Alfa Romeo GTV

Written by tonks on February 8, 2007

Alfa Romeo GTVThe 156 GTV is a vehicle you just don’t want to get out of. Cementing you to your seat are the wail of a 240 horsepower V6, lightning performance, more grip than a glue factory and the direction-changing abilities of a politician under fire. The seat itself isn’t bad either, its tall back and substantial bolsters securing you in a gentle leathered clench while you give the Alfa the best of your badness.

Considering Alfa Romeo’s sporty credentials, it’s a bit of a surprise that it hasn’t produced these high performance variations on the saloon and Sportwagon before. Instead, the Milanese maker has taken over four years to spit out a high performance 156, though with it comes a minor facelift that’s applied across the range. That said, the GTV is more than merely a 156 engine with a bigger engine. Although the visual make-over is subtle there’s been an awful lot of change down under to turn the 156 into a thoroughly convincing performance car.

The engine has a bigger inlet and exhaust ports and a remapped engine management system responsible for the climb to 240 bhp. At least as important, and the reason for the capacity increase, is the gain in torque, the engine delivering strong pulling power right through the rev range rather than only at the top of it, or so Alfa claims.

A six-speed manual gearbox allows you to make the best of this, and there will also be a Selespeed sequential transmission as an option. Just as important when it comes to making the best of all that go is the suspension system, which has had a major rework to ensure that all four tires stay in touch with terra firma.

In short, it has been extensively redesigned to provide the ideal geometry to keep as much rubber in touch with the road as possible, and to prevent the shock absorbers from seizing solid when they’re worked very hard, a potential problem with high performance cars. Maintaining stability under braking and acceleration has also been a priority, as has the minimisation of unwanted rear wheel steering effects, the redesign here benefiting from experience gained in the European Touring Car Championship.

Further modifications include reduced friction in the system, enabling it to function more effectively and, as you might expect, stiffer springs and anti-roll bars and a lower ride height, these last measures doing much to prevent the car running wide in corners. Another means of preventing the car running wide is to slow down of course, and the GTV benefits from substantially upgraded brakes. Further protections include ABS anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and ASR traction control, but not electronic stability control, the engineers reckoning that there is currently no system compatible with the GTV’s sportier manners.

If all this sounds slightly crass, the Alfa’s cultured good breeding becomes apparent when you twist the key. The V6 settles to a subtle, deep-throated burble, and you soon find that the pedals and gearlever move with a satisfyingly weighty and slick precision. Shortly after, you’ll be impressed by the quick-acting steering, and the clean way the car can slice round a corner.

The aura of sophistication is heightened by the low noise levels, the well-assembled solidity imparted by the interior, which failed to generate a single squeak during some very hard driving, the surprising suppleness of the ride and the satin-smooth power delivery of the V6. Contrary to Alfa’s claims of plentiful torque, the truth is that you need to have 4000 rpm on the rev counter before the engine really gets working, but you certainly won’t be disappointed when it does.

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