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I have owned a 1996 N "wide body" 155 2.5 V6 for the last 5 years, I have done 73000 of its total 84000 miles, it is a superb car with excellent performance and handling and I would certainly recommend the V6 over the 4 cylinder cars as the extra power and the manner of its delivery , it's totaly smooth pulls harder and harder all the way to the red line and sounds wonderful, more than compensates for the slightly more nose heavy handling. The car has been totaly reliable and needed nothing other than routine servicing for the first 60000 miles and has only needed new shocks, two suspension bushes, a ball joint and a new exhaust from the cat back since then. I have averaged about 28mpg driving it along country roads in a decidedly Italian style and servicing has been very cheap at my local Alfa specialist, Alfa dealers tend to be quite expensive and not very good, so the biggest ownersnip costs have been depreciation and group 16 insurance. Anybody considering a 155 should know that the later wide body cars are vastly better than the narrow bodied ones in terms of ride, handling, looks, interior and build quality. All 155s are fully galvanised so any major rust probably signifies badly repaired crash damage and is not typical. Overall it is a practical spacious family car that is fast, fun and a bit different.
This is the car that started Alfa back on the road to recovery. In fact they have now travelled so far that the range, some the new year, of 147, 156, 166, GTV must be just about the most exciting on any forecourt now. And, given the drop in new car prices, and Alfa in particular, the 155 can be found for bargain prices. However, you still need to be careful buying a 155. It went through a major change in 1995 when the body was lowered and widened. The improvements underneath also make this a different car, and it is this car that i will be talking about - it looks better, it handles better, and is still incredibly cheap. Another important change happened a year later when the now famed Alfa fast rack steering was introduced on this car. previously the steering was still good, but took a conventional 3 turns lock to lock. Now it took just 2, and is still the system used across Alfa's range. I don't mind either set up - the earlier system, whilst requiring a little more work, does offer a touch more feel. Both set ups are exemplary though in showing how you can have power steering and still mainatian a precise steering set up - you know exactly where the car is pointing, unlike most other current power steering systems. So with good steering, the car handles well given its Mondeo class size. It corners particulalry flat, though its ride is not bone hard, just on the firm side (exactly how I think suspensions should be). It stops well with good brakes which need a bit more work than later Alfa efforts that have been rather over-servoed. Now the real strength of this car, and the core of Alfas range still - the engines. Three versions are available - 1.8 and 2.0 litre twin sparks, and a 2.5V6. The twin spark method uses two plugs per cylinder, but whereas earlier models used them slightly apart on the same cycle to lengthen the burn, the newer, post 1995 models, fire on the main ignition stroke, and on the exhaust
stroke. It gains a touch more power, but alos cleans up the emissions, presumably allowing the engine to be tuned a bit more for performance. the outputs are impressive with 140bhp and 150bhp respectively. I know little of teh 2.5 V6 excpet that Alfa V6s are also reknowned. They weigh a lot more, affecting handling (70kg over the 2.0 litre) but obviosuly give more straight line grunt. You pays your money... But what an engine the twin spark (16valves too) is. Btween 2000 and 4000 it behaves like a nice, normal engine, but still has reasonable torque when pulling from as low as 2000. But get it to 4000...and you are lighting the blue touch paper. Not that is responds like a turbo, but just starts to sing. It revs, it pulls...smoothly - very very smoothly, onwards al the way to the red line at 7,000rpm(!!!) and the rev limiter. You need the rev limiter, because all that way, it never falters, never seems like it is running out of breath, and always sounds like it is enjoying it. Simply stunning. A small word of warning - the 2.0 litre is even smoother because it has counter rotating balance shafts. A tensioner on this drive belt seized on me at 6,000 breaking this belt. Luckily it did not affect the main timing belt, because with 16valves, that would have been very expensive failure. So, if you get one of these, look after all the belts, and change ALL tensioners with the belts. This will cost, but otherwise the servicing is cheap. Oil is best at 6,000 miles, and requires semi or fuly synthetic, and these engines can leak and burn a touch of oil. 8 plugs will cost you £60, but last for 60,000 miles! But, that belt problem aside, I have had no problems at all in 2 years with the mileage on a 3yr old car going from 55,000 to 75,000. But you may not notice these bargains that much. They are a bit of a Q car. Styling is quite conventional (given Alfas current trend). It is the last of the angular Alfas, and from may angles
looks quite sleak, though from others, its Fiat (and Tipo) herittage shows in slightly high and awkwards looks. It ahs a jetta like boot, which is high and large, though as a boot it lacks hatch back convienience (and a rear wiper). Of course you get alloys throughout the range (but a space saver spare under the boot floor), and a factory body kit is about, with a large boot spoiler and black spoked alloys that get tatty quickly. The interior is a bit grey, and not brilliant, and just about controls are on the wheel stalks, which is a bit unusual. Driving position is fine, and of course you get a rev counter, but also oil pressure and temp gauges! The car only seems to come in Alfa red, which, unlike the 156, looks goo - but goes pink without full care. You can get some other colours if you look very hard. Second hand versions can look a bit tatty, as build quality was still a bit old Alfa 9look at shut links - they aren't nearly as good as the latest Alfas). But all in all this is a real bargain of a car. Some style, excellent performance (with moderate runnign costs) at a fraction of BMW prices. And, best of all, it stands out in a supermarket car park!