STORIE ALFA ROMEO, EIGHTH EPISODE: ALFA ROMEO 156. THE NECESSARY BEAUTY

A Sedan with a Sporty Heart

In 1997, the company made their intentions clear: they wanted to create a sedan that combined style, engineering excellence and impeccable dynamic behavior with a perfect balance between performance and handling – a 100% Alfa Romeo product formula. Their goal was highly ambitious, and the result was one of the best front-wheel-drive cars ever.

 

Designing a Masterpiece

The style of the 156 was an extraordinary mix of strength, innovation and sophistication. The front shield reclaimed its dominance, and seen from the front, the mudguards seemed ‘clamped to the wheels’ - flush with the bodywork, radiating strength and road grip. The relationship between glass and metal surfaces resembled a coupe more than a sedan. The rear door handles disappeared, integrating almost invisibly with the window frames, and the clean flanks highlighted the car’s sleek and dynamic profile.

 

Advanced Sportiness

The 156 was an astonishing car from a technical perspective too. The designers had been asked to develop the concept of ‘advanced sportiness’ by combining power, lightness and control, a formula that has always been at the core of optimising the Alfa Romeo driving experience. The 156 convinced everyone; it was the most thrilling sedan to drive of its entire generation. The sporting version was also a certified winner - in 10 years of Gran Turismo championships, it won 13 titles.

 

The birth of the ‘common rail’

According to the logic of the European market at the time, petrol was the prevailing fuel - but these rules were about to change, and it was Alfa Romeo who launched the revolution. The 156 was the first car in the world to launch the ‘common rail’ system. Journalists testing the 1.9 and 2.4 JTD versions in Lisbon were amazed that, for the first time, diesel engines were offering petrol-level performance, silencing and comfort.

 

‘Car of the Year’

The 156 won the hearts of public and critics, and in 1998, the international ‘Car of the Year’ accolade was awarded to Alfa Romeo for the very first time.