After being in a :live in” relationship for the last 5 years, we are now finally “registered”!
After months of back and forth, I finally got all the paperwork sorted out from my previous company, and signed the transfer papers at JPJ Padang Jawa this afternoon. The car’s certificate is so riddled with amendments and a history of past lovers that the officer decided to issue me a brand new certificate. So we’re starting fresh!
As for the 156, she’s as temperamental, moody as ever. She never gives out, and she never gives in — she just changes her mind. She is frequently kind, and she’s suddenly cruel. She can do as she pleases she’s nobody’s fool. She’ll promise you more than the Garden of Eden. Then she’ll carelessly cut you and laugh while you’re bleeding. But she’ll bring out the best and the worst you can be. Blame it all on yourself, cause she’s always a woman to me… 😎
(with apologies to Billy Joel)
If you’re still wondering “why on earth???”, Redd’s review below is the best answer there is:
You’ve already read from the other reviewers their thoughts about the 156 2.5 V6, about the ownership experience, reliability, etc. However, italian cars are all about emotion and it wouldn’t do the car any justice not to talk about the sensory experience of driving an Alfa Romeo, especially an Alfa V6.
No matter how you came about your first drive – a friend’s car, a test vehicle at the dealership, your own 156 V6 – the first thing that hits you as you’re walking towards the car is always how pretty it is. Some cars you can call handsome; others are labeled purposeful. Very few cars in this price range can truly be called beautiful, and the Alfa 156 is one of them. It’s a feast for the eyes. The proportions are just right, with a slightly forward stance from the short back and long front overhang, making the car look as if it’s constantly accelerating. The hidden rear door handles make the 156 look like a sporty coupe and are sources of endless entertainment. Alfas are traditionally best enjoyed in red or lighter tones where the styling lines really stand out, and the 156 is no different.
Open the door and the interior is more of the same. High-quality, solid plastic mixed with strategic patches of leather trim the interior, giving it that luxurious Italian feel. Those of you with Ferraris may recognise familiar design aspects in the 156 interior. Upholstery is luxurious leather embossed with the vaunted Alfa logo. Nothing is cheap here. Then it strikes you that this car is 6-years old, yet looks utterly modern and timeless. The dashboard and controls continue that trend. The 156 is the first of the modern Alfas to carry the twin cowled meters, carried over from Alfas of yore. The centre console is slanted towards the driver, clearly stating its purpose as a driver’s car. Passengers tend to feel a bit left out inside a 156.
Slot in the key and fire up the engine, and it’s your aural senses which are next stimulated. The Alfa V6 was voted one of the best sounding production engines of all time and the title is well deserved. At idle, there’s a rich, low burble emanating from the six-pots up front. This is one car which isn’t embarrassed of it’s powerplant – it wants you to know it’s there! Pop the bonnet and six gleaming chrome pipes stare back at you, rumbling with its own pulse. This is not merely an engine – this is automotive art at its finest. It’s almost a sin to keep it covered under a metal bonnet.
Leave it in park and stab at the throttle and the low idle quickly turns into a bark as the rpms quickly climb up the rev counter. What’s this? The little rev and speedo needle illuminate a reflective chrome ring at the edge of the gauges with a small spot of light. It’s such a thrill to see that spot of light climb the perimeter as you rev the engine. Only the Italians would think of a little detail like that!
Ready for more sensory assault? Pop her into Drive and ease on the throttle. The 156 slides forward like any well-behaved European car as you slowly cruise the city streets. You notice that upshifting isn’t the smoothest in its class but the Aisin autobox doesn’t hunt for gears like in some other cars, either. This little gearbox certainly knows what it’s doing. Select Sports mode and instantly, the gears drop a notch and the revs climb.
This is when you will start to see Mr Hyde making an appearance. In Sports mode, the smooth burble of the V6 quickly turns into a snarl. The car’s very reflexes also seem to be heightened as a light tap on the throttle makes the car lurch forward, pinning you to your seat. Stand on the throttle and watch the rev needle surge to the vertical redline (again, another nice detail) as you’re pressed deeper into the cushion. Feel your adrenaline levels climb with the rpms! Release the throttle and the animal snarl turns into a howl of regret. This car clearly likes revs and speed. The more you give it, the more it craves, driving you to an rpm-soaked frenzy.
Once you’ve recovered enough from your first encounter with the V6 beast, find some twisty backroads to see what this car can really do. For this purpose, it’s best to slot the gears into Manual mode and drive it like real man. Find a corner, slot it into 2nd and dive into the turn. Nudge the steering wheel and the entire vehicle responds at the speed of thought! No manhandling here, this car is clearly a precision instrument capable of responding to your slightest whims. The stock suspension wallows a bit but the car hangs onto the tarmac for dear life while you hang onto the steering wheel for dear life. Still, there’s no loss of confidence as every aspect of the car’s handling is transmitted to you via the solid steering wheel. You’re not quite sure how you know that there’s still plenty of grip left in the front tire, but you know! You never knew cars could talk but this one is chatting your ears off.
Stand on the throttle as you exit the corner and the 156 slingshots like a bat out of hell, looking for more turns to devour. Turn after turn, sweepers, switchbacks, hairpins, all demolished in the same efficient manner. Efficient, but not sterile. There’s no lack of noise as the engine snarls and screams it’s battlecry. In fact, if you’re not careful, you might find yourself adding to the soundtrack with a triumphant whoop, or a deranged laugh. The engine is screaming, the steering is talking to you, the tires are screeching in protest as you push them just a bit too hard, and you’re laughing like a maniac. It’s altogether possible to miss your passenger’s cries of terror in that cacophony. Who said driving had to be a chore?
Even great sex must end sometime, and when you stop the 156 by the side of the road and kill the engine, it’s almost with a note of regret. With the V6 shut off, the only sounds you hear are the tick-ticking of the fast cooling manifold and your own racing heartbeat. The revs may have dropped to zero, but your adrenaline high is going to last you for some time yet. Your view of what a car should be – no, of life itself – has changed. Never before did you imagine a mere car – a day-to-day tool – could bring you such pleasure and emotional release.
You step outside and walk a distance to see the car in its entirety. There she sits, as pretty as the first time you saw her, but now somehow a bit more menacing. She scowls at you, as if to say, “Now you know.” Now you know why people still buy Alfas. Beneath that pretty designer dress lurks the heart of an animal. You don’t know why, but you know you want one. You want one in the same way you wanted to kiss your first Valentine. You want one because you know its bad for you. You want one because it makes you want to go out and drive just for the sake of driving, not because you have to go somewhere.
As you lock the car up and walk away, you can’t help but to turn around for one last look. There she is, safe and sound, right where you left her. Then it strikes you just what a silly thing that was to do – to take a last look at a car as if it was some cherished lover. You laugh, but you do it anyway, giving her one last look and looking forward to tomorrow when you get to drive her again.