The car show season is now opening, in the Northern Hemisphere at least. And what better way to start than Spring Alfa Day in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum aircraft collection at Duxford, south of Cambridge? There were many, many treats and unusual cars, and this one is worth separating and highlighting.
CC has seen the Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon before, but this one is an unusual variant. It’s not a Sportwagon, which was really an estate version of the saloon 156, but a Crosswagon. Think Audi Allroad or VW Passat Alltrack, and wonder what happens when one of those meets an Alfa Romeo.
The regular Sportwagon was available with a four wheel drive system, known as Q4, with three differentials, including a central Torsen unit. The ride height was lifted by a modest inch, and specific wheels and badging aside, there was little to visually differentiate it.
The Crosswagon took this a stage further. The ride height was lifted by another inch and a half, larger wheels were used and additional deeper sills and front and rear aprons were added. The interior was unchanged, and trimmed as you’d expect an Alfa to be trimmed.
Power came from the 1.9 litre four cylinder diesel engine, rated at 150 bhp. Production ran to 2007, after the rest of the 156 range was discontinued in 2005. Sales were limited to left hand drive European markets; this car was imported to the UK from Poland last year – bought unseen, purchaser flew over and drove it home. Classic Alfa…
A diesel engined, four wheel drive estate, with crossover characteristics? Who says Alfa is exclusively sports cars?
Hi, Roger! It looks great, and the 156 is a design I find almost timeless. Then again, it’s just a Fiat Marea underneath, the JTD diesel series was very popular in Europe, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were capable of sports-like driving within reasonable limits for your daily driver that likes having an Alfa level car.
You’re right that there’s a relationship, through the 155 to the Fiat Tipo 2 and 3 platforms, but there are, AFAIK, no common components in the platform and the engines were distinctly Alfa versions of Fiat engines, usually with Twin Spark technology on the petrol versions.
But without Fiat, would we still have Alfa?
In the early 2000’s we spent a few weeks in Italy. My rental car was promised to be a 156, with no fine print that I noticed saying “or equivalent”. As the past owner of two 1970’s Alfa’s I was curious to try a modern FWD Alfa. But when I showed up I was given a Fiat Marea, and no amount of negotiating with the counter man would get me an Alfa. But after a few weeks driving on everything from gravel roads to autostradas, I came to really appreciate the Marea’s strengths. Overall much nicer than the Corolla we had at the time back home. I didn’t realize it was the same platform as the 156 so I guess I didn’t miss much.
That interior looks really inviting.
I thought of you a day or two ago as I drove past a dealer that handles Alfa and saw an entire row of those grilles making kissy faces at me. 🙂
Thanks for the clarification, Roger! I was really convinced about the sameness of the engines.
That’s quite nice, seems a perfect car for Colorado, the ground clearance would come in handy, sort of an Alfa Allroad but mit diesel. And an interesting color too. Bummer we’d have to wait seven more years to legally import it. Perhaps your friend will tire of it by then…
Would look at home in the Alps with a ski rack across the top. Needs a matching family in ski parkers heading to the slopes.
Excellent Time Machine.
Unlike VAG who just use the same platforms, the Alfa 156 only shared a floor pan with the Marea. Completely different front and rear suspension with double wishbone set up at both ends on the Alfa.
A diesel engined, manual transmission, all wheel drive wagon in brown.
Congratulations, you’ve just captured the car geek’s Holy Grail.
It looks like a FIAT Croma Mk2!
Maybe visually in form, but the Fiat is noticeably taller, like 2004 Chevy Malibu Maxx to which the Croma was distantly related