The new Alfa 159 Sportwagon, a sporting estate in the best Alfa Romeo tradition, has just gone on sale in the UK, along with 260 bhp V6 Q4 versions of the Alfa Brera, Alfa 159 and 159 Sportwagon.

Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with Alfa Romeo Centro Stile at Arese, Milan, the stylish new Alfa Sportwagon combines genuine estate car practicality with superlative engineering, along with outstanding performance, and handling characteristics appropriate to the pedigree of one of the world’s most famous sporting marques.

The new Alfa Sportwagon shares its platform, as well as both frontal and passenger compartment bodyshell structure with the Alfa 159 saloon – the latter having recently been awarded a maximum 5-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, as well as four stars for child occupant protection – placing the vehicle at the top of its category in terms of passive safety.

The Alfa 159 Sportwagon features an all-new, Alfa Romeo engineered premium floorpan, which incorporates high performance materials, multi-ply sheet metal and laser welding. With an impressive torsional rigidity figure of 135,000 daNm/rad, the bodyshell also benefits from the use of box elements that are rigidly connected both transversely and vertically, three load lines in the front, longitudinal beams that run the entire length of the car, built-in deformable structures and a large number of spot welds around structural nodes.

As well as promoting high performance driving dynamics, this new generation chassis also assures optimum strength and safety, thanks to the use of cutting edge technology, innovative materials and the use of a high percentage of both
high-strength and dual phase steels. The central ‘B’ pillar has three reinforcement levels to protect passengers from side-on collisions, whilst the high-strength steel floor has been designed with three load lines to resist compression, even in high impact, head-on collisions.

Seven versions of the new Alfa 159 Sportwagon, priced from £21,095 to £29,350 on-the-road will be available from launch, with a choice of five powerplants. Three petrol engines – 1.9 litre 160bhp and 2.2 litre 185bhp 4-cylinder units, and a 3.2 litre 260bhp V6 – combine Alfa Romeo’s JTS (Jet Thrust Stoichiometric) direct injection technology with continuously variable valve timing.

With specific power outputs of between 81 and 85 bhp/litre, and almost 90% of maximum torque available at just 2000rpm, all three JTS units boast outstanding performance, yet offer significant fuel savings and readily comply with stringent Euro Stage 4 exhaust emission limits.

The two diesel engine options which complete the launch range exemplify Alfa Romeo’s on-going pre-eminence in the field of diesel technology: a 1.9 litre 16 valve 150bhp 4-cylinder unit, and a 2.4 litre 20 valve 200bhp 5-cylinder powerplant, both of which feature the company’s renowned JTDM (MultiJet) common rail direct injection technology.

Both units also feature variable geometry turbocharging, and incorporate a ‘for life’, maintenance-free particulate trap (DPF) in anticipation of Euro 5 emissions regulations. Alfa Romeo’s widely acclaimed, twin overhead camshaft 1.9 JTDM 16v unit combines a power delivery of 150 bhp with an impressive 236 lb.ft of torque – a figure comparable to that generated by the company’s 24 valve, all-aluminium 3.2 litre JTS V6.

All five engines are mated to smooth, precise 6-speed manual gearboxes. A 6-speed automatic transmission will become available on the 1.9 JTDM Lusso version of the Alfa 159 Sportwagon later in 2006.

3.2 JTS V6 engined versions of the Alfa Brera, 159 and new 159 Sportwagon are equipped, as standard, with Alfa Romeo’s state-of-the-art Q4 permanent four-wheel drive system. Q4 employs three differentials, with a self-locking Torsen C unit at the centre of the system which divides drive torque by a ratio of 57% to the rear wheels and 43% to the front in normal driving conditions. Torque split between front and rear axles is constantly modulated by the central Torsen differential on the basis of available grip, with a bias towards the rear axle promoting handling characteristics appropriate to an Alfa Romeo sports saloon.

The suspension of the new Alfa 159 Sportwagon combines revisions to the proven high double wishbone set-up of the outgoing Alfa 156 with a sophisticated new multilink rear configuration. The combination is designed to deliver smooth, accurate steering response, exceptional stability and controllability – even when close to adhesion limits, and first class body control allied to remarkable comfort over all road surface conditions.

The powerful braking system of the Alfa 159 Sportwagon comprises 305mm ventilated front discs and 278mm solid discs at the rear. Models powered by the 3.2 JTS petrol and 2.4 JTDM turbodiesel engines feature larger, 330mm ventilated discs and Brembo four piston monobloc aluminium callipers at the front, with 292mm ventilated discs at the rear.

In best Alfa Romeo tradition, the Alfa 159 Sportwagon offers direct, lively and responsive speed-sensitive power assisted steering, with a rack requiring just 2.33 turns lock-to-lock; the most direct steering in its class.

Both passive and active safety features are comprehensively represented in the Alfa 159 Sportwagon. In addition to up to eight airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and a fully integrated Fire Prevention System, the new car comes with a comprehensive range of state-of-the-art electronic braking, traction control and stability systems fitted as standard. ABS is combined with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution over all four wheels, and a sophisticated Vehicle Dynamic Control unit enhances cornering stability. VDC is further augmented by ASR to limit wheelspin during acceleration; MSR to modulate braking torque when changing down through the gears, and a unique Hill Holder function to facilitate smooth hill starts.

The sporting lines and compact dimensions of the new Alfa 159 Sportwagon belie a surprisingly spacious, flexible interior. The new car has a wheelbase 105mm longer than its predecessor, significantly improving both front and rear passenger legroom. Moreover, despite being less tall than the Alfa 156 Sportwagon, the new Alfa Romeo offers improved front and rear door access and an increase in interior headroom, particularly in the rear.

Accessed via a full-width, top hinged tailgate, the Alfa 159 Sportwagon offers 445 litres of loadspace below the retractable luggage cover. The 60:40 split/folding rear seat features an integral armrest and ski hatch, and allows for the rapid expansion of the luggage compartment into a robust, practical, flat-floored load platform offering 850 litres of stowage below the window line, and an impressive 1235 litres overall. As with all Alfa Romeo models, driver orientated ergonomics, superior passenger comfort and lavish standard equipment levels are fundamental to the interior design of the new sports estate. The Alfa 159 Sportwagon boasts a generous standard equipment specification offering, even on entry level vehicles, many features only available as expensive options on rival models, including seven airbags, automatic Dual Zone climate control, cruise control, Follow Me Home headlamps, heated, folding electric door mirrors, a multi-function display and trip computer, fog lights, 16" or 17" spoked alloy wheels and an RDS 8-speaker stereo radio with CD player.

Optional equipment includes Tri Zone climate control, xenon headlamps, satellite navigation (either independent or incorporated within CONNECT™), electrically adjustable front seats, a Bose® sound system, and 18" alloy wheels.

Alfa’s innovative CONNECT™ on-line telematics system connects the driver to an extensive range of services via a live phone link to an English speaking operator, as well as including an impressive satellite navigation system. CONNECT™ incorporat
es voice commands with a 6.5" colour display screen, and is complemented by a Dual Band GSM phone with WAP Internet access, satellite navigation and a CD sound system that will play MP3 music files.