The crucial Alfa Romeo 157 has hit the road in prototype form, two years ahead of its planned launch. Our exclusive spy-footage reveals that the Italians have opted for evolutionary styling rather than a radical step in design.
Although bigger in all major dimensions, the 157 retains the same design themes first seen in the 156 in 1997, but with the steeper nose and deeper grille, first featured on the facelifted Spider and GTV models. Styled by Giugiaro and built over Alfa's new, front- and all-wheel-drive platform, the 157 is expected to go on sale in Europe in early 2005. The saloon comes first, followed by the Sportwagon estate.
Although the 157 is tipped to use GM's all-new alloy V6 engine in 2.8- and 3.2-litre forms, Alfa will overhaul the sixes. For the planned GTA models, engineers are considering a turbocharged V6 or 3.6-litre with 300 HP.
Insiders claim the new suspension - quadrilateral double wishbones and coils at the front and multi-links and coils at the rear - is engineered to deliver improved ride and handling. Alfa developed the Premium platform in Pixbo, Sweden, together with Saab. However, the Swedes have abandoned the new platform, claiming it is too expensive, following pressure by owners GM.
The platform will underpin a raft of Alfas, including its first SUV, the replacement for the Alfa 166 and the new GTV/Spider, as well as the 157. The new saloon is charged with re-launching Alfa Romeo in America in 2007.