Alfa Romeo 159

Could Italy's most famous sporty saloon be better than Germany's? Alfa says its 159 - the eagerly anticipated replacement for the 156 - has got what it takes to finally beat the BMW 3-Series; and there is good reason for the firm's optimism.

Alfa has tried several times to make a model to match BMW, but has always fallen short. The new 159 is the company's most thoroughly engineered effort yet, and this time it could do the job - provided the sales and service back-up is there. The 159 is a great-looking, well made car, with both soul and substance - and the V6 Q4 might just be the best Alfa saloon ever.

Could Italy's most famous sporty saloon be better than Germany's? Alfa says its 159 - the eagerly anticipated replacement for the 156 - has got what it takes to finally beat the BMW 3-Series; and there is good reason for the firm's optimism.

Understandably, the 159 looks like a bigger, chunkier 156 - itself a fair success when it was launched. However, the original didn't turn out to be quite the BMW rival hoped for. A beautiful body was no use when the car broke down...

This time, Alfa is promising reliability, and revamping its dealer network to coincide with the 159's UK debut next February. That way, it will get the start it deserves. Top of the range is the 3.2-litre Q4 version driven here. Powered by a 260bhp V6 and four-wheel drive, it has enjoyed the benefit of an intensive test programme at Germany's notorious N

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