Owner drive: 1996 Alfa Romeo 155 V6 in the UAE
When I was looking out for a manual transmission car, Alfa Romeo was never on my list. Though I knew very little about the brand, I always admired late-model Alfas like the 159 and the Brera. When I went to check out this red car, it was the very first Alfa 155 I was about to see. It was like ‘love at first sight’. A car that looks, sounds and drives like a race car. And for a used price tag of Dhs 10,000, I couldn’t resist the deal. Was the car reliable? Is it hard to find parts? Neither of those questions bothered me at that moment.
The car is serving me reliably without any hiccups. Even in the hottest noon weather, the car drove perfectly normal. And so far, it has not burned a hole in my pocket, though I had to change some parts, which of course, is what you expect of a 20-year-old car.
Even though it’s two decades old, it has creature comforts like climate control a/c which works pretty well even during the hottest summer, unless stuck in traffic for long. Seats are pretty supportive, though it doesn’t hold your body well in a fast corner. Sold as a 5-seater, it can comfortably accommodate 4 people and can add one more person with compromise. The interior all around has quality hard plastics with barely any soft touches, which was typical of Italian cars back then.
At the heart of the 155 lies a potent 163 hp 2.5-litre V6. Alfa enthusiasts — the so-called ‘Alfistis’ — love this engine for its sound and also for being reliable. Taking a peek at the engine with exposed intakes pipes is never boring for an Alfisti. The Italian company was so proud and obsessed with details that it went ahead and chromed the intake pipes. With the words ‘Alfa Romeo’ inscribed in italics along with the chrome detailing, this engine is by far the best-looking V6 engine in a mass-production vehicle. Power delivery and induction noise is great after 4,000 rpm. This engine has been returning me with an average fuel economy of 12.2 litres/100 km in the city, without driving like a maniac.
So far the only major repair I had to do was a water-pump replacement. Then I had to replace a power-steering hose, a couple of fuel injector o-rings and the brake pads. Apart from that, my car goes in for regular oil change at a reputed service station.
Can I call my Alfa reliable? It’s Italian after all. From day one, there is one oil-level warning light staying on which went off on the first oil change and came back two days later. But what is an Alfa Romeo without at least one warning light staying on? They are like humans, never perfect, falling sick sometimes, but whenever they are in good health, they become a mini-Maserati.
It also attracts enthusiasts on the road. I got words of appreciation from many people, with some even interested in buying it. But as long as my Alfa stays out of major trouble, I am planning to keep it. And overall, the drive is fun but the clutch pedal is stiffer than other cars and makes it harder to play with in traffic for long.
The classy look or the brand itself is never a letdown to me. Till date, the car has rolled 173,000 km out of which 13,000 km is from my side. It drives and sounds nothing like sedans you get to buy these days, and without throwing any tantrums, the ownership experience is still great. I don’t mind getting another Alfa Romeo in the future, maybe a 159, which according to Alfisti, is one of the last authentic soul-melting Alfa Romeos out there, if not the best that stands out amongst the usual German premium executive sedans. Oh, if you are into drinking and driving, Alfa Romeo is not for you, since it doesn’t come with cup holders!
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.