Big Alfa should have

done better

THE early 2000s saw some incredibly good large cars on the market, but one which I firmly believe was much underrated was the Alfa Romeo 166.

This was the big executive car that was to bury the old gripe that larger Alfas were overly expensive to keep on the road and unreliable.

It was given a pre-launch boost by the celebrated 156 model which stated in no uncertain terms that Alfa build quality was in the fast lane to compete against BMW and Audi.

And to me, the 166 was a superb car. I drove a few of them in varying road conditions, including, on the far north of Scotland's shoreline, a rare horizontal hybrid snow/sand storm.

But in the UK at the time there was a tremendous thirst for German premium cars and the big Alfa was, I feel, unfairly pushed out of the popularity spotlights.

It was a truly beautiful car with a troubled childhood having been almost signed off for production at the end of 1994.

The problem was that at that time Alfa Romeo sales were flagging, and the project was put back in order that the brand could concentrate on the launch of the 156 model which was a better financial bet.

The 166 finally drove into British showrooms in 1999 and many in the media agreed on its stunning looks.

There was a choice of three engines in the UK, a 2.0-litre Twin Spark, a 2.5-litre V6 and that most respected Alfa engine, the 3.0-litre V6.

There was no diesel version available in the UK and the decision not to upgrade the 3.0-litre version to comply with Euro IV emissions regulations meant that in 2005 the 166 came to the end of the road on these shores.

Its styling was beyond compare but rear seat passengers did not enjoy the best of legroom. But for the driver, this car was a dream of a drive.

As long as it was looked after a 166 remained generally reliable but was hit hard by galloping depreciation.

As such it became a darling of the used car market. Because sales were never in the whirlwind league it became fairly, rare and enjoyed something of a used car exclusivity in its golden years.

With multi-link rear suspension this car set benchmarks for handling and the steering was superbly sensitive.

Not the cheapest car to run or maintain, the 166 nevertheless, stands out as a prime example of a fine car that should have done better.

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