The 166 saloon range is Alfa's prestige flagship, the successor to the 164 (after a gap of two years) and competing in the same sector as Audi A6, BMW 5-series, Volvo S80, Jaguar S-type, Rover 75 and Mercedes-Benz E-class. Against rivals of that calibre, Alfa's top number had to be exceptionally well put together, well-equipped and sensibly priced, as there still hangs over the marque the pall of previous years of questionable build quality and unquestionably miserable resale values. Sporting heritage, styling flair and great engines saved the Italian car maker from a fate worse than Lancia: there's still strong demand for an Alfa Romeo.
Later than originally planned because the company decided its new standard bearer wasn't quite ready to go head to head with prestige Germans, Swedes and Midlanders, the 166 went on sale in the UK at the beginning of 1999. And Alfa kept things simple: three engines, reasonable standard equipment, narrow trim choice, and on-the-road prices from ú23,376 to ú30,475. The catalogue reads 2.0 Twin Spark, 2.5 V6, 2.5 V6 Sportronic, 3.0 V6, 3.0 V6 Super, 3.0 V6 Sportronic. No estate, no diesel, no high performance models...yet.
All come with a one-year, unlimited mileage manufacturer's warranty covering parts, material and labour, followed by two years' dealer back-up for most mechanical and electrical components up to 60,000 miles. Body panel paintwork is guaranteed for 36 months from the date of registration and the body panels themselves are guaranteed against internal corrosion perforation for eight years.