Now, however, those whose appetite was whetted by the 156 but who wanted something bigger can look to the 166 that's brought an executive model back to Alfa's showrooms. The 166 starts from a clean slate with a new floorpan based on the Lancia Kappa's, stylish four-door sports saloon looks and the kind of attention to build, fit and finish that the brand could only dream about a few years back.
Styled seductively with definite coupe overtones in the car's shape, it's available with a choice of 2.5-litre 190bhp or 3.0-litre 226bhp V6s and a 155bhp 2.0-litre Twin Spark 'four'. We won't get the 2.4-litre common rail turbodiesel - at least for the moment - nor the tax-break 2.0-litre V6 turbo produced for the Italian market, though Alfa hasn't ruled out the possibility of the diesel making an appearance later; it's the same engine that debuts here in the 156 2.4 JTD later this spring.
Three transmissions encompass a five-speed manual for the 2.0 and 2.5, a six-speed manual for the 3.0-litre and the option of Alfa's new Sportronic four-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual sequential shift on both 2.5 and 3.0-litre versions. Alfa hopes the 166 will make significant inroads into the executive sector, and with aggressive pricing, starting at ú23,371 for the 2.0 TS and rising to ú30,470 for the 3.0 V6 Sportronic, it already has a head start on its rivals from BMW, Audi and Volvo. Question is, can the top of the range 3.0-litre Super, tested here, seriously challenge the dominance of the German 'big three' in the highly competitive corporate executive market?