Modern Art Monday – Wintertime Alfa Romeo 166 V6 Turbo

Alfa Romeo 166. A little flaky?
With the new Dodge Dart making all the headlines whilst sharing a healthy dose of Alfa Romeo mechanicals, it’s time to show a few snowy snaps of an Alfa that has nothing Dodge-y about it. It’s the achingly beautiful flagship, the 166 sedan, launched in 1998. I saw this beautifully blue example keeping its cool on a downtown street on Saturday, and with the frost accumulated on it it’s definitely not just a garage queen. The 2.0-litre V6 Turbo is an Italian specialty, meant for the homeland only for tax bracket reasons – two litres is a cut-off after which taxation rises significantly enough to cause Ferrari to have sold the 208GTB two-litre edition and Volvo to have offered the 850 T-5R as a 2.0l, among other things. Italian taxation is also to blame for the BMW E30 320iS – aka “Italo M3”; the E30 M3 without a widebody and a 2.0-litre engine instead of a 2.3 as usual. The relatively diminutive six is boosted by a turbo to bring power up to a manly enough 205hp, but still keeping the nose lighter than the bigger sixes. When the 166 was unveiled and first tested, CAR Magazine gave the 166 minus points for the 3.0 V6:s bulk up front whilst not quite being satisfied with the basic 2.0TS four, so the 2.0TB V6 should be the ideal choice weight distribution-wise. I’ve no idea whether it was considered a reliable powerplant, other than that Alfa dropped it from the line-up come facelift time. It’s also done time in the FWD GTV of the ’90s. As well as having swam up north all by its own, this car sports an original-looking Alfa bodykit and as-of-yet-unidentified aftermarket wheels (Advanti? Alessio? Stilauto? My brain hurts after too much wheel-googling) that seem to suit it rather smoothly. It’s also lost the Alfa badge on the front shield grille, which is apparently not only a Saab trait. I have deep, yet-unresolved feelings about the sharp-creased 164 that preceded the 166, mostly because I’ve not had a chance to experience its reliability or lack thereof first hand. Same goes for the squinting-but-striking (like a nearsighted Italian supermodel) 166. In dark blue with cream leather (this has dark cloth), stick shift and the frankly unusable-looking audio/satnav interface which incorporates a cassette deck of all things, it would be nigh-irresistible. With a turbo under the hood, that barrier of ultimate quirky cool is breached and it might just become the coolest ten-year-old executive saloon I can imagine. Does this blown 166 whisper convincing half-truths in your ear, or can you call its bluff?

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