Unfairly shunned by luxury car buyers when new, the Alfa 166 is now fast approaching collectors' car status, especially when equipped with the revered "Busso" V6 engine. So it's an excellent time to discover five things you probably didn't know about Alfa Romeo's last flagship saloon.
Alfa Romeo has built almost everything in its long history yet has never quite managed to establish itself as a serious player in the executive car segment. Apart from the brilliant 164, which sold in well over a quarter of a million copies, all other attempts from Alfa Romeo to lure executive buyers away from the competition have only produced also-rans that hardly compensated the company's investments.
It's therefore hardly a surprise that Alfa Romeo's last flagship to date, the 166, quietly ended its run in 2007 without being replaced. Unfairly shunned by luxury car buyers when new, the Alfa 166 is now fast approaching collectors' car status, especially when equipped with the revered "Busso" V6 engine. So it's an excellent time to discover five things you probably didn't know about Alfa Romeo's last flagship saloon.
Few will deny that the 166 is a handsome automobile. Yet, upon its introduction in 1998, Alfa's newest saloon did not receive the unanimous approval the 156 had gotten a year earlier. Compared to its smaller sister, the 166 looked a bit like yesterday's news, especially at the front.
In a 2017 interview, former Alfa Romeo design director Walter De Silva revealed that the 166 that made production wasn't the one he actually wanted but instead stems from an older design proposal he had been forced to reprise by Fiat's top management.
The Alfa Romeo 166 shared its platform with the Lancia Kappa, and both models were manufactured on the same site, the Fiat factory of Rivalta, near Turin, which was inaugurated back in 1967.
However, following the end of car production at the Rivalta site in 2002, the Alfa 166 line was transferred 10 Km away to Fiat's historic Mirafiori plant. There, production continued on a shared line with the Lancia Thesis until 2007.
The GTA that never was Rumors about a still-born 166 GTA have been spreading within Alfisti circles for almost two decades now, with Q4 all-wheel-drive, turbo V6, or even V8 engines routinely mentioned on forums and social media.
While researching for my next book project, I've had the chance to speak with someone that, at the time, occupied a top product development position within the Fiat Group. Given such a chance, I couldn't resist asking about the Alfa 166 GTA that never was.
It may sound underwhelming to many, but although a 166 GTA was considered, following the 156 and 147's success, it was shelved before any serious development work started. In the management's view, a GTA version of the 166 went against the luxury vibe of the model.
Days of future past In January 2003, Alfa Romeo presented a trim level for the 166 directly aimed at fleet buyers. Called "Route," and available exclusively with the 2.4 liters turbodiesel five-cylinder, it came with a GSM mobile phone and CD-Rom based satellite navigation system as standard.
Undercover in China
The story of the Alfa 166 took an unexpected turn after production ended in 2007, as the Chinese automaker GAC bought the tooling for the platform and used it as a base for the Trumpchi GA5 saloon, introduced in 2010 at the Guangzhou Auto Show. The first model to bear the Trumpchi brand, the GA5 remained in production until 2018.