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The Alfa 159 represents the state of the art where passive safety is concerned, thanks to the new chassis and the other sophisticated devices that equip the new saloon. Plus the excellent braking system, Xenon headlights and generous tyres which guarantee the highest levels of active and preventive safety.

A new chassis for exceptional torsional rigidity

The chassis of the Alfa 159 is of a new generation, which combines the latest European experience in the fields of safety, rigidity, innovative materials and quality. The new "premium" floorpan is built with high performance materials, multiply sheet metal and laser welding. From the viewpoint of the architecture, the bodyshell also benefits from numerous measures such as the use of boxed elements that are rigidly connected transversely and vertically, three load lines in the front, longitudinals that run the whole length of the car, built-in structures and a larger number of spot welds around structural nodes. The result is the bodyshell's excellent torsional rigidity, the best in this segment: over 180,000 daNm/rad.

This is an excellent result, and it is essential for both safety and comfort; it was achieved thanks to numerous measures that ensure that the passenger compartment of the new model is a real survival cell. It is no chance that the Alfa 159 has passed the tests set by the strictest criteria of European and U.S. standards.

Airbags and new restraint systems

The Alfa 159 features innovative restraint systems (pretensioners on the clasp and decreasing load limiters on the seat belts) and front seats with an "anti-whiplash" device which brings the head restraint nearer to the occupant's neck in the event of rear impact. But the new model really stands out for its array of airbags: all versions of the Alfa 159 are available with up to eight airbags (seven are always standard equipment). First of all, two new devices designed to protect the driver's knees (and those of the passenger on request), by preventing any contact with the facia, guaranteeing the highest safety levels.

Added to this are two dual stage front airbags, for the driver (with a capacity of 60 litres) and the passenger (120 litres). They are controlled by an electronic control unit on the tunnel, which assesses the intensity of the impact by sensors calibrated in the laboratory in a series of crash tests.

The system incorporates a diagnostic system that verifies the components electronically, and these are tested by a computer that monitors their operation constantly. The airbags are not activated by low intensity accidents (such as a rear bump or one caused by a parking manoeuvre) or stress not caused by a collision (e.g. a hole in the road taken at speed).

Alfa Romeo 159
Alfa Romeo 159
Alfa Romeo 159
Alfa Romeo 159
Alfa Romeo 159

The front passenger bag can be deactivated manually by a switch at the extreme left side of the facia using the ignition key, to allow a child seat to be mounted facing backwards (the pretensioner remains active). To protect the pelvis and chest of front seat passengers in a side-on collision, the Alfa 159 provides two sidebags built into the squab of the front seats, where they protect the occupants better, regardless of their stature, position or seat adjustment. The geometry also allows a 12 litre cushion to be used, smaller than would be necessary to guarantee the same level of protection if the airbag were mounted in the door. The sensors that activate these airbags are in the central pillars. In the event of an accident, they receive a signal of lateral acceleration and send it to the electronic control unit that controls the front airbags and seat belt pretensioners. All the systems are managed together to ensure total, smooth protection of all the occupants.

The Alfa 159 also fits curtain bags designed to inflate downwards along the windows, to protect occupants' heads in a side-on collision. The curtain bags adopted on the new model are more protective than other systems because they inflate faster and are less invasive for passengers. They open from the top down and their movement cannot cause secondary injury to the occupants' arms. They also effectively protect the heads of both front and rear passengers because they cover the whole window and guarantee protection even if the car overturns. The two bags (one for the left and one for the right) are positioned underneath the roof longitudinals, folded into a closed compartment. At the opportune moment, the cover folds, allowing the bags to inflate and descend. The new model also features a mechanism that releases the pedals in a frontal impact, to protect the legs.

Bi-Xenon headlights

Excellent visibility by day and at night and in tunnels is an important aspect of preventive safety. On request, the Alfa 159 can be equipped with Xenon full and dipped beam headlights, which emit a brighter, whiter light, with excellent efficiency in all atmospheric conditions. In a gas discharge lamp, the filament of the conventional bulb is replaced by two electrodes a few millimetres apart, which generate an electro-voltaic discharge in an environment saturated with low pressure Xenon. These lamps provide three times the luminous intensity and lifespan of normal halogen lamps.

Braking system

The power-assisted hydraulic braking system is the most competitive in its class and upholds Alfa Romeo tradition in this field. It comprises two cross-over independent circuits, and is particularly effective, guaranteeing prompt, smooth braking combined with minimal stopping distances: 36 m to decelerate from 100 Km/h to 0. The most powerful versions mount 330 mm ventilated discs, and aluminium callipers with four pistons on the front wheels, and 292 mm ventilated discs with floating callipers on the rear wheels.

Tyres and pressure sensor

The Alfa 159's excellent behaviour on the road is also the effect of the tyres which achieve the best balance between handling and comfort. To guarantee a controlled slip on corners, combined with an excellent capacity to absorb obstacles, the Alfa Romeo engineers and suppliers have developed special larger tyres, up to 235/45 R 18. Not only, but the Alfa 159 also features a tyre pressure sensor that signals any anomalies by a beep and a telltale on the display.

Text & Photos: Alfa Romeo