Alfa Romeo V6… The best engine ever?

GTA 3.2 V6 Busso

The banter around which manufacturer created the best mass production motor is hot amongst the motoring community. No one is ever right, and let’s face it, bias always trumps in the hotly contested top trumps of ‘mine is bigger and better than yours’. However, out the mist emerges a certain degree of consensus amongst those who know a thing or two in the motoring tribes in which we so committedly invest a lot of money and passion.
The ‘most passion’ tribe with one of the best engines is none other than version 2 of Alfa Romeo’s infamous V6 platform. The V6 first roared into the hearts of Alfistis in 1979 and was around for a 26 year period until 2005. During this time, the engine underwent a number of iterative developments, with the most notable being the design of the final 24v DOHC 2.5; 3.0 and 3.2 V6s derivatives.

I personally owned a 2000 156 2.5 V6, a car that I fell in love with every time I dropped a cog and depressed the clutch. I didn’t think that the engine was that good initially, but as time marched on, I fell for the engine like Jacob Zuma falls over numbers and his ineloquent political discourse. One cannot describe the sound that comes out of it. No, not Zuma…the V6 lump. The sound is one that puts a grin on your face, a ring in your ear and melts your heart. To be quite blunt, if you don’t like the engine then not only are you four-fifths troglodyte, but also a heartless son of a Busso…

Alfa Romeo 156 2.5 V6 24v

Like all great engines, it’s not the power that defines its greatness, it’s the experience. The V6 had quite a strange power delivery in that it felt remarkably like a two stroke in the way its powerband was delivered. Peak torque came in at (180 – 300 N.m.) 5 500 rpm and peak power (140 – 186 kW) at 6 300 rpm. Let that sink in quickly, a 800 rpm surge of Busso power rolling through the front wheels.

You may hear me speak of Busso – Busso was derived from the Italian Ferrari and Alfa technical designer, Giuseppe Busso, who was responsible for some of Ferrari’s best racing engines. If that’s not accolade enough, then I don’t know what is…

Enzo Ferrari overseeing Gioacchino Colombo, Giuseppe Busso and Luigi Bazzi at work

Starting off with a deep, rough burble and singing all the way up to a chest pumping roar, the sound, the experience, and the combination of wonder at how the gearbox has been so beautifully mated and matched to the 60? V6 powerplant really does amaze one, especially in today’s age of turbocharging. The engine redefined what it meant to have an engine who’s looks define heart. If you don’t know what I’m speaking about then have a glance at the incredible, slightly misaligned chrome inlet pipes, with a gorgeous detailing of the engines credentials on the inlet manifold resting just above the upper bank of the V.

Note the chrome inlet pipes

In terms of tuning, these engines were bulletproof. The proof was in the pudding when Autodelta, a specialised Alfa tuning company, managed to bore the engine, quite comfortably I must add, to 3.7 litres. The incredibly invasive produce on what is essentially the heart of Italian motoring passion allowed for over 231 kW and more than 380 N.m of torque to be hustled out of the V6.

3.7-litre “Busso” V6 tuned by Autodelta

I could go on and on about this engine, but at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. The engine won Engine of the Year in 2000, proving that even at the time it was a force to be reckoned with. The basis of the engine might have been around for more than 30-years but believe me when I say that very few engines, with the exception of Toyota’s 2JZ, Honda’s F20C and BMW’s S85 V10, have come anywhere near the level of incredulity as the iconic Busso.

Honda F20C

BMW S85

 

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