The 156 was available in saloon and estate 'Sportwagon' bodystyles with seven engine configurations and it went through two facelifts, first in 2002 and second in 2003.
The 156 saloon was discontinued late in 2005 in Europe, the four-wheel drive Q4 Crosswagon was produced to the end of 2007. The 156 was replaced with 159, which also spawned the Brera, the 2-door coupe that replaces the Alfa Romeo GTV along with its convertible sister the new Spider.
At the beginning the engine range encompassed four cylinder Twin Spark (1.6 L 120PS (88kW), 1.8 L 144PS (106kW) and 2.0 L 155PS (114kW)) 16 valve engines with variable valve timing, along with the straight-4 1.9 litre 8-valve 105PS (77kW) and straight-5 2.4 litre 10-valve 136PS (100kW) JTD common rail turbodiesel engines. Until January 2002, the range-topping engine was the venerable double overhead camshaft 2.5 litre 24-valve Alfa Romeo V6 engine rated at 190PS (140kW).
Initially the 156 range was available with different options (packs) like a sport pack that could include either Blitz clothing , Momo leather interior or Recaro seats, it also included 16 inch wheels, lowered suspension and leather steering wheel and gear knob. There was also available De-Luxe pack with Momo's mahogany steering wheel and gear knob and for Nordic countries special winter pack consisting of fog lights, headlight washers and heated seats.
Starting from 1999 five-speed Selespeed sequential transmission came as an option to 2.0 litre Twin Spark version and four-speed automatic Q-System to 2.5 litre V6 version, the Q-system can be used as normal automatic or shift manually with H-pattern, it has three automatic modes: city, sport and ice.
A significant addition to the 156 range was the Sportwagon estate in 2000, a first attempt at an estate car of this size for the company. Sportwagon was also available with Boge-Nivomat self-levelling hydropneumatic rear suspension. The Sportwagon was marketed as lifestyle estate without large carrying capacity.