Image credits: © Alfa Romeo.

1988 Alfa Romeo 164

In 1987 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Alfa Romeo introduced their 164 four-door sedan. It was a thoroughly modern vehicle and would become the last Alfa Romeo sold in the North American Market. During its production lifespan, 273,857 examples were produced.

Styling was performed by Sergio Pininfarina who had just satisfied design contracts for the new Ferrari Testarossa. The design was created with the aid of computer aided design technology which helped in calculating structural stresses that kept weight to a minimum while retaining strength. It was the first Alfa Romeo to be created with extensive use of computer aided design technology.

The chassis was shared between other marques which kept development costs to a minimum. The Type Four chassis featured front wheel drive configuration and used on the Saab 9000, Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema and Alfa Romeo 164. As a result, designs were similar amongst all vehicles. The Fiat and Lancia were very similar to the Saab. The Alfa Romeo looked the most unique. Other benefits of this collaboration was the intermingling of parts from marque to marque.

The Alfa Romeo 164 was the last of the four to reach the market. It had the most aerodynamic body between the Lancia, Fiat and Saab, with the lowest coefficient of drag.

Alfa Romeo's had always been criticized for having rust issues. To resolve this problem, the 164 was given galvanized steel frames and various body panels. Even with its front wheel drive, it had a sporty persona and impressive performance characteristics. Throughout the years the car would be fitted with a five or six speed manual gearbox, or a four-speed automatic. A variety of engines were used, including an inline four and a V6. The base engine was the 2-liter Twin Spark four-cylinder with two spark plugs per cylinder. The fuel injection system was new, controlled by a Bosch Motronic system. It had a chain-driven DOHC cylinder head and a two-stage valve timing system. A turbocharger on the four-cylinder, derived from the Lancia Thema, included an overboost feature. The turbocharged system was later replaced by a turbocharged V6 engine.

To improve the cars performance even further, the company focused on excellent weight distribution. The battery was placed in the trunk which helped in achieving a 50:50 weight distribution. The car was positioned to challenge the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. As such, it had to be sporty, full of technology, and luxurious. The Alfa 164 featured three onboard computers which controlled the air conditioning, instrumentation, and engine management. The car had automatic climate control and electronically controlled dampening suspension, both of which were very advanced features for its day. With the dampening suspension, the car was able to provide both a sporty ride without compromising on comfort.

A four-wheel drive version was available, dubbed the Q4 Quadrifoglio, and came standard with the 3.0 liter V6 with 24-valves. It was introduced in 1993 and co-developed with an Austrian Company named Steyr-Puch. The power sent to the rear wheels was variable from 0 to 100%, meaning it could be fully front- or rear-wheel drive as the conditions changed.

The Alfa Romeo 164 was a very advanced automobile that was full of technology and designed by one of the greatest designers of all time, Pininfarina. Some of the design cues from the Testarossa made its way into the 164, such as its wedge-shaped profile and three-grooved lines that run down its side. A year after creating the 164, Pininfraina designed the Peugeot 605, which had a strong resemblance to the 164.

The front-wheel drive, four-door sedan continued in production until 1997, after 273,857 examples were produced.

By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2007

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