1991 Alfa Romeo 164
6-cyl. 2959cc/183hp PFI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
In 1987, Alfa Romeo entered the performance luxury sedan market in Europe with the 164, competing directly against the same German marques that essentially established the genre. This attractive Pininfarina-penned 4-door shared a front-wheel-drive platform with Fiat, Lancia, and Saab, and was the last car produced by Alfa prior to its assimilation into the Fiat empire.
Although the 164 was the product of corporate cooperation between four industry giants, it maintained a personality and charm befitting of an Alfa. Part of the car’s distinct identity was due to a unique Alfa-only front suspension that gave Pininfarina more design freedom. The rest of the 164’s “Alfa-ness” was thanks to the car’s range of engines. Upon its introduction, engine choices included a 2-liter DOHC I-4 in normally aspirated and turbocharged variants, a 2.5-liter SOHC turbo diesel I-4, and a 3-liter V-6.
Alfa brought the 164 to American shores in 1991, and all of those cars were equipped with the beautiful 3.-0-liter motor. This engine, with its exposed intake tubing, was as satisfying to drive as it was to look at and in SOHC 12-valve form was rated at 183 horsepower in the base and "L" versions and 200 horsepower in the "S" cars in the US. Later DOHC 24-valve "LS" models had 210 horsepower and the few Quadrifoglio models that made their way to America had 225 horsepower.
The small dealer network in the US struggled to attract the public’s attention, and many 164s experienced trouble with the ZF automatic transaxles, which proved to be ill-suited to the motor. By 1995, Alfa had pulled up stakes in the United States, after only 6,909 164s had been imported.
As is typical with an Alfa Romeo, the wonderful sensations that are prompted by the 164's exhaust note, performance and handling cancome at a cost. Common problems on 164's are rust on earlier cars (even though all cars were galvanized), failing plastic gears in the HVAC vent system, and the occasional unprompted head gasket failure. These items along with the need for a timing belt every 30,000 miles can add up to a demanding car to own. Typically, the car’s excitement far outweighs the car’s demands. Familiar advice such as buying the best you can afford and looking for cars with verifiable and reputable service history are helpful to remember when looking for an Alfa 164.