The Alfa Romeo 164 was in production from 1987 to 1998. Styled by Pininfarina, it was available only as a four-door saloon with 4-5 seats. A first for Alfa Romeo in the executive market, it is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive car with excellent luggage capacity.
The Alfa Romeo 164 was launched in 1988, the last car from the Type Four project which also begat the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema and SAAB 9000. It was available as a 2.0 Twin Spark four-cylinder or a 3.0 V6, each in base or Lusso trim.
In 1991 Alfa Romeo launched the Quadrifoglio Verde, or Green Cloverleaf model, popularly called the 164 QV or 164 Cloverleaf. The car used a tuned version of the 3.0 V6 now giving 200bhp, and came as standard with a bodykit that accentuated the car’s sharp lines.
In 1993 the 164 received a mild facelift, and the new Super model was launched above the Lusso. The Alfa Romeo 164 Super had larger, bolder bumpers as well as a higher level of standard specification, and was available with both the 2.0 Twin Spark and 3.0 V6 engine. All models had a mildly updated dashboard and slightly different lighting front and rear. The Q4 4wd model was also launched in 1993, but never sold in the UK. This came with a six-speed manual gearbox, and was otherwise similar to the Cloverleaf 24v.
The Alfa Romeo 164 was replaced in 1998 with the 166. It proved to be quite popular with 273,407 produced, almost 158,000 of which were the 2.0TS. Another 45,000 were the 2.5-litre diesel, never sold in the UK.
The Alfa Romeo 164 uses two different engines: The Twin Spark four-cylinder developed for the car and the Busso V6 -– in 3.0 form in the UK. The V6 was also available in a higher state of tune, in the 164 QV or Cloverleaf model. Both 2.0 Twin Spark and 3.0 V6 were available with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic driving the front wheels.
There aren’t many saloons that drive as well as a nicely sorted 164. The handling might tend toward understeer but it’s very slight, with positive steering, a good gearbox, and the most beautiful of engine notes when you put your foot down. The seats are beautiful and comfortable in equal measure, and unlike most of its rivals it feels genuinely special.
It’s usual for the cars to show pitting around the door mirrors, the metal from which they are made is a light alloy which corrodes easily once the paint has been broken. There’s not much on a 164 to rust; the shell is part galvanised and so they prove quite rot resistant, but check around the door seals and the sunroof in particular. Drains and wheelarches can suffer on particularly poor examples. Also, the LCD displays on the dashboard often give up -– a working display is a rare thing.
Mechanically, both engines are time-served in scores of Alfa products, so spares and service items should be easy to source for years to come. Likewise the ZF automatic gearboxes and Alfa’s own manuals; parts and replacements are easily sourced.
The Alfa 164 QV, or Cloverleaf, is the model that most buyers want. There’s a difference of opinion as to which is best -- the 24v is faster, but the 12v has a more usable torque curve. The rare Q4 model is highly prized if one can be found.
The Lancia Thema is the 164’s closest rival -– the same chassis and plenty of Italian style. Also try the SAAB 9000, the Mercedes-Benz E Class W124, the BMW 5 Series E34, and the Ford Granada Scorpio. The Vauxhall Senator makes an intriguing competitor, but it lacks the same flair as the Alfa.