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Affordable Prestige

The Alfa Romeo 164 is a true prestige saloon - now at a bargain price!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • Refined and solid feel
  • Well equipped leather interior
  • Distinctive appearance
  • Accessible performance
  • Generally reliable and rust-free
  • Great value
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With so many cheap Japanese imports arriving into Australia you might think there are no other bargains on the second-hand market. Well, here’s a bargain to rival the best of them – and it’s a Euro!

The car you’re seeing is the Alfa Romeo 164. Designed in the late ‘80s to challenge BMW, Peugeot, Volvo and various other mid-size prestige cars, the 164 took Alfa Romeo to new levels of comfort, refinement and build quality. And despite now being 15 years old, the 164 still manages to impress...

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Interestingly, the Alfa 164’s ‘Type 4’ chassis was jointly designed by Saab, Lancia, Fiat and, of course, Alfa Romeo. It remains a very stiff and rigid platform that puts the rickety contemporary local-built cars to shame.

It’s the ideal cocoon for a host of features.

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Built to appeal to the executive market, the 164 interior is fully leather-lined and well integrated. Standard features include power windows and mirrors, central locking, electric seats, electric steel sunroof and a retractable rear blind. The gauge cluster also goes the extra mile with a volt meter and oil pressure gauge. From today’s perspective, the only noticeable absentees are airbags. Oh, and the factory radio/cassette (no CD) is a dead-set age giveaway.

The cabin also provides good accommodation for four adults and the boot is well sized. A ski-port allows you to, well, slide in your skis.

'Pleasant and refined' is the best way to describe the driving experience.

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Lightly squeeze the accelerator when you’re cruising and there’s a solid surge of torque but, if you want all-out performance, you really need to nail the accelerator pedal to the floor to achieve kick-down. (Most 164s were sold as autos.) The engine is very smooth and there’s a subtle exhaust note to help get you revved up.

Under the bonnet lives an all-alloy 3.0 litre transverse V6 with a single cam per bank and Bosch Motronic management. Maximum outputs are 132kW at 5600 rpm and 245Nm at 4000 rpm. Launched off the line, the 164 auto takes just under 10 seconds to reach 100 km/h - but real-world performance is better than this figure would suggest. Top speed is around 210 km/h thanks to a relatively low (0.31) co-efficient of drag.

A 9.0:1 compression ratio means you can get away using normal unleaded fuel. Expect fuel consumption in the vicinity of 12.0 to 13.0 litres per 100km, depending on conditions.

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With 3.0-litre V6 grunt channelled through the front wheels, contemporary motoring journos said the 1470kg Alfa 164 was a torque steerer. We found only slight torque steer during our test – certainly nothing to be concerned about. The all-strut chassis is reassuringly stable. And, as you’d expect, the ride is slightly firm but comfortable.

Alfa’s power-assisted steering is light and lacks on-centre feel, but you quickly get both as soon as you apply some lock. The turning circle is not a strong point.

Four wheel disc brakes (ventilated at the front) come as standard and ABS was an option

Love it or hate it, the Alfa 164 has distinctive looks.

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Designed by Pininfarina, the 164 is sharp-edged and its rear taillights are a unique ‘strip’ design. The front end, however, is universally admired thanks to a prominent Alfa logo and well integrated fog lights. We kinda like the idiosyncratic appearance. Conservative 15 inch alloy wheels with 205/55 tyres come fitted as standard.

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The 164 was sold in Australia from 1989 through until 1993. Our 1989 test 164 (provided by Melbourne’s Beninca Motors) is a well-kept example with 183,000 kilometres, service history and is sticker’d at just AUD$6900 or near offer.

You can barely buy a VN or VP Holden Calais for that!

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Beninca Motors (which is a long-running Alfa specialist) suggests the 164 is very reliable but the head gaskets can deteriorate. Depending on what else needs to be done during repair, this typically costs around $3000 to fix properly. Other items that might need attention are the air-conditioning vent motors, lower suspension bushes and the hydraulic engine mount. As usual, the cam belt should also be replaced at the specified interval.

And what about rust - all Alfas rust, don’t they?

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Well, at the time of the 164's release, Alfa Romeo made a big deal of their use of galvanised panels and various other corrosion-resistance measures. It all seems to work because 164s don’t rust unless they’ve been poorly repaired after a collision. Despite 15 years of use, the 164’s doors also shut reassuringly. There’s no doubting the build quality.

Inside, our test car needed some minor leather rejuvenation, there was the odd plastic trim creak and the ceiling-mounted grab handles were all drooping. Aside from this, there were no cracks and everything continued to work as it should.

The Alfa Romeo 164. If you want luxury, practicality, unique styling and decent performance they are well worth checking out – especially at their current prices.

Why not go for something different?

Alfa 164Q – the Q Ship

From 1991 to 1993, Alfa Romeo also sold a more sporting Quadrifoglio Verde version of the 164. This vehicle is widely known as the 164Q.

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The Q has a subtle body kit, more supportive seats and better looking wheels. Under the bonnet, it also gets revised cams, higher compression (10.0:1) and a high flow intake manifold. This gives a 147kW peak power output along with 265Nm of torque at 5800 and 4400 rpm respectively (a 15kW and 20Nm gain over the conventional 164).

Available only as a 5-speed manual, the Alfa 164Q can rip to 100 km/h in less than 8.0 seconds. Top speed is almost 240 km/h – very quick indeed.

A 164Q in good conditions starts at about AUD$12,000.


Beninca Motors +61 3 9836 1519

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