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Car reviews - Alfa Romeo - 164 - Luxury Package sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Exhaust note, plenty of space, luxurious interior, responsive engine
Room for improvement
Tendency to torque steer under hard acceleration

25 Apr 2003

THE Alfa Romeo marque has a long, proud history. Enzo Ferrari's first racing team used Alfa Romeo racing cars, years before the great man started his own Scuderia.

During the 1930s the company produced some of the most beautiful and best performing sports cars of all time.

Although, like Ferrari, it was eventually swallowed up by the giant Fiat concern, Alfa Romeo has retained its individuality and continues to produce innovative and attractive sporting sedans.

The 164 sedan was introduced in Australia in 1989. It was a new design and a new concept for Alfa, aimed at the luxury sports sedan market.

The first model was the 164 Luxury Package four-door sedan with two additional models - the 164 four-door sedan with slightly lower equipment specification and the super luxury Quadrifoglio - also proudly sporting the hallmark Alfa Romeo four- leaf clover insignia.

The 164 Luxury Package ran from 1989 to 1992.

Its 3.0-litre, single overhead cam engine is all-alloy with two valves per cylinder and electronic fuel-injection.

The engine is mounted transversely in the frame and drives the front wheels through a four-speed German-made ZF automatic transmission.

The engine has an exciting exhaust note, highlighting the sporting nature of the car.

Suspension is all-independent by MacPherson struts and coil springs and anti-roll bars at the front and rear, with lower control arms at the front and transverse links and trailing arms at the rear.

Hydraulic self-levelling height control is standard.

Steering is by speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion.

Brakes are discs all round, ventilated at the front, with a diagonal split system and anti-lock control. Tyres are 205/55 VR 15 on six-inch rims.

The 164 is a surprisingly large car. With a body designed by Pininfarina, it has rakish lines, the high boot line accentuated by a long bonnet sloping down to the unmistakable Alfa three- element radiator design.

This is a car which can carry five adults in full comfort, with plenty of boot space.

For such a large car, the 164 has a surprisingly low curb weight of 1300kg. Fuel economy is also helped by the extremely low drag coefficient of 0.30.

Inside, the cabin is luxuriously appointed with leather- trimmed seats as standard.

The seats have lumbar adjustment, good side support and electric three-way adjustment.

The forward view from the driver's seat is excellent and the white-on-grey instruments are easy to read. The array of instruments is impressive.

The wiper and turn signal controls are reversed in the European manner but this only requires a short period of adjustment.

The main switch panel located above the sound system is complex with a vast array of switches identified by symbols.

The fuel filler door release button is difficult to locate, being almost out of sight on the steering column.

The equipment level is excellent with air-conditioning, central locking, leather trim, metallic paint, power steering, power windows, quality sound system and sunroof as standard.

On the road, the big Alfa performs up to its reputation. The engine performs well, particularly in the middle to high rev range, and the exhaust note under full acceleration is glorious.

It is a delight to drive on twisting roads, the steering giving the driver full feedback of the road conditions and the firm but comfortable ride providing great control.

The car feels very solid and the handling varies from mild understeer to neutral, depending on the application of power.

The only criticism of the car is the tendency to torque steer under hard acceleration, causing the steering to wander and pull from side to side.

Alfa Romeos require specialised servicing by a recognised dealer or service organisation with a good knowledge of the marque.

These are thoroughbred cars and respond to sensitive treatment.

Avoid the trap of paying your local service station to learn about the quirks of Alfas at your expense.

The Alfa 164 is a wonderful driver's car with a delightfully responsive engine, superb brakes and handling and an impressive equipment level.

As a luxury sedan, it has the looks and breeding to more than hold its own in the prestige field.

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