Rare Rides: The 1994 Alfa Romeo 164, Saab-adjacent Sedan

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1994 alfa romeo 164 saab adjacent sedan

Rare Rides has featured many an Alfa Romeo previously, spanning several decades from the Fifties to present day. Among all the featured cars from the illustrious marque, only one was a sedan.

That figure grows to two today with the lovely, stylish, and luxurious 164.

The 164 was Alfa Romeo’s flagship sedan, and a replacement for the rather dated Alfa 6 which was in production since 1979. The rear-drive 6 saw its last model year in 1986, as the much more modern and front-drive 164 was ready for ’87.

In development since 1978, the 164 was part of a four-company joint effort to produce a safe, stylish, and luxurious executive car for the world market. Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Saab signed a cooperative agreement and developed the Type Four platform. Said platform produced today’s 164, the Lancia Thema featured here previously, the Fiat Croma, and the car with which our readers are most likely familiar, the Saab 9000.

The manufacturers pooled their resources to create a flexible sedan that could take on not only mass-market competition from Ford and Opel/Vauxhall but also luxury offerings like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and 5-Series. By the time the 164 debuted, formerly independent Alfa was a part of the Fiat group. It was the last of the four cars to enter production, and maintained the most unique styling: The other cars shared door panels, but the Alfa got its own. 164 was also the first Alfa to use considerable input from computers in its design, for real computer-aided passion in a pre-internet sense.

The 164’s angular, lovely lines and heckblende were shaped by Enrico Fumia at Pininfarina, who would go on to design the Nineties GTV and Maserati 3200GT. Engines ranged from a 2.0-liter Twin Spark inline-four to a 3.0-liter V6 of Alfa Romeo’s own design. In the middle were a 2.0 turbocharged Fiat engine, and a 2.0 turbocharged V6 from Alfa. Economy-minded customers could have a 2.5-liter diesel from Sofim, which was primarily used in Renault vans. Transmissions on offer were four-speed if automatic, and five or six speeds if manual. Though the vast majority of 164s were front-drive, Alfa introduced an all-wheel-drive Q4 version later in its run, with a drive system developed by Steyr-Puch. Q4s could send up to 100 percent of power to the rear wheels if necessary, and all were equipped with the 3.0-liter V6.

In North America, the 164’s breadth was a bit more limited. All examples had the 3.0 V6 engine, available in 210 horsepower in the base LS trim, or 230 horses in the S. Ailing as a domestic offering, the 164 was the final product offering of Alfa North America in 1995. At that point, the brand went dormant on this continent until the arrival of the 8C circa 2008. Elsewhere, the 164 continued in production through 1998. It was replaced by the less successful and less good-looking 166.

Today’s Rare Ride hails from 1994 and is a black-on-black example with an automatic. With 80,000 miles it asks $8,995 which is quite dear.

[Images: Alfa Romeo]

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  • Featherston Featherston on Apr 15, 2021

    There's a Wheeler Dealers episode on one of these that, I'm inferring, some of you would like watching, if you haven't already: www.motortrendondemand.com/detail/1991-alfa-romeo-164l/108979/

  • Zarba Zarba on Apr 15, 2021

    I had a 1995 164 Quadrifoglio (hence my avatar), the last of the breed. Loved, loved LOVED that car, but the maintenance and repairs ate me alive. I won't list them all here, but... It's an interference engine design, and the DOHC heads (on the '94 and '95 models) had a bad habit of eating the teeth off the timing belt. When that happened to me, it was a $6,800 rebuild. 24 bent valves is no fun at all. Like any good Italian mistress, the 164 is a beauty what will leave you shattered and penniless; and you'll be glad for it. I was happy to have it, and happier to see it go to the next victim.

  • Chuck Norton I don't see anything wrong with the name. It's an impressive little motor-and despite the fact that it has been hammered on every vehicle forum-including this one it seems to be gaining market acceptance.
  • Spookiness Other non-US markets get the Forte5 "liftback" version of this. That would be a perfect size for me and I'd consider it if it were available. I think they're good looking and good value.
  • 28-Cars-Later We have arrived.
  • MrIcky Unimogs
  • Parkave231 On the one hand, I always thought that TriPower was a horrible name for the L3B engine (and LSY, although I don't recall seeing that name applied in practice), especially since one of the three technologies reduces said power (AFM). Of all the historic GM names to bring back...On the other hand, TurboMAX is a horrible replacement name. Turbo-Quad4? (Yes, I know it's not.) FleetFour? (Seemingly target market?) FourReal?