The Alfa Romeo 164 (Type 164) is an executive car with saloon body, produced by the Italian automaker Alfa Romeo from 1987 to 1998.
The 164 was re-badged as the 168 for the Hong Kong and Malaysian markets, as the number "164" had a very negative connotation (In Chinese it is a homophone to "一路死" — all the way to death), and "168" has quite the opposite ("一路發" — all the way to prosperity).
First unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show, the 164 could be considered the first of the "new generation" of Alfa Romeos. It was the last model to be developed while the marque was still independent (although it was launched a few months after the purchase of the company by Fiat), and was most notably the first large front-wheel drive Alfa. The 164 was essential to Fiat's plan to relaunch Alfa Romeo as a prestige car brand after the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The 164 was the last Alfa saloon to be sold in the North American market, where only the 3.0 L V6 was offered (12-valve from 1991 to 1993, 24-valve from 1994 to 1995).
It was quite successful in Europe, attracting keen drivers who wanted an affordable and reliable sports saloon as an alternative to the German offerings of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
In Australia the Q variants of the 164 have become popular among collectors due to the limited number originally sold there.
The 164 was discontinued and replaced by the Alfa Romeo 166 in 1998. 273,857 had been produced.
The Alfa Romeo 164 was styled at Pininfarina in 1982, shortly after completing the Ferrari Testarossa. The 164 can be seen to share several styling design ideas with the Ferrari expressed as a four-door saloon. In concern for heritage, the design is also the logical extension and successor of the Alfetta, particularly the late-model "long nose, square light".
The 164 was the first Alfa to feature extensive use of computer aided design for calculating structural stresses, resulting in a very rigid but still relatively lightweight body. The 164 was the basis of the Type Four platform, which it shares with Lancia Thema, Fiat Croma and Saab 9000. Being the last to reach the market, the 164's bodyshell was the most aerodynamic of the four, and had a markedly sleeker profile and lower coefficient of drag. In order to permit this design variation, an exclusive front suspension was developed.
The 164 was the first of the "new technology" Alfa Romeos, and is the technological and styling basis of all Alfas to the present day.
The 164 also introduced dramatically improved build quality over previous Alfas, featuring galvanised steel frame and various body panels for the first time, ending the most common complaint by Alfa customers about rust problems encountered in older models such as the Alfasud and the GTV.
Even though some purists feared of loss of character due to the adoption of front-wheel drive for the first time in an Alfa top-line saloon, the car proved itself as a comfortable and sure-footed car, with a distinctively sporting character, inline with the marque's tradition. In fact, the motorpress of the day found its only fault to be some torque steer, particularly in earlier versions.
Equipped with the most complex wiring loom of any Alfa Romeo, the 164 was designed to compete in the executive car segment dominated by the German cars.It offered better value for money in terms of technology (having three onboard computers, one for air conditioning, one for instrumentation, and one for engine management; air conditioning and instrument functions shared a multiple-mode coded Z-80-class microcontroller for dashboard functioning). Air-direction within the ventilation system was controlled by a pair of servomechanisms, which were constructed using notoriously fragile plastic gears and were prone to failure; possible high part costs are alleviated by the commonality of these parts with the 166. At least one aftermarket company has also developed metal replacement gears which eliminates the breakage issue.
The car had some very advanced features for its day, such as automatic climate control and electronically controlled damping suspension (in the top-line Cloverleaf models and 164S). This suspension actively reduced damping in response to conditions to provide a dynamic compromise between road holding and comfort. The 164 also boasted engines rated among the best in the industry at the time, and the
Alfa Romeo 164 Q4
In 1993 Alfa introduced a four wheel drive variant called the Q4 (short for Quadrifoglio 4), which was equipped with an even more powerful version of the 3.0L V6 engine. The Q4 four-wheel-drive system (Viscomatic) was co-developed with the Austrian company Steyr-Puch.The system was very advanced when compared to other 4WD systems at that time. The system consisted of a viscous coupling unit, central epicyclic differential and Torsen differential in the rear. The whole system is connected to ABS and Motronic units. The power driven to the rear axle is continuously variable from 0 to 100%, so the car can be fully front- or rear-wheel-drive as conditions require. Torque is distributed between axles depending on the speed, turning radius, engine rpms, throttle position and ABS parametrics. This model was equipped with a Getrag 6-speed manual gearbox.
The 164's development was by far the most demanding of any car manufactured by Alfa Romeo, and set the standard by which other European manufacturers would be measured.
- Initial testing of the 164's dynamic elements began in 1984, where Giuliettas where used as test mules for engines and drivetrain. Initial handling bugs were ironed out on the factory's test track in Arese.
- In 1985, the first pre-production 164's were put through their paces on the road. Heavily disguised, with many false panels and even a false nose design (borrowing heavily from the then equally undeveloped 155), sporting 4 round headlamps, these vehicle mules served to test the 164 for the gruelling 1 million kilometre static and road testing demanded of the design.
- In 1986 and 1987, the first 150 164's were given their pre-production testing. In terms of engineering demands, these exceeded every Alfa before, and by quite a substantial margin.
- In Morocco, desert testing saw 5 grey 164 Twinsparks and V6's undergo the equivalent of the Paris-Dakar rally. Road conditions varied from good tarmac to off-road conditions, and accelerometers confirmed the superiority of the 164 in terms of passenger comfort. This data was cross-confirmed in the engineering laboratory with a sophisticated dummy in the driver's seat, with accelerometers both in its seat, and in its ears to mimic that of the semi-circular canals of the ear.
- The Twinspark and the V6 underwent handling trials at Arese. The Twinspark displayed very mature driving manners at the limit, with minimal skid. The V6 displayed a 25% increase in at-the-limit skid, a natural consequence of its greater nose weight.
- ABS testing confirmed that the Twinspark has superior braking to the V6. Brake linings of the 164's were run at maximum braking until they literally glowed with heat, and displayed no deviation in form. The 164 was the first Alfa to feature slotted double-walled disc brakes. At no point were the discs drilled to release excess heat, the original design being demonstrated to be excellent.
- Acceleration testing confirmed the V6 was the superior performer in terms of speed. In line with Alfa Romeo's remarkable ability to get all cars to achieve their speedometer maximum point, 164's were tested to their design maximum — 240 km/h (150 mph). All achieved them, though the Twinspark displays reluctance to exceed 205 km/h (127 mph), and achieved 240 very slowly. The V6 achieved it easily, and maintained it, thus demonstrating Alfa's legendary performance.
- Sound production was tested in an anechoic chamber, the car being subjected to stress and road noise testing, with instruments and with live subjects at the wheel, on a specially designed rig.
- Electromagnetic stability of the complex electronic system was also tested, in an anechoic chamber equipped with EM emitters (radar).
- The 164 engines were run to destruction, the Twinspark proving to be the most robust, and with the longest possible engine life. The V6 displayed only 10% shorter overall engine life.
Pininfarina's last design effort prior to the 164 was the Ferrari Testarossa. The design ideas present in the Testarossa were developed in the 164 within the brief of a four-door saloon. Examples of this include the wedge-profile which is reminiscent of the Testarossa, and the three grooved cheat lines running down the side of the 164's false door-panels and bumpers recall the air intake strakes, and the processed lip of these panels also recall the stylistic separation of elements of the Ferrari.
The wedged notch running down the length of the vehicle is a unique and striking design feature, which helped earn the 164 a unique place in automotive styling annals. It is often described as the most important and greatest example of styling for the year of its introduction, 1987.
The 164 has also been described as a more significant, though no less important departure for Alfa as the well known 'Monstro', the Alfa Romeo SZ of 1988.
Styled by Pininfarina, the 164's exterior bore a more than a passing resemblance to the Peugeot 605, launched a year later, and also styled by Pininfarina. This is particularly apparent in the wedge-shaped body and in the longitudinal groove along the side of both cars. However, individual stylistic treatment given by features such as the integration of the traditional Alfa triangular grille, elongated in the hood, and the full-width rear light cluster distinguished the 164 from its French counterpart.
The 164's styling cues have been carried over to contemporary late-series 33s, and to the 155, and the aerodynamic wedge shape introduced in the 164 remains a visible design feature in all subsequent Alfa Romeos into the present day.
The base 164 engine was the 2.0 L Twin Spark I4 engine with two spark plugs per cylinder. Apart from that, this engine was also notable for having a two-stage valve timing system (before Honda's famous VTEC), and an induction valve blade-type system, aimed at improving low-end torque.
The block of the Twin Spark was the same 2.0 L that had been a part of Alfa's road and race car history since the 1930s. This was intended to give buyers a strong sense of heritage, as well as a significant advantage in terms of reliability. New to the engine was the introduction of fuel injection, controlled by a Bosch Motronic system.
A very sophisticated engine, with a traditional Alfa chain-driven DOHC cylinder head, a single cooling fan and generator belt, drastically improved reliability and reduced parasitic friction. The battery of all 164s is placed in the trunk to achieve a close 50:50 weight distribution.
Next was a turbocharged 2.0 L 8-valve engine, derived from the Lancia Thema i.e. Turbo, and including an overboost feature (this was later replaced by a turbocharged V6 in some markets).
The top-line engine was the 3.0 L "Arese" V6 designed by Giuseppe Busso originally for the Alfa 6.
Initially it was of the older 12v design but was later revised to 24 valves for the QV model.
The 3.0 L 24 valve V6 was also used to power the four-wheel drive Q4 variant.
For some markets, a turbocharged 2.0 L V6 was developed, based from the 3.0 L engine with reduced displacement and a very sophisticated engine management system from Bosch.
Finally, there was also a turbodiesel version with an engine sourced from the Italian engine maker VM Motori. Rated at 125 PS (92 kW), even this weakest version was capable to propel the 164 past the 200 km/h (124 mph) mark. This was the fastest diesel saloon in those days.
164 Pro-Car and concept cars
The 164 served as the basis of the all-wheel drive Alfa Romeo Proteo. The 164 also served as the basis of the Italdesign Scighera supercar concept — interestingly, only the engine output was uprated, the majority of the car's underpinnings, and even its interior being shared with the 164 without significant change.
The Alfa Romeo 164 Pro-Car made in 1988 was a 3.5L V10 mid-engined racing car. The Alfa Romeo V10 engine was originally planned to be used for Ligier Formula One cars and produced 620 bhp (462 kW; 629 PS) at 13300 rpm and 39 kg·m (380 N·m; 280 lb·ft) of torque at 9500 rpm. Weighting only 750 kg (1,653 lb) the 164 Pro-Car achieved a top speed of 340 km/h (211 mph) and went quarter of a mile (~400 m) in only 9.7 seconds. It was planned to race in a special racing series (as a support event to Formula One Grands Prix). Alfa was only manufacturer who made a car for this series before it was canceled. Only one chassis with an Alfa Romeo V10 was built by Motor Racing Developments Ltd., the company behind the Brabham Formula One team, which was owned by Alfa Romeo at the time.