The 164 is part of the type 4 project. Three companies, Fiat, Saab and Alfa Romeo collaborated to produce a common floor plan and then each manufacturer went on to develop their own cars, the Saab 9000, the Lancia Thema, the Fiat Croma and the Alfa 164. Development started in the early 1980s before Alfa's take over by Fiat in 1988. The first car to debut was the Lancia Thema in 1985 followed by the Saab and then the Fiat, however with the uncertainty of the Fiat take over of Alfa Romeo and a lack of capital the Alfa 164 was the last car to be released, this was further delayed when Fiat expressed concerns about the finish of the car and these had to be rectified before the release. So when the 164 finally did appear in the spring of 1987, a year and a half after its intended launch date a lot was expected of it.
From its debut, it stood apart from the other type fours, styled by Pininfarina it was dramatically different with clean smooth lines and a stylised Alfa Romeo emblem. The floor pan was longer and wider than the other type fours and both handling and aerodynamics were improved by this change. The car came with the choice of two engines in the UK, the 2 litre twin spark and the 3.0 litre V6, the V6 was upgraded from a V6 12 valve to the V6 24 valve engine. The suspension at the rear is struts with transverse arms reaction rods and an anti-roll bar. The front suspension is very similar to the Alfa 33 or Alfa Sud, it has McPherson struts located by a wide lower wishbone, with the front of the strut angled in front of the hub so that the height of the top of the strut can be lowered which helped with aerodynamics and visibility.
When it was eventually released the Alfa Romeo received widespread acclaim from just about all quarters never before had Alfa Romeo had such a successful large car, Autocar said the 164 was like "a German car with personality" and went on to praise the "superb ride" the "good handling" and "the excellent build quality" all of this must-have seemed incredible to Alfa Romeo after the press criticism of past large Alfa Romeo's.
Driving a 164 is a very pleasant experience, and the 2.0 litre twin spark is almost indestructible and will easily do 200,000 miles, and the 3.0 litre is easily capable of doing 150 mph and will cruise all day at 130+mph. Both models handle in a similar way to a Peugeot 205 GTi i.e. if you go into a corner too fast the car will understeer but by backing off the throttle you can get the car to step the tail out and then balance the car on the throttle to get a perfect four-wheel drift that is very controllable, this is brilliant fun especially in the V6 versions. The interior of the car is very hard wearing and will show no signs of wear even at high mileages, sometimes the electric motors under the seats stick and these need a tap to get them working again but that is the only real fault. By 1994 the Alfa 164 was looking a bit long in the tooth and was revamped getting new bumpers front and rear as well as a new less cluttered centre console, getting rid of the Christmas tree lights on the dash, which was a shame as I quite liked them. The engines were also modified; the 2.0 litre had only slight interior changes, however, the three-litre got new cylinder heads with two extra camshafts and four valves per cylinder which took the top of the range model up to 230 bhp. Looking back at the 164, it is easy to dismiss this car in favour of the much more glamorous two-door models that always seem to steal the limelight, but the 164 really placed Alfa Romeo into the large car market so successfully that its successor, the Alfa 166, never quite lived up to expectations, which is a shame.