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Would you rather have a 94/95 with the 210 horsepower 24v engine, BUT it's an automatic. Or would you rather have an earlier model with the less powerful 180ish HP engine but you get a manual transmission?

This seems to be my dilemma. I can find 164s with a manual transmission, but they are all earlier models with the less powerful engine. And I can find 94/95's with the upgraded engine, but they are all automatics.

For what it's worth, I am not really an enthusiast driver, though I aspire to become one. I've only ever owned cars with an automatic transmission, but everyone says manuals are more fun to drive and it seems like the Alfa Romeo 164 is a special car and would be fun to drive if a manual. Still, these cars seem so hard to come by that I realize it might be pointless to be picky about things besides quality and maintenance history
I'm perhaps a little late to the party, but we owned a 85,000 mile '94 164LS ZF automatic w 3.0 24v for the past 4 years and can at least speak about the experience..

In our case, an automatic was a 'given' because my wife asked for one. I had no idea whether a manual was rare or not when I went shopping. Found ours on eBay in AZ, and bought it for $3,500. The LS was recommended by my good friend RexCars here, based on his length of experience with both the early and later series. I had the 3.0 upgraded with a Squadra chip and Q-spec intake runners before I even took possession of the lovely thing. Could that have been 240hp?

To me, our 164LS was well suited to its automatic, being a large 'executive' sedan in a sedate Champagne colored metallic. The way I drove it, as an interesting daily driver that my wife could enjoy too, was not diminished by it having an automatic. I did not drive it "for sport", but the ZF automatic's 'Sport' mode was effective, it raised the upshift and downshift points enough to make a difference, and it handled really well for a front wheel drive.

So from a start, the engine has enough torque, and enough revs to accelerate assertively. The exhaust is tuned for a civilized experience, but can still give a decent note at higher rpms. Most definitely a fantastic highway cruiser. An early experience that made an impression was taking my family of 5 on a daytrip to the Adirondacks, getting on the Northway, slowly increasing our speed to 100+mph, and leaving it there for a long time... all the while my family noticed not a thing. Wind noise is very well controlled. Road feel and balance was excellent.

Here is a video I made of our 164LS, sort of an 'intro' to the model. There are some sections where you can see and hear how the automatic behaves.
Ciao,
- Art

 

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Don’t part with it if you can still drive it! Bad knee aches when I drive GTV6 but not ready to sell so I got a second GTV6 instead ?
 

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I had a 2011 Jaguar XJL 5.0 s/c, 470hp so it was incredibly fast, loved it, and other than the ability to get immediately to 120mph, the ‘93 164L was just as good. And better than the Stelvio I have now.

uh-oh, I am getting that funny 164 itch that wants to be scratched again...alfavirus...no cure
 

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Oh, the Jag had a 1200w Bowers and Wilkens stereo. That part was Mind Blowing! Listening to Quadrophenia on that...wow
 

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Hi, I may be late in this conversation, but may I say, welcome to my world. Please to read you like the wedge shape.
I once had a chick say to me, what an ugly car, so not all people like them. The chick, well, not the best looking model herself. This aside, I think 24v auto is way to go. Motronic engine management, Coil over Plug (COP) with Bosch components, very reliable. Forget earlier 12v if you have choice for equivalent 24v. With the auto, i take Nth America got the ZF 4 speed. ZF boxes are in many vehicles,BMW, Audi, Merc, very reliable. In the normal shift, it is a sedate sedan with moderate downshifting on acel and decel , switch into sports, it becomes an angry beast. Different transmission shift points come into play, on hard acceleration, be aware of 3rd to 2nd downshift, torque steer requires firm grip on steering wheel as it is wild. Really makes you smile hard. Now as for revving out, will hammer round to near redline before changing again.Then the downshifting on decel, incredible engine braking offered in this process, reducing your braking input.
With auto, regular auto servicing is a must, Check the condition of trans oil, wipe level stick on white tissue, check if oil is translucent / red colour, not a dirty brown, this indicates clutch plates may be wearing. Also smell oil, if burnt smell present, sign of wear also.
Being an older tradesman mechanic, i am fortunate to love working on my 164, I can also relate to why mechanics avoid
working on this type of car.
Any way, hope you find a good car, attached pictures of a road driven many time in sports mode varying degrees of gradient with many turns. The auto transmission loved it!
Matt
 

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S and L 12 valve engines develop almost identical torque, no surprise really since bmep is pretty much a function of volumetric efficiency: valve area, duration and lift, and tolerated compression ratio. The L is tuned to develop peak torque at slightly lower rpm than the S. The S has slightly higher compression ratio and larger intake runners but really only develops extra hp at the very top of the rpm range where you hardly ever go in street driving. The big difference in performance is due to the different and shorter final drive ratio in the S transmission. No S automatic I believe. The L is much the better drivetrain for street use.

The 24 valve is just a different beast. Four valve heads use pent roof combustion chambers for reasons of valve geometry, area, lift and duration which all differed from the two valve heads. Higher volumetric efficiency results pretty much entirely from the added valve area.

So you get significantly better torque from the four valve heads which in turn improves the performance with an automatic. However, the ZF four speed was never a smart transmission the way the six and eight speeds are. Neither was a five speed that the 164 could have really benefitted from but was just not available. The ZF six speed was a revelation when it reached the market in 2007. ZF apparently never bothered to make a transverse 6 or 8 speed automatic.
 

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Discussion Starter #47
Thanks again for the replies everyone, certainly gives me a lot to think about. So I spoke to both of the sellers for the automatic with 99k miles and the manual with 135k....based on the conversations it seems like the manual would be better for me, aside from it being 1700 miles away. Owner said first owner always had it serviced at the dealer and then with a mechanic who opened up his own shop after the alfa dealership finally closed down. Since then it was sold to current owner and he said he has done most of the work himself including changing the timing belt, tensioner, spark plugs and a bunch of other stuff. Talked to me on the phone for quite a while, seemed like a genuine guy.

The automatic, which is actually listed for more and has less miles, seems to need more work. Mechanic said it was not running when they got it, they've put about 2 grand into it, he said they put in some volkswagen parts for something that failed? Also said it's mostly repaired except that the main thing it needs is a timing belt tensioner. He said the belt is new and fine, but it needs a tensioner, and they are sick of working on it and want to sell as is.

So to me it definitely seems like the higher mileage manual would be better for me, plus it has a nice leather interior and is the L as opposed to the base model. If by some miracle I end up heading out west and purchasing this car I'll be sure to update and post photos on this forum. It looks great just could use a paint job. The owner said he just changed the belt and tensioner 5,000 miles ago and wouldn't hesitate to drive it across the country. Not sure I'd put 1700 miles on it, would probably ship it at least some of the way, but he seemed quite confident
 

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Both 12v and 24v engines are great. 12v has slightly better throttle response but more torque steel and is still powerful enough, if it is a choice between manual or automatic. Automatic Alfa? What's the point of that?
If you are good at working on cars and prepared to sort the things that go wrong/quirks not sorted by previous owners then go for which ever version you prefer. If you expect it to be an easy car to maintain, just fuel up and go, you are mistaken. These are reliable but they need to be looked after properly and some parts can be expensive. If you judge the expense of parts based on the vaule of the car you are never going to enjoy owning one.
Personally, I decided on the type of 164 I wanted then spent six months trying to get it. Never regretted it for a moment.
Good luck.
 

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When I took my first drive in a 164 in 94, my wife said that it was the first Alfa in a few years which really put an ear to ear grin on my face. It was a 91S with 40k miles on it, evidently owned by an Alfa rep in Florida, brought to the Seattle area by a local VW/Saab dealer who loved Alfas, picking them up around the country coming off of lease. After buying it it 94, it has been a great DD ever since. Still never get tired of having a reasonable go in it, even at ~192k miles on it. Engine has never been out, or heads off. Just keeps running, but yes, you do need to keep it looked after, and clean.
 

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Discussion Starter #50
When I took my first drive in a 164 in 94, my wife said that it was the first Alfa in a few years which really put an ear to ear grin on my face. It was a 91S with 40k miles on it, evidently owned by an Alfa rep in Florida, brought to the Seattle area by a local VW/Saab dealer who loved Alfas, picking them up around the country coming off of lease. After buying it it 94, it has been a great DD ever since. Still never get tired of having a reasonable go in it, even at ~192k miles on it. Engine has never been out, or heads off. Just keeps running, but yes, you do need to keep it looked after, and clean.
That's good to know you're still able to use yours as a daily driver! I would like to be able to use mine as DD for at least part of the year. I generally only put 10 to 15k on my cars per year but realistically I don't even think I'd put that much on mine. The one I'm most heavily looking at is the 135k miles one. Owner says he's done a lot of work and it runs great, so I trust him, if anything I'm probably more worried about suspension than anything given I'm in the midwest and our roads are not maintained very well here. But then again I figure these are Italian cars probably designed to run for a while on crappy cobblestone European roads so maybe it won't be so bad
 

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There's a nice example of one for sale near Toronto for around $5000 CDN (so around $3700 u.s.) that has had just about everything done. You can look it up on Kijiji-Toronto-Alfa Romeo 164. Shop carefully and enjoy.
Sotto voce...its' the one I bought yesterday on a whim!
 

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Mine is used as a daily driver and has been for its entire life. I don't drive it every day but I could. Indeed, using it once per week is harder on the car than using it every day. It always starts, first time, no matter what the weather unless the battery fails which it has done three times in 29 years of daily driving. The first such failure was while the car was conveniently at my mechanic's for an oil change. He called me to report this strange event. When I told him that the battery was the factory original, then 11 years in continuous service, I met with disbelief. The next battery also factory spec AC Delco lasted 10 more years. The third died at 7 years but of those the last two saw the car used only once per week or so. Lack of use is bad for these cars (and hard on the battery) so using these as a daily driver is a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter #53
Good to hear these are quite reliable, I'm pretty much set on buying this manual very soon. And if it's in as good a shape as the owner says, I might just drive it home with is nearly 2,000 miles. Regardless there is one other factor I had not considered that I'm now worried about. I was watching an old Top Gear video on youtube in which they review an Alfa 164 and the host complains that because of the sleek Alfa styling, there is a loss of headroom. I'm about 6'2"...am I going to be able to fit comfortably in this thing? Obviously I would rather just sit in one here before I travel to buy one/look at one, but that might not be possible. I'm thinking that if the car is going to be too cramped for me that maybe I should look for something else, comfort is a big factor for me
 

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Should be fine unless it has LS seats swapped for the originals. The LS seats sit a bit higher on their lowest setting.

You do want to be sure the seat switches all work, at least on the driver's side. If the seat is stuck up or forward, you are not going to be comfortable and may not even be able to get in.

If it doesn't have a sun roof, there will be more headroom. Also, the (extremely rare) real Recaro seat option gives more headroom too.

I'm 6'3", so I understand about headroom. My LS has the real Recaros. Bought a parts car to get 'em.
 

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Good to hear these are quite reliable, I'm pretty much set on buying this manual very soon. And if it's in as good a shape as the owner says, I might just drive it home with is nearly 2,000 miles. Regardless there is one other factor I had not considered that I'm now worried about. I was watching an old Top Gear video on youtube in which they review an Alfa 164 and the host complains that because of the sleek Alfa styling, there is a loss of headroom. I'm about 6'2"...am I going to be able to fit comfortably in this thing? Obviously I would rather just sit in one here before I travel to buy one/look at one, but that might not be possible. I'm thinking that if the car is going to be too cramped for me that maybe I should look for something else, comfort is a big factor for me
Check https://www.automobile-catalog.com/car/1991/216620/alfa_romeo_164.html for "full specifications" about the Alfa Romeo 164. In my case the recently purchased 164L indicates headroom of 38.2" (970mm), which I gather is from seat bottom to liner. The seller was in your same height range, and he had no issues with clearance. I'm just under 6' and there's plenty of head space (?!:p:cool:). No real answer for you other than maybe thinking of changing driving style (i.e. recline a bit).
 

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Head room is a major issue with the 164. I'm only 6ft but long in the torso and my hair touches the headliner when seated in the passenger seat. My driver's seat was lowered half an inch by removal of some spacers under the seat rails. The dealer did that for free, pre sale, because the lack of headroom was a deal breaker. The cause is the styling. If you look at photos of the SAAB 9000, FIAT Croma and Lancia Thema versions of this car you can see the four doors are identical across these three models. Not so the 164, the windshield was raked steeper and accordingly the roofline was flattened and the upper doorframes squashed down so the 164 door outline is unique out of the four cars based on the same platform. A big mistake imho but it was for styling reasons. The Pininfarina design is very similar to their Peugeot 405 of the same era. Same issue and the 405 was an even smaller car.

No sunroof would give a bit more room although how much more depends on exactly where you end up in the seat travel. Almost all the B trim had no sunroof but there were very few B trim cars. All the L and S came with a steel sunroof.

Before you buy one make sure you can fit in and drive it. Recaro seat version was better but a rare option. The seat base does drop as you move it back to fit your legs to the pedals, which are closer than North Americans prefer, giving a knees up driving position good for the back and for car control, and the steering wheel is a long way forward and tilted Italian style. I drive the 164 accordingly, seat well back and hands on the wheel at 8 and 4, not 10 and 2, not even 9 and 3, too far away if my legs and torso are comfortable. I like driving in that position though. Many do not. You cannot overhand steer and generally speaking Italians do not, they shuffle which is safer actually and gives you better car control. Once you get used to the normal Italian driving position it feels normal and the more common North American position starts to feel weird. Italians sit as in a bucket allowing the seat to do most of the work holding you in place. Then your feet don't even need to be on the floor and your grip on the steering wheel can be very light as is best for accurate car control.
 

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I still see people almost crammed up against the steering wheel, so to speak, esp old granny types. Doesn't make for safe driving, in my book. Having short legs, I keep my arms bent at about a 30-40 degree angle at the elbow. Seat set low and steering wheel also low to eclipse the top of the instruments. Seems to be comfy and can turn the wheel a fair amount very quickly, as compared to having the wheel closer to the chest. Lol, good friend of ours is an ok driver, but he drives with just one hand at the very bottom of the wheel, thus he is constantly rotating the wheel back and forth a little, resulting in weaving back and forth a little as he drives down the road. Drives us nuts.

We drive mostly with two hands, although if I drive with one, it is the left one, with the elbow resting on the door to hold things steady. Could never get used to putting the hands at the 8 and 4 positions (the elbows tend to end up too close to the torso/chest in tight turns, plus shuffling does tend to take more time. I like using the more typical 9:30 and 2:30 positions (resting my thumbs on the horn buttons in the 164 for instant use if needed).

But that's just us. Different people have different styles.
 

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Discussion Starter #58
Before you buy one make sure you can fit in and drive it. Recaro seat version was better but a rare option. The seat base does drop as you move it back to fit your legs to the pedals, which are closer than North Americans prefer, giving a knees up driving position good for the back and for car control, and the steering wheel is a long way forward and tilted Italian style. I drive the 164 accordingly, seat well back and hands on the wheel at 8 and 4, not 10 and 2, not even 9 and 3, too far away if my legs and torso are comfortable. I like driving in that position though. Many do not. You cannot overhand steer and generally speaking Italians do not, they shuffle which is safer actually and gives you better car control. Once you get used to the normal Italian driving position it feels normal and the more common North American position starts to feel weird. Italians sit as in a bucket allowing the seat to do most of the work holding you in place. Then your feet don't even need to be on the floor and your grip on the steering wheel can be very light as is best for accurate car control.
Yeah, I can't say I've experimented much with driving styles as I've primarily driven large American sedans (panther platform). Usually though whether in that car or any other car I tend to move the seat back as far as possible, and if seat controls allow it, I lower the rear of the seat as much as possible and raise up the front of the seat. Kind of like a lounge position or what was at one time called the "Detroit lean". In my grand marquis my head is usually behind or directly adjacent to the B Pillar when I drive. Hopefully I can find one nearby to sit in to find out if it's worth going 2,000 miles away to buy one. Thinking I might need to do more research instead of buying one quickly. I absolutely adore the styling of these Alfas and I would be crushed if I couldn't fit comfortably inside one lol
 

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You haven't mentioned where you live, or maybe I just missed it. If in the Puget Sound area, you would be welcome to try sitting in one of my 164s, and I'd take you out for a drive, virus restrictions permitting, of course. Would probably have to wait on that.
 

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Lots of years ago I took my Alfa Sud to a local race track as a bit of a practice session before embarking on racing it. The very first lap I scared myself silly as coming over a hill on a fast sweeper I found that I was struggling to deal with the cornering load on the steering wheel because I was sitting back too far, looking cool. Since then I've sat more vertical and less cool, but the focus is on being able to drive the car properly.

Every time somebody uses my cars I always find the seat has been moved way back. Now admittedly I'm not tall and legs are short. I suspect that I have returned to sitting too far away from the steering wheel with the 156v6 as it is many years since I have turned a wheel in anger, although I did do some laps of a race track recently but we were in a parade lap situation so could not really get into it, and she has power steering
Pete
 
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