Alfa 164 compared to Saab 9000. Form before function.

In 1987 Alfa launched the new 164. A straggler of the project, which consisted of Saab 9000, Lancia Thema and Fiat Croma. The Alfa targeted the same group of buyers as the Saab. The self-employed, freelancers and artists were happy to help. Reason enough for a comparison test. And it quickly becomes clear that the Italian must have been the nightmare for every engineer at Saab.

Alfa Romeo compared to the Saab 9000 Turbo
Alfa Romeo compared to the Saab 9000 Turbo

The comparison test is somewhat unfair. The first two thirds of the film were shot in black and white, so the beauty of the Alfa Romeo doesn't even come into its own. Only with the 9000 CC Turbo do the pictures become colorful, the editors can confidently assume that they are intentional. The Saab salespeople the movie was meant for could have been weak. But what their attention should be paid to are just the hard facts.

similarities and differences

The Swedes mercilessly dissect all the weaknesses of the 164. A beautiful vehicle, of course! A modern but safe! But then the shortcomings in processing and operation come up. The seats are not perfect, the trunk is too small, the Alfa too cramped. In fact, if you turn the Italian on its side, you can see the front end of the car, the chassis of which is identical in Lancia, Saab and Alfa. Opinions were ultimately divided on the rear axle, and it was the beginning of the end of the collaboration.

The Italians rely on a split axle, Saab on the proven rigid axle. Opinions differed widely; joint test drives ended unanimously to the advantage for Saab. But Lancia's marketing department sensed an imposition in the rigid axis, which was considered primitive. An absurdity. Under no circumstances communicable to potential buyers of the noble Italian brand. Point. The end of a joint project management.

Apart from that, the Alfa shines with defects in details and bizarre features. Unprotected brake lines and open cables on sharp edges are a no-go for Swedish security fanatics. Just like the rubber cover on the underbody, which reliably collects dirt and moisture. Or the strange center console of the Alfa, which is so beautiful and modern, but which requires at least one pair of glasses or an eagle's eye to operate the 22 equally shaped keys.

Form before function. Alfa focuses on design.

Stopover. Of course, there are worlds between Saab and Alfa. Differences as great as the distance between Milan and Trollhättan. A center console! In Italy it is more than just a center console. It was a highlight in the Alfa in 1987. Spectacular, very modern and a design object. In the Italian tradition. A nation that can get the dashboard of a vehicle from Mario BelliniHaving one of her great architects draw feels different from the Swedes. For the Lancia Trevi Bellini designed the cockpit in the 80s. The car itself is rightly forgotten today. Bellini's work was a sculpture.

Sensational, something completely different. What no one had dared to do before. Avant-garde cast in black plastic. Unfortunately not to use, rightly torn by journalists, and out of place in a car. But Bellini's spectacular experiment of the 80s emphatically demonstrates the banality of our present. In which consumers are satisfied with tapping on uniform displays and also believing that this is progress.

The dashboard of the Alfa Romeo is based on design, just like the whole car. The Alfa 164 is already beautiful when it is stationary. In 1987 it was perceived as modern and dynamic. In terms of ergonomics, it is a disaster. But no Alfa buyer asked about it.

Function before form. Saab relies on reason.

Despite its common origins, the Saab 9000 is the perfect alternative to the Alfa 164. Thought out down to the last detail, sober down to the smallest screw. Of course, the Saab is the better car. It's easier to maintain, has a more spacious interior, modern technology and flexibility that the Alfa Romeo doesn't have. From today's point of view it seems strange that both vehicles served the same group of buyers. But it was like that. The 164 was the last big Alfa that could seriously score. In addition to the successful design, it was its engines, and first and foremost the great six-cylinder. Saab engineers were themselves the sound of the engines expire, and with them many fans around the world.

If I were asked which vehicle I would prefer, the choice would be clear. The Alfa 164 for the days in life when the espresso smells particularly good and the antipasti taste seductive. These days when the sun smiles at me and life shines infinitely and wonderfully. I would choose the Saab to drive it to the end of the world. A companion for eternity that never lets you down.

Images: FCA / Alfa Romeo (4)

7 thoughts on "Alfa 164 compared to Saab 9000. Form before function."

  • Thumbs up for both! Alfa and Saab are still very special characters that you can no longer find today!

  • I confess that I am looking for a Saab 900 turbo, but at the same time I am Italian and have been driving Porsche for more than 40 years, never the latest, (but no water boxers à la 996) but Porsche always Porsche!

    Now for the 164, I have one. Year of construction 1996, 2.0 TS in alfa Rosso with black leather and 17 ″ borbet. The box is really pure design (for me, I'm an architect). Until 1992/93 I think the driving behavior was questionable, after which Alfa revised the VA construction.
    The last years of construction 96/97 made it clear that Alfa Romeo was also able to build great cars.

    The trunk may be small in contrast to the 9000, I think it's huge. But hey, I also drive old Porsches, because you can be blinded by a relatively small (compared to the 9000) trunk.

    The Arese V6 at that time was already awesome optically, a revelation in terms of sound and is now a reason to despair => ET supply in detail and in particular.

    My other Italian is a Giulia v. 76 with a 2.1 and a good 150 very lively Cavalli.

    If someone here broods about a 164, mine is available.

    Justification so I want a 900 turbo and with currently four cars one has to leave me before another can / may come.

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  • Another very interesting report, thank you

  • should mean:
    "Much more reasonable but not mainstream"
    The Alfa just robbed me of my concentration ... (:

  • ... .. had the opportunity to test drive the 164 back then, it was just sexy!
    The shape, the cool, but not very practical, interior design. The seating position, let's say it takes getting used to.
    Anyone who knew the Alfas from back then could handle it. And only the 6 cylinder engine: optically a piece of cream. The sound of enjoyment and a lot of power, especially when wet, overwhelmed the front-wheel drive.
    All in all, a car for the Italian moments in life, as Tom wrote.
    Individual and yet not mainstream, my choice fell on a Saab again.
    But even today, next to my old Saab, there is a Giulia from 1966 in the garage.

  • Such a crap …

    Now I wanted to implement Jörg Fricke's suggestion and make a 101% saabish comment, and again the blogger is thinking outside the box and has praise for the Alfa too ...

    May I now also write that the engine is very pretty, I like the light band at the rear and think the criticism of the center console voiced in the film is overdone?

    Sure, 22 keys sounds a lot, but the arrangement is logical. For example, fan levels that increase from the left (1) to the right. The console is manageable and the saying, form before function, also resonates with the design and charm of the Alfas. The bottom line is that the film is fair and balanced.

    For me personally, it is only the facelift and the second stage of development of the 2K that finally and clearly outperforms the 9. What does Jörg Fricke think about it? I hope this comment was sufficiently saabig?

  • Cleverly staged. The Alfa is still the car of the heart, the Saab the better choice. If I found a good Alfa 164 or 9000 Turbo today, which is unlikely, the decision would be a little more complicated.

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