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.
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)