Just looking – Alfa Romeo 164 Cloverleaf

There's a new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio on the way. We've found a predecessor with almost as much appeal.

Alfa Romeo has been chaotic in the past. Incompetent, sometimes. Often animated, always passionate, and perpetually admirable. But the word that best describes the launch of the brand new Alfa Romeo Giulia is 'shrewd'.

Shrewd because Alfa has launched the car not with a mid-range diesel, nor a kitted-up, pseudo-sporty petrol model. Instead, it has aimed for the sport saloon market’s jugular with a full 503bhp, a bellicose bodykit, and a CEO who can’t quite resist dropping soundbites about the dull interchangeability of Alfa’s German rivals.

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

Something else stands out amongst these confident attributes – a small, triangular white badge on each front wing, containing a four-leaved clover motif.

Alfa Romeo has used the Cloverleaf badge, now referred to in its native Italian ‘Quadrifoglio’, on several models over the years. Some have been more successful than others. The Giulietta and Mito never quite lived up to promise, but the 145 Cloverleaf was more appealing during a dry spell in the 1990s hot hatch market.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

If one model truly stands out though, it’s the 164 Cloverleaf. Launched in 1990, the Cloverleaf-badged saloon featured Alfa’s now-legendary ‘Busso’ V6 in 3-litre form, a 200bhp power output and, in the hands of evo’s predecessor Performance Car, a 7-second 0-60mph dash – three tenths quicker than the established BMW 525i.

Unfortunately, the suave styling and a sonorous V6 were about the extent of its talents. The 195-section tyres offered limited grip, and the driving position was of the Italianate old-school. And while Alfa had exorcised the hedge-seeking torque steer of early 164s, wheel control and damping were poor, delivering neither adequate traction nor a cosseting ride.

By the mid-1990s, Alfa had tamed many of these complaints. In 1994, Performance Car described its ride quality as ‘respectably supple’, its handling ‘exceptionally agile’ and praising its ‘bags of steering feel’.

It’s safe to assume then that the late-model 1997 Cloverleaf offered by Targa Florio Cars in Chichester (via Classic and Performance Car) is about as good as 164s got. The passage of time certainly hasn’t diminished its aesthetic appeal – on pepper-pot alloy wheels and finished in two-tone Alfa Red and grey, the uncontrived Pininfarina lines are exceptionally handsome.

It’s hard to argue with the rest of the specification, either. The Busso V6 is present and correct, as is a five-speed manual gearbox. The interior is swathed in black leather. It’s only had three owners from new, boasts a full main dealership history and a full year’s MOT.

If you could live with the official 25.6mpg thirst, it’s a car you could feasibly use every day. The V6, if religiously maintained, is reliable, while careful upkeep seems to have spared this car the rot that Alfas were previously known for.

Advertisement - Article continues below

At £10,000 on the dot it’s at the upper end of current 164 prices – the model hasn’t yet begun to appreciate in the manner of older Alfas. But as a usable modern classic, it’s perhaps the perfect car to slot alongside a brand-new Alfa Romeo Giulia in any Alfista’s garage. We just hope Alfa has got the modern car right, straight out of the box.

> Find Alfa Romeos for sale on Classic and Performance Car

Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/alfa-romeo/21322/alfa-romeo-to-launch-new-700bhp-8c-and-600bhp-gtv-coupe
Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo culls sports car programme in wake of FCA merger

11 Nov 2019
Visit/audi/202047/audi-rs-25th-anniversary-package-pays-homage-to-the-rs2-avant
Audi

Audi RS 25th Anniversary package pays homage to the RS2 Avant 

13 Dec 2019
Visit/porsche/porsche-panamera-sport-turismo/202021/2020-porsche-panamera-sport-turismo-spotted-testing
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

2020 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo spotted testing 

6 Dec 2019
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/audi/202047/audi-rs-25th-anniversary-package-pays-homage-to-the-rs2-avant
Audi

Audi RS 25th Anniversary package pays homage to the RS2 Avant 

Special features for RS range mark a quarter century of Audi’s performance division
13 Dec 2019
Visit/mclaren/201626/2020-mclaren-elva-further-details-of-next-ultimate-series-supercar
McLaren

2020 McLaren Elva – further details of next Ultimate Series supercar

No roof? No worries… The McLaren Elva will be the ultimate sun-seeking supercar
12 Dec 2019
Visit/evo-car-of-the-year/202042/ecoty-2019-evo-car-of-the-year-preview
evo Car of the Year

eCoty 2019: evo Car of the Year preview

Our annual evo Car of the Year test is coming, in print and online
13 Dec 2019
Visit/hyundai/i30-n-hatchback/201775/hyundai-i30-n-versus-hyundai-i30-tcr
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 N versus Hyundai i30 TCR

Can Dickie Meaden beat Steve Sutcliffe in a straight(ish) race? We sent them to the Circuit Nuvolari with a pair of Hyundai i30 Ns to find out.
20 Sep 2019