Alfa Romeo’s 155 was the first compact executive saloon to be built under the watchful eye of Fiat. Following on from the extremely well balanced rear-wheel drive 75, the 155 made the switch to front-wheel drive – allowing more plentiful parts sharing between the two companies. Initially lambasted by the press for this move, the sharp handling Alfa proved the critics wrong with a dynamic and entertaining chassis. After all, Alfa Romeo engineers had perfected the formula for a fun front-wheel drive fun car way back in 1971 with the introduction of the Alfasud.
The styling was sharp, and much more resolved than the patchwork 75. More importantly, it offered big leaps in build quality and reliability. A duo of four-cylinder engines as well as a V6 were offered and the 155’s success in touring car racing gave it some welcome publicity, although sales numbers remained relatively modest. High performance versions are already sought out by enthusiasts, but the more regular 155 models are in danger of disappearing.
Which Alfa 155 to buy?
The Alfa 155 was launched in the UK with 129bhp 1.8 and 143bhp 2.0-litre 8-valve four-cylinder Twin Spark engines, as well as a range-topping 165bhp 2.5-litre V6. A 190bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine was fitted to the rare Q4, which was essentially a rebodied Lancia Delta Integrale, but this model along with the base 1.7-litre and a duo of diesels were never officially sold in the UK.
UK-spec cars tend to be well-equipped and most had electric windows, air-conditioning and power steering as standard. A limited-edition Silverstone model fitted with the 1.8-litre engine and unique body kit was introduced in 1994.
A comprehensive facelift in 1995 addressed a number of niggling issues with the early cars and the four-cylinder models received a Fiat-derived bottom end with unique Alfa-designed 16-valve head. The V6 was essentially unchanged.
All models got more standard equipment and a wider front track with blistered front arches. Many were fitted with the optional sports pack, further enhancing the looks. The 155 was a dynamic handler, especially in facelifted form with the firmer suspension settings and more resolved front end.
The more numerous four-cylinder models are far easier to find than the V6 and offer nippy performance, the 16-valve facelifted cars got a quicker steering rack and are also livelier at the top end. Don’t discount the earlier pre-facelift cars if in good condition.
If you have a need for a Busso V6 in your life, then a good 2.5-litre is worth searching for. It’s an altogether more muscular car, and although not especially quick these days, a satisfying car to drive at any speed. The handful of imported Q4 turbocharged models do offer strong performance and are already quite collectable but finding one is not easy.
Performance and specs
1992 Alfa Romeo 155 2.5 V6
||2492cc 12-valve SOHC V6
||165bhp @ 5800rpm
||159lb ft @ 4500rpm
||Five-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
|Price when new
Dimensions and weight
Pre-facelift 8-valve Twin Spark engines used cam chains while facelifted 16-valve units moved to a cambelt system. These require replacing every 3-years or 36,000-miles and this generally means new pulleys, tensioners and variators.
The 2.5-litre V6 also uses a cambelt which requires regular replacement and is a labour-intensive exercise. Early cars could overheat due to subpar water pumps and cracked heads are not uncommon.
The gearbox is generally a slick-shifting unit and poses few issues although a clutch change generally requires it to be removed which adds greatly to labour costs.
Facelifted four-cylinder cars had quicker steering racks and a tendency to wander in a straight line can indicate worn bushes and ball joints.
The electrical system was a big improvement over the 75 but it is by no means faultless and you should check all of the buttons and switches to make sure everything is working as it should. Faulty relays and corroded connectors are the biggest culprits.
The bodywork and general fit and finish were worlds apart from the slap dash 75 but rust and faded paint are still a common issue. Check in the usual places such as the footwells, boot and drainage holes for evidence of rust or water ingress.
The interior does not wear terribly well although facelifted cars do tend to weather the years a bit better than the early models.
1992: Alfa Romeo 155 launched to replace aging 75 model. Engines offered are a 129bhp 1.8-litre and 143bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder Twin Spark motor as well as a 164bhp 2.5-litre V6. Diesel models were only offered in Europe. 190bhp turbocharged Q4 model imported in very small numbers and are all LHD.
1994: Silverstone special edition model in either red or black paint scheme was introduced. A unique bodykit was part of the package and the standard 1.8-litre engine was used.
1995: Series 2 facelift model launched with updated engines and wider track. Alarm and immobiliser now standard equipment and optional Sport Pack adds more aggressive spoilers and larger 16-inch alloy wheels. Interior is updated with improved materials and additional equipment across the range. Twin Spark engines receive multi-valve heads and power is up to 140bhp for the 1.8-litre and 150bhp for the 2.0-litre models. Both get quicker steering racks too.
1998: Production ends with approximately 192,000 cars produced globally.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
www.alfaworkshop.co.uk – The Alfa Workshop
www.aroc-uk.com – Alfa Romeo Owners Club
www.the-alfa-romeo-specialist-register.com – Alfa Romeo Register
Summary and prices
The 155 has become rather scarce in recent years, good ones even more so. A clean, facelifted Twin Spark car can be found from around £3500, although there are some older high-mileage projects about for as little as £1500. Returning a 155 to its former glory can be an expensive exercise so we suggest you find one that does not need too much work.
The V6 models tend to command a premium and you will need £4500 for a decent one. Be wary of cars with patchy service histories and signs of a hard life. There are a few imported Q4 turbocharged models about and despite being the most expensive 155 variants, at around £8000, these cars offer a massive saving over the mechanically identical Lancia Delta Integrale and are the ones most likely to appreciate in value in the future. The cheaper models offer plenty of enjoyment too, as long as you take your time and find a good one.