A disappointment when new and thoroughly unloved now, Driven to Write examines an Alfa well past its best.
The 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 marked the end of rear wheel drive for its maker. The car improved upon the much-loved and little-sold Alfa Romeo 75 by carving out more interior space and having a bigger boot but in other respects was an inferior car. The dynamics of the car left a lot to be desired. The 75 had its gear box in the rear and had near perfect 50:50 weight distribution. For all its faults, the 75 in all its guises handled well.
The 155 managed to be worse than the Tipo it was based on. The suspension allowed a lot of body roll and oddly, Alfa Romeo said this was deliberate, harking back to the way its 1960s cars behaved. As if anyone remembered or cared. The 155 sold poorly and needed remedial help.
For 1995 Alfa Romeo widened the track (meaning a new set of front wings) and improved the steering rack to reduce the ratio (by which I mean it was a quicker rack). The interior stayed the same which didn’t help. I always felt this car’s cabin was coarse. Anyone in a Mondeo or Vectra or Laguna – anything really- was getting a better place to sit than the few Alfa diehards who opted for this car.
Brightwork: I can’t stop talking about it. The IDEA Institute designed the 155 along with the Lancia Kappa and a few other Fiats of the same time. They all miss a crucial amount of brightwork. The 155 ought to have been a handsome and somewhat rich-looking car. Instead it looks like the son-of-Tipo that it actually is. Only the charming “Super” badge offers any romance at all. In these photos it looks unfinished.
While overall it’s rather a pleasing-looking car, it’s also hard to like unless it’s in good condition and fitted with a twin-spark engine. Some brightwork around the side-glass might have helped to endear this car to customers. The Alfa 75 didn’t have much either so it would have helped distinguish the new from the old car.
This example is on its last legs. Rust is everywhere. I expect it is going to be run until the vehicle test certificate expires and then it will be driven off to a scrap yard with few tears shed. Comparable mid-90s Mondeos, Vectras and Lagunas all look fresher than this car. I know because there are loads of them about. It says a lot about Alfa at this time that their second best car lasted so poorly.
Further reading on Alfa Romeo’s styling history here: