A Photo For Saturday: 1995 Alfa Romeo 155 2.0 16V Super

A disappointment when new and thoroughly unloved now, Driven to Write examines a Alfa well past its best.

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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. 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:

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “A Photo For Saturday: 1995 Alfa Romeo 155 2.0 16V Super”

    1. The styling theme for the 155 appears to have been rooted in that of Ermanno Cressoni’s 75 and stillborn Tipo 156 twins, which could be said to have been his revenge for Fiat’s decision to choose the Pininfarina/Fumia scheme for the 164 over his own concepts. Certainly, there appears to be no attempt to continue with Farina’s visual theme. Cressoni was well placed to decide – being head of Fiat’s Centro Stile by then, but the styling for 155 not only appears to be inspired by Alfa’s 1980’s aesthetic, it bears an uncanny resemblance to Reliant’s 1984 Scimitar SS1 in its handling of shutlines and body swages.

      I remember the keen sense of disappointment I felt upon seeing a 155 for the first time, especially on the heels of the elegant 164 body style. It always appeared too tall and narrow – the result of its Fiat Tipo-derived platform. The immediate success of the Tipo 932 Alfa 156 that replaced it demonstrating that attractive styling sells cars.

      A question I’ve often posed is whether IDEA were only good at rather severe rationalist design or whether Cressoni’s styling briefs were too restrictive? Given that his own preference was for rather brutalist architecture, perhaps it was the latter. Either way, I’ve never been much of a fan of the IDEA Institute’s work and I view the 155 as a low water mark.

    2. I concur. Even during Ercole Spada’s tenure, IDEA somehow failed to come up with anything inspiring. Back then, my younger self was wondering about the merits of IDEA’s work that compelled Fiat to hire their services time and again: were they geniuses of packaging? Were they particularly deft hands with ‘efficient’ production techniques?
      Despite Bertone only being good for the odd sparkling moment every few years and Giugiaro being happy to remain in autopilot mode during significant stretches of the 1990s, IDEA seemed to define creative economy. So was it intended as a case of self-deprecating sarcasm when Italdesign presented the Fiat Idea to the board?

  1. The 155 (and the 146 even more) never touched my heart. It has no sporty touch or – at least – some quirky details outside or inside. It is just another version of the Tempra – a version that could be easiier built as a paper folded model car…

    Sbarro (not known for creating many good looking cars) made an Estate-version for the 155 – and he succeeded in giving the 155 a more elegant shape. Not a very difficult task….

  2. I had the V6 model, and in many respects it was a terrible car. But it was also quite satisfying to drive, with that glorious engine being the centrepiece. After a couple of years I bought a 156 TwinSpark and ran the two together for a year or so. The eldest one was always broken, despite religious servicing and money-no-object repairs. So the 156 did most of the miles. But what it improved on over the old car, it kind of lost in feeling. I’d walk out onto the drive each morning with both keys in my hand, and if I wanted to have some fun, it was always the 155. If I wanted to visit the garage every couple of months for yet another four-figure invoice, it was also the 155. In the end, I had to let it go. It had all the build quality of a pavlova. It stank of petrol. It sucked thousands out of my bank account. I still miss that stupid car.

    1. What a terrible dichotomy: fun versus bankbusting costs. The surprise is that the 156 was so much less fun to drive. I would not have expected that.
      The Sbarro car is another surprise. Sbarro have made a fleet of monsters over the years and then turn out this alright looking car which is just a car and not also a hovercraft or mobile re-upholstering machine. How did that burst of sanity ever occur? And why wasn´t there an estate 155 anyway? It would not have cost much to produce.

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