Upon its release, the BMW E30 M3 set a new standard for sports sedans. And like many other European manufacturers, Alfa Romeo wanted to compete with it. Unfortunately, the US never received the sharpest version of the 75 sedan. We also never got its sequel, the Alfa Romeo 155. Which is a shame, because, in Q4 trim, it was a genuine rival to the BMW E36 M3.
What is the Alfa Romeo 155?
When the Alfa Romeo 155 launched in 1992 as a 1993 model, some were a little underwhelmed, RAC reports. Unlike the E36 3 Series, it’s a front-wheel-drive sedan, rather than RWD like the earlier 75, GTV6, and the Giulia.
However, as the Honda Civic Type R has shown, FWD isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. And that’s the case with the Alfa Romeo 155, AutoExpress reports. Not only does the 155 handle better than the 75, Honest John reports, but it also has better engines. Especially the 1995-and-later Series 2 models, which also have wider bodies, better interiors, and upgraded power steering.
Both the Series 1 and Series 2 Alfa Romeo 155 feature several engines. But the best gasoline ones are the 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. Initially, the 1.8-liter put out 127 hp and 122 lb-ft, while the 2.0-liter made 141 hp and 138 lb-ft. But in Series 2 form, the former makes 138 hp and 122 lb-ft, and the latter makes 148 hp and 138 lb-ft.
However, the most desirable engine is the 2.5-liter ‘Busso’ V6. In road-going form, it makes 165 hp and 159 lb-ft, Bring a Trailer reports. It’s what powered the 1995 Alfa Romeo 155 Limited Edition, which also has Recaro seats and sport suspension.
It’s not the engine that’s under the hood of the 155 Q4, though. But it is under the hood of one of the winningest DTM race cars ever.
The Alfa Romeo 155 Q4 vs. the BMW E36 M3
The US-spec BMW E36 M3 doesn’t get quite as much love as its Euro-spec version, Road & Track reports.
While we got the Lightweight trim when it launched here in 1995, we didn’t get the same engine as European customers did. When the E36 M3 launched there in 1992, its 3.0-liter six-cylinder made 286 hp, Hagerty reports. The US version only makes 240 hp—though that’s still more than the Alfa Romeo 155’s V6 makes. And unlike the 155, the E36 M3 has RWD.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 192 hp, Classic Driver reports. As a result, it can go 0-60 in about 7 seconds, Autocar reports. However, in Euro-trim, the E36 M3 is about 1.5 seconds faster, Car reports.
The 2.5 TI DTM and GTA Stradale
But the Q4 isn’t the ultimate Alfa Romeo 155, Petrolicious reports. That honor goes to the Alfa Romeo 2.5 TI DTM race car.
Like the Q4, it has AWD. Only it’s powered by a lightweight 420-hp version of the Busso V6 that spins to 11,500 RPM, R&T reports. And its body panels are made out of carbon fiber. As a result, it won its debut 1993 DTM season outright, taking 12 wins in 20 races, Car reports.
DTM folded for a time after 1995. But seeing the 155’s racing success, Alfa Romeo wanted to make a homologation-style road version, R&T reports. So, it took a Q4 and added the DTM car’s bumpers and fenders. It also added a large rear wing, better-bolstered sport seats, and the suspension from the Delta Integrale Evoluzione II.
Unfortunately, the resulting 155 GTA Stradale never got off the ground, Hagerty reports. Execs wanted it to use the V6 instead of the turbocharged four-cylinder, which would’ve been too expensive to implement. But one road-worthy, still-functional prototype still exists.
Getting one of your own
Alfa Romeo never sold the 155 in the US. However, its 1992-1998 production run means the Series 1 and early Series 2 cars are now old enough to import.
While the Q4 and V6-powered models are the most desirable, apart from the one-off Q4 Stradale, the 155 tends to be reasonably priced. A 1997 Limited Edition V6 example sold on BaT in July 2020 for $10,500. 4-cylinder ones are even cheaper, Bonhams reports. And BaT reports the Q4 models tend to go for $10,000-$15,000.
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