Quattroporte vs 166 vs 156
Since I know a lot of guys and girls on Alfaowner cast lustful glances at cheap Quattroportes but are put off by the possible maintenance issues, here are my thoughts, being I own both a 166 and Qporte plus two 156 v6 before that.
2004 Quattroporte Duo Select.
Ive had this car for a few weeks now, and I think it is important to say what it is, and what it isnt, before comparing.
The early dry sump Quattros are considered by some to be the purest of the mark 5 series, and consider the ZF auto cars to have been dumbed down a bit for the masses.
I brought mine, one of the earliest, based on a combination of price and superb condition. I would not have minded if the car was an auto, but having driven 1000kms in 2 1/2 days I learned the duo select gearbox very well.
What the early Quatroporte is is a Ferrari 430/458 derived V8 coupled to a manual paddle shift F1 gearbox similar to the 6 speed Ferrari units however the gear ratios will be different.
What it isnt, is an automatic.
The Duo select has been panned far and wide by the press, and by owners who killed clutches at low mileages.
The secret is to always remember the car is a manual, and drive it in manual mode at all times. Using sport mode shortens the gearchange time, and clutch actuation, considerably, and adds a longer life.
I searched Maserati forums for driving advice, and stuck to it. A deep search of forums made me realise there are cars out there with decent mileage on the original clutch, and even more importantly, opinion seems to be evenly divided as to which is the better car, ZF or Duo Select.
The styling, done by Pininfarina on the earlier cars, is evocative of some of the earlier Maserati, and unlike, for instance, an S type Jag, doesnt look contrived. This is a little bit of a surprise as the styling was penned by Ken Okuyama, and unfortunately, apart from the Maserati I dont like any of his other work, its fussy and, not surprisingly because it was designed by a Japanese, strikes me as being too much like a Japanese car to look at.
The interior work is of a class well beyond the 166, which was in itself a nice place to be, and the quality of materials is only let down by the inevitable sticky finish problems. Most of this was removed from my car anyway.
The sound, and handling, is as you would expect from a car of this pedigree. The car is large but somehow shrinks on the open road, and is very chuckable. However when hard braking it becomes obvious that the car carries a lot of weight.
On the open road it is a pleasure, marred by road noise and a few trim rattles. This is mainly down to the optional 19 inch wheels being fitted I suspect.
In town the story is very different. The size of the car means tight turns and parking are a bit of a pain, the the paddle shift creates an extra workload that has to be managed.
I have to wonder if the prices for these cars have hit rock bottom. If this had Ferrari badges it would be selling for $100K plus as opposed to the $20K average. Hell even a crappy ( and disappointing to drive) Ferrari Mondial costs 4 times a Quattroporte at the moment.
With Ferrari prices escalating at an alarming rate, I suspect it will only be a matter of time before the Maseratis follow pace. And there is only one 4 door, Ferrai V8 powered Italian supercar. I live in hope. And no cam belts....
2008 Alfa 166
In comparison to my Masearti, which was as close to perfect as a 15 year old car can be, my 166 suffered from the abuse of a poor owner using a useless mechanic. It has been 12 months of tinkering to get the car to a point where I am happy with it.
The Alfa is more dramatic than pretty, and certainly its rear end makes the Quatroporte look dowdy in comparison.
The Sportronic gearbox suffers from large gaps being it is only a 4 speed, and the internal fitout is not as nice, lacking the high end feel of the Maserati. It feels like the whole car has been built down to a budget rather than up to a standard. However it is still a good effort, and remarkably my 166 has no body or trim rattles whatsoever.
After driving the Maserati and stepping into the 166 it feels very compact, which is a surprise as it is considered a large car dimensionally. Seat comfort is on a par with the maser, but it lacks all the bells and whistles. On the road the 166 is quieter and makes me realise the Quatroporte, for all its pretenses as a limousine, is a more sporting car in setup and intent.
The 166 doesnt handle as well and its limits can be easily found. Mainly due to the front wheel drive and weight distribution.
Where the 166 really has it above the Maser is in rarity. I have never seen another facelift 166 on a New Zealand road, and while Quatroportes are relatively rare, they are seen occasionally.
Certainly if you cant afford a Quatro, the 166 is a nice alternative, but not in the same class.
When it comes t crowd pull, if thats your thing, the Maserati wins due to its size and the name. The 166 suffers from being painted in a discreet metallic grey, and when people do notice, the Alfa name is somehow considered less interesting.
That being said an old guy twisted his head off watching the 166 as I pulled into a car park this morning.
2001 Alfa 156 V6 Q Shift
Ah, the prettiest small saloon car ever made, if maintained well they can be dead relaible. I ran mine for 5 years and apart from routine maintainence I only ever had to replace a tail light bulb.
Its unfair to compare a 156 with the 166 or Quatroporte, but it remains one of my all time favorite cars. Small, nimble, and providing its set up well, gives plenty of warning on the limit.
The interior is a let down even with Momo leather seats, I hated the cheap plastic surfaces, but that was made up for the entertaining drive.
There has been much written about the 156 so I wont go into it any deeper.
I brought the Maserati because I lusted after one, I brought the 166 because it was, and is, a worthy substitute for a Quatroporte, however I still look back at my 156's with fondness, and still watch the for sale pages to see what they are doing, i consider them to be that good id buy another, even though I have no use for it :-)
Buy a Quatroporte if you have a love of fine italian cars and an eye for a possible investment
Buy a 166 for rarity, dramatic looks and all round competency, but I doubt they will ever appreciate much.
Buy a 156 for sheer fun, the prettiest body ever made and the howl of the v6 when being thrashed.
Last edited by SkygodKiwi; 25-07-19 at 08:26.