Alfa 90: La Civiltà Della Macchina

When people talk about 1980s Alfa Romeos, it's the 75 that usually springs to mind, then followed maybe by the 33. Yet there was more to Alfa Romeo than just these two models: here's the story of the 90, the Alfa you've all forgotten about.



By 1980, Alfa Romeo had its back against the wall: stuck with an aging model range, abysmal productivity in its factories, and a crushing debt burden, time was running out for the state-owned company.

Alfa Romeo needed new models, in a hurry, and on a very tight budget.

This meant that the two new larger saloons, codenamed K1 and K2, by necessity had to be based on the existing models: the Giulietta and the Alfetta. The basic structure of the two cars would be maintained, but with entirely new exterior sheet metal and interior appointments.

Considering Bertone's designers basically had to take the Alfetta and transform it into a new executive car for the 1980s, they did an excellent job

While K1 would be developed by Alfa's Centro Stile and ultimately see the light in 1985 as the Alfa 75, for the exterior design of the K2 Alfa called in the services of Nuccio Bertone. Considering Bertone's designers basically had to take the Alfetta and transform it into a new executive car for the 1980s, they did an excellent job: the K2, which debuted in 1984 as the Alfa 90, looked bang up to date and could be considered quite handsome for its time. Interestingly, its front bumper integrated an automatic retractable spoiler. The system was ingenious in its simplicity: the spoiler was mounted on elastic mounts and designed in such a way that, over 80Km/h, it would move only thanks to the pressure exerted by the moving air.

Alfa Romeo relied on the Italian market for most of its sales, and the presentation the Lancia Thema in November 1984 killed off any chances the Alfa 90 could have.

Alfa Romeo positioned the 90 as a luxury executive saloon, underlying the concept by including funny gimmicks like the briefcase integrated into the dashboard, and a fashionable digital instrument cluster.

The range of engines also reflected the new model's ambitions, as on top of the usual 1.8 and 2 liters twin-cam engines, the Alfa 90 offered the magnificent 2.5 liters fuel-injected V6 from the GTV6.

In 1986 the Alfa 90 received a minor facelift, and Italian buyers were offered a 1996cc version of the V6, equipped with an electronic engine management system wholly developed in-house by Alfa Romeo, called CEM, for Controllo Elettronico Motore.

It all sounds nice, but in reality, the Alfa 90 never got any chance of being a market success.

The 75 had the same basic engineering and dimensions of the 90, but its design hadn't lost the sporting edge Alfa buyers liked and was even offered at a more attractive price.

Alfa Romeo relied on the Italian market for most of its sales, and the presentation the Lancia Thema in November 1984 killed off any chances the Alfa 90 could have. The Lancia was all-new, looked, and felt more modern, with a much more spacious and better-appointed cabin.

Make a case for the Alfa 90's existence became even more difficult six months later in May 1985, when the Alfa 75 entered the fray.

The 75 had the same basic engineering and dimensions of the 90, but its design hadn't lost the sporting edge Alfa buyers liked and was even offered at a more attractive price.

By then, the Alfa 90 was commercially dead and buried, albeit the plug wasn't pulled until 1987, with the arrival of the Alfa 164.

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