THERE is one four-door saloon that stands out from the rest of the pack. It is a car that offers sharp and individual styling, a spacious and well-appointed cabin and an engine that can only be described as fabulous. This car is the Alfa Romeo 164, returning after a revision that has magnified its qualities and addressed its flaws. Enthusiasts groaned when Alfa announced the 164 was to be revamped. The older model was not perfect, but it had a spirit and zest that made it special and desirable. Alfa fans worried that by polishing out the defects the car's qualities would also be wiped away, leaving the 164 as just another big saloon jostling for sales. But Alfa Romeo was not about to drastically alter its biggest car. The 164 is Alfa's lucky number. Prior to the introduction of the 164 in 1987, Alfa's reputation and fortune was on the wane. The company's small cars were not selling well and a successful big car (which carries bigger profits) had eluded the firm for many years. The 164 immediately re-established Alfa's reputation as a maker of great motor cars. Everything about the car, apart from a cluttered cabin and the front-wheel drive layout which proved unpopular with Alfa enthusiasts, seemed right from day one. The handsome Pininfarina styling gave the 164 a presence normally associated with expensive German cars and improved quality standards at the Italian factory promised to make the looks endure. But it is the engine which distinguishes the 164. Alfa's three-litre V6 has gained a reputation as one of the best. Any Alfa Romeo salesman who can persuade a potential customer to test drive a 164 knows he has almost certainly made a sale. No man or woman with an appreciation for fine engineering and driving pleasure could resist the charms of that silky smooth, free-revving V6. The new range-topping Cloverleaf model now develops a huge 230 brake horsepower, 30 more than its predecessor as a result of the new cylinder head which features 24 valves rather than 12. The 164 Super produces a more modest, but still impressive, 210bhp which arrives at lower revs, perhaps making the Super the better car for Hong Kong. The four valves per cylinder are pushed open by twin camshafts in each cylinder head and long-lasting platinum-coated spark plugs ignite the mixture in the combustion chamber. A crankcase, reworked to accept self-adjusting hydraulic tensioners for the camshaft drive belts, extends the interval between services, allowing a 164 to spend more time on the road and less in the workshop. Alfa Romeo claims that the Cloverleaf can cover the zero to 100kp/h sprint in 7.7 seconds and go on to a top speed of over 240kp/h. The Super follows behind at eight seconds and only a fraction under 240kp/h. Getting this kind of power down to the road through the front wheels is a problem and earlier models used to scrabble desperately for traction in slippery conditions. Chassis and suspension adjustments appear to have solved this failing. There is no traction control device to keep wheel spin in check and no clever engineering tricks apparent. But it works. It is only for the straight-ahead position that the steering suffers the lifelessness that afflicts front-wheel drive cars. Apart from this patch, the 164's chassis is as crisp and tightly controlled as any sporting model. The interior of the 164 has come in for the same sensible refinement. The controls are now simplified. The seats are more comfortable and the driving position is more conventional. SPECIFICATIONS FOR 164 SUPER: TOP SPEED; 235 kmh. Zero to 100 kmph - eight seconds Engine: 2959 cc V6 24-valve DOHC with electronic fuel injection. MAXIMUM POWER: 210 bhp at 6300 rpm. MAXIMUM TORQUE: 23 mkg at 5000 rpm. SUSPENSION: Independent MacPherson struts and anti-roll bars with lower wishbones front and transverse arms rear. BRAKING SYSTEMS: Four-wheel disc brakes, self-ventilating at the front. TRANSMISSION: Four-speed electronically controlled transmission with automatic and sport programmes. APPROXIMATE km/litre: 1.5 km/litre in an urban environment. WARRANTY: One year total warranty and six years anti-corrosion. COST: HK$430,000.