RAC

Alfa Romeo Brera range

Alfa's Brera coupe has always delivered stunning looks but under the skin, others were higher tech. Has that changed with the addition of more impressive petrol and diesel power? Steve Walker decides

Ten Second Review

The Brera might not be the sharpest handler in the compact coupe class but it now has some impressive engines leading to low running costs and good performance. Even so, the big selling point will continue to be those looks and many people will be sold on this Alfa long before they grasp the steering wheel.

Background

Most car manufacturers have it in them to produce a bona fide ugly car once in a while. Perhaps it was Friday afternoon in the design studio and the rush was on to get to the pub. Maybe some coffee got spilt and made the lines go all wonky or the design chief's dog could have given the blueprints a good mauling, making them difficult for the engineering department to decipher. Whatever the explanation for them, we've definitely seen some automotive abominations over the years but none of them have had an Alfa Romeo badge. The Italian marque just doesn't do ugly and whatever your head thinks about its Brera coupe, the chances are your heart will be saying yes. The Brera actually came as a disappointment to many observers when it was unveiled in 2005 at the Geneva motorshow. It looked great: the only problem was that Alfa had been touting a drop-dead gorgeous concept car around the motorshows for months and the final production model fell a little below that car's drama. Still, the Brera and its soft-top relative the Spider are great looking cars, so we can tick that box from the outset. Where the jury is still out, is with regards to how they perform and reward on-road. This Alfa's case on that score has become a lot stronger since the introduction of higher-tech 1750 TBi petrol and 2.0 JTDm diesel engines.

Driving Experience

It's hard to make a case for the unimpressive 2.2-litre JTS engine these days, so we won't. The main reason why that unit will be overlooked by all but the most contrary customers is called the 1750 TBi. Alfa is in the midst of a purple patch with regards to engine development and this 1.7-litre turbocharged petrol engine with direct injection and variable valve timing is one of the highlights. It has 200bhp but better still, its diesel-like peak torque of 320Nm is available from just 1,400rpm. The 0-60mph sprint takes just 7.7s which is only 0.7s down on the 3.2-litre V6 petrol model that has 260bhp and Q4 all-wheel-drive at its disposal. There will be those who are reluctant to specify a diesel engine in the Brera and marry its slender lines with a traction engine soundtrack. The reality is that Alfa's 2.0 and 2.4-litre JTDm oil-burners are reasonably refined. They aren't the engines to produce that intoxicating sportscar driving experience but there's a lot of torque to waft about on, making a relaxing time of daily trips. The 2.4-litre JTDm unit covers the 0-60mph increment in a respectable 7.9s. The more modern 170bhp 2.0 JTDm unit is probably the one to have though, less than a second slower to sixty and much more refined and frugal. On paper it sounds like a dream ticket but there's a chromosome or two missing from this car's DNA on the road, where it's safe, competent but rather unexciting. Ride quality is acceptable but the car always feels weighty and rather determined to lapse into understeer through corners, the stability control system reining back power. This is a car that doesn't really enjoy being picked up by the scruff of its neck. Still, if you're content to drop the pace and just check out who's checking you out, the Brera certainly has its place.

Design and Build

From dead ahead, the Brera is something very special with piercing triple circular headlamps that arc down to the traditional Alfa grille. The bonnet swage lines and underbumper air intakes all serve to give the car a pinched, aggressive look that works superbly. Likewise from the rear, this Alfa looks a million dollars. A slight weak spot comes in profile where the short wheelbase makes the overhangs look long and the rear slightly hunched. We really are splitting hairs here and the fact is that years after its arrival, the Brera still looks hot. The interior retains the obligatory Alfa sense of occasion but there is some room for improvement on quality. With plenty of metallic finishes to lift the fascia and driver-oriented instruments, the design makes a nod or two to tradition. How many other cars still retain an oil temperature gauge? The Brera has and it's a welcome touch. There's a voguish starter button and minor controls on the steering wheel. With plenty of adjustment in both the seat and the steering column, even taller drivers will easily find a comfortable driving position. As usual in compact coupes like this, the rear seats aren't particularly spacious but there is a 300-litre boot to the rear.

Market and Model

The coupe is stuffed with features, the entry-level trim including 17-inch alloys, climate control, rear parking sensors, stability control and a whole panoply of airbags. The range-topping Q4 four-wheel-drive model gets leather upholstery, cruise control and electrically folding heated door mirrors. This Alfa is front wheel drive in its standard form and there is a choice between manual or Q-Tronic gearboxes on selected models. The cars that the Brera must persuade customers not to buy form a formidable set of rivals. There's Audi's TT which is a good comparason being front or four-wheel-drive and only a couple of grand more expensive. Then you have the head-banging Nissan 370z, an old-school rear-wheel-drive performance sports car, BMW's 1-Series Coupe which is priced equivelantly to the Brera, and Peugeot's extravegantly-styled RCZ.

Cost of Ownership

The V6 isn't the engine to go for if you're overly concerned with running costs. For this, you should turn to the 2.0 diesel or the 1750 TBi petrol. The diesel option returns the Brera's best economy with 52mpg and emissions of 142g/km, while the petrol manages 34.5mpg with a 192g/km output of CO2. The 2.4-litre diesel splits these two neatly with 41mpg and 179g/km. Residual values for the Brera are quite buoyant and they actually bear comparison with Audi's TT. This will be partly due to the car's good looks and partly to generous equipment levels which would require considerable investment in options to equal in a BMW or an Audi.

Summary

The Brera is certainly an interesting car. It's a coupe that will have people walking around it, observing its every angle. A head turner, a controversy, a missed opportunity, the last of a line, a work of automotive art, call it what you will, the Brera is anything but boring. A coupe can be many things but the only inexcusable quality is dullness. Judged on that criterion, if nothing else, the Brera deserves success. A rather hefty price tag and some talented rivals may act as significant impediments but there's a charisma to this car that may well steamroller such trifling caveats. Factor in very competitive running costs and a sense of occasion that escapes its German rivals and you have a car that's certainly intriguing and deserving of serious consideration. Much will depend on whether you love the looks and can manage without class-leading handling. If that sounds like you, the Brera comes with a big recommendation.

The Brera is certainly an interesting car. It's a coupe that will have people walking around it, observing its every angle. A head turner, a controversy, a missed opportunity, the last of a line, a work of automotive art, call it what you will, the Brera is anything but boring. A coupe can be many things but the only inexcusable quality is dullness. Judged on that criterion, if nothing else, the Brera deserves success. A rather hefty price tag and some talented rivals may act as significant impediments but there's a charisma to this car that may well steamroller such trifling caveats. Factor in very competitive running costs and a sense of occasion that escapes its German rivals and you have a car that's certainly intriguing and deserving of serious consideration. Much will depend on whether you love the looks and can manage without class-leading handling. If that sounds like you, the Brera comes with a big recommendation.

The Alfa Brera is certainly an interesting car. It's a coupe that will have people walking around it, observing its every angle. A head turner, a controversy, a missed opportunity, the last of a line, a work of automotive art, call it what you will, this car is anything but boring. A coupe can be many things but the only inexcusable quality is dullness. Judged on that criterion, if nothing else, the Brera deserves success. A rather hefty price tag and some talented rivals may act as impediments but there's a charisma to this car that may well steamroller such trifling caveats. It's hard to make a case for the unimpressive 2.2-litre JTS engine these days, so we won't. The main reason why that unit will be overlooked by all but the most contrary customers is called the 1750 TBi. It has 200bhp but better still, its diesel-like peak torque of 320Nm is available from just 1,400rpm. The 0-60mph sprint takes just 7.7s which is only 0.7s down on the 3.2-litre V6 petrol model that has 260bhp and Q4 all-wheel-drive at its disposal. There will be those who are reluctant to specify a diesel engine in the Brera and marry its slender lines with a traction engine soundtrack. The reality is that Alfa's 2.0 and 2.4-litre JTDm oil-burners are reasonably refined. They aren't the engines to produce that intoxicating sportscar driving experience but there's a lot of torque to waft about on, making a relaxing time of daily trips. The 2.4-litre JTDm unit covers the 0-60mph increment in a respectable 7.9s. On paper it sounds like a dream ticket but there's a chromosome or two missing from this car's DNA on the road, where it's safe, competent but rather unexciting. This is a car that doesn't really enjoy being picked up by the scruff of its neck. Still, if you're content to drop the pace and just check out who's checking you out, the Brera certainly has its place. Factor in very competitive running costs and a sense of occasion that escapes its German rivals and you have a car that's certainly intriguing and deserving of serious consideration. Much will depend on whether you love the looks and can manage without class-leading handling. If that sounds like you, this Alfa comes with a big recommendation.

Most car manufacturers have it in them to produce a bona fide ugly car once in a while. Perhaps it was Friday afternoon in the design studio and the rush was on to get to the pub. Maybe some coffee got spilt and made the lines go all wonky or the design chief's dog could have given the blueprints a good mauling, making them difficult for the engineering department to decipher. Whatever the explanation for them, we've definitely seen some automotive abominations over the years but none of them have had an Alfa Romeo badge. The Italian marque just doesn't do ugly and whatever your head thinks about its Brera coupe, the chances are your heart will be saying yes. It's hard to make a case for the unimpressive 2.2-litre JTS engine these days, so we won't. The main reason why that unit will be overlooked by all but the most contrary customers is called the 1750 TBi. Alfa is in the midst of a purple patch with regards to engine development and this 1.7-litre turbocharged petrol engine with direct injection and variable valve timing is one of the highlights. It has 200bhp but better still, its diesel-like peak torque of 320Nm is available from just 1,400rpm. The 0-60mph sprint takes just 7.7s which is only 0.7s down on the 3.2-litre V6 petrol model that has 260bhp and Q4 all-wheel-drive at its disposal. There will be those who are reluctant to specify a diesel engine in the Brera and marry its slender lines with a traction engine soundtrack. The reality is that Alfa's 2.0 and 2.4-litre JTDm oil-burners are reasonably refined. They aren't the engines to produce that intoxicating sportscar driving experience but there's a lot of torque to waft about on, making a relaxing time of daily trips. The 2.4-litre JTDm unit covers the 0-60mph increment in a respectable 7.9s. The more modern 170bhp 2.0 JTDm unit is probably the one to have though, less than a second slower to sixty and much more refined and frugal. On paper it sounds like a dream ticket but there's a chromosome or two missing from this car's DNA on the road, where it's safe, competent but rather unexciting. Ride quality is acceptable but the car always feels weighty and rather determined to lapse into understeer through corners, the stability control system reining back power. This is a car that doesn't really enjoy being picked up by the scruff of its neck. Still, if you're content to drop the pace and just check out who's checking you out, the Brera certainly has its place. From dead ahead, the Brera is something very special with piercing triple circular headlamps that arc down to the traditional Alfa grille. The bonnet swage lines and underbumper air intakes all serve to give the car a pinched, aggressive look that works superbly. Likewise from the rear, this Alfa looks a million dollars. A slight weak spot comes in profile where the short wheelbase makes the overhangs look long and the rear slightly hunched. We really are splitting hairs here and the fact is that years after its arrival, the Brera still looks hot. The interior retains the obligatory Alfa sense of occasion but there is some room for improvement on quality. With plenty of metallic finishes to lift the fascia and driver-oriented instruments, the design makes a nod or two to tradition. How many other cars still retain an oil temperature gauge? The Brera has and it's a welcome touch. There's a voguish starter button and minor controls on the steering wheel. With plenty of adjustment in both the seat and the steering column, even taller drivers will easily find a comfortable driving position. As usual in compact coupes like this, the rear seats aren't particularly spacious but there is a 300-litre boot to the rear. The Brera is certainly an interesting car. It's a coupe that will have people walking around it, observing its every angle. A head turner, a controversy, a missed opportunity, the last of a line, a work of automotive art, call it what you will, the Brera is anything but boring. A coupe can be many things but the only inexcusable quality is dullness. Judged on that criterion, if nothing else, the Brera deserves success. A rather hefty price tag and some talented rivals may act as significant impediments but there's a charisma to this car that may well steamroller such trifling caveats. STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, side and knee airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, ABS with brake assist

Scores
Performance 7
Handling 6
Comfort 7
Space 6
Styling 8
Build 7
Value 5
Equipment 8
Economy 6
Depreciation 6
Insurance 7
Total 73
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