RAC

Alfa Romeo Brera 2.4 JTDm

It's not too often that diesels can be seen as sexy. the Alfa Romeo Brera 2.4 JTDm rewrites the rules. Andy Enright takes a look

Ten Second Review

Mention a diesel car to the average person and they'll probably envision a boring saloon or hatchback chugging up the outside lane of the motorway. Inside, they'll expect to see a sales rep desperately wondering how he can shin far enough up the greasy pole to avoid driving a car that sounds like a bucket of nails. The average person hasn't quite figured out that diesel cars can be sexy. The Alfa Romeo Brera 2.4 JTDm is, you see, not the sort of car for the average person.

Background

There's nothing average about this car. Almost everything about it is either brilliant or terrible. The styling is fantastic, the rear seat space terrible. The sense of occasion you get when you drop behind the wheel is hugely gratifying, the sense of occasion most owners report at their local Alfa dealer markedly less so. This is that essential paradox, the car you buy with your heart and not your head, made that little bit more sensible. It's now a car that is by no means the financial gamble of Alfas of old but is still a little left field for those of a conservative disposition. These people can get their jollies from Volvo. The Alfa Brera is cut from very different cloth.

Driving Experience

The 2.4-litre JTDm at the heart of this diesel Brera is a modern MultiJet unit. Here, injection pressure is independent of engine speed and can therefore be varied throughout the rev range, irrespective of the amount of diesel being delivered. This improves combustion, which has significant benefits for both performance and economy. Performance first. The zero to sixty sprint takes 7.9 seconds on the way to 144mph - but that only tells a small part of the story. The pulling power of this engine is just astonishing. This is thanks to a 295Ibft peak torque figure that's greater even than the classic 3.2-litre V6 24v engine can muster. Mind you, it's necessary to adopt a distinctly un-Alfa-like driving style to get the most out of the JTDm. Instead of searing the engine up to the red line as you would in a normally-aspirated petrol model, you have to get used to changing up a lot earlier. The surge of power begins at 1,500rpm and is all over by 4,500rpm. In-between is enough acceleration to take you comfortably into licence-confiscation territory. Of course, you don't get that lovely free-revving zing while you're doing it - though the five-cylinder engine's note is much more appealing then that of a conventional diesel. But you don't buy a car like this for aural pleasure. Alfa reckons that, thanks to its Multijet technology, this Brera is on average 15% more frugal than its immediate rivals - and the figures bear this out. With an average fuel economy of 41.5mpg, this is a car that doesn't penalise you for having fun. The smaller 2.0-litre JTDm diesel in the Brera is more economical still but only musters 170bhp to the 210bhp of the 2.4.

Design and Build

You may have owned Alfas in the past and vowed never again, but the current level of quality control within the company merits an amnesty. Everything feels well screwed together and there's a real; sense of occasion about this cabin that's noticeably absent from most of its rivals. The fascia design is simple and elegant and it's not hard to find a comfortable driving position, the only caveat being the surprisingly high driver's seat position. Taller drivers should make sure they don't specify a Brera with the glass roof. It robs you of a vital inch or so of headroom. Rear seat space is most generously described as token and it's here that the Alfa may well drop sales to less alluringly-shaped cars. It is, effectively, a two-seater with space to chuck a couple of bags but the upside is that the 300-litre boot is bigger than most direct rivals and usefully proportioned too. This lack of practicality draws the Nissan 370Z into a conceptual rivalry and this car is the 300lb gorilla in the corner when it comes to mid-range coupes. On most objective scorecards, the Alfa can't compete with the Nissan but the Brera shifts the goalposts by doing subjective just so well. After all, would you just look at the thing? It's stunning. Although it's a shape that undoubtedly works better from some angles than others (the front and rear overhangs can look a little ungainly in profile), it's still a car that oozes desirability. The mark of a decent coupe is that it's impossible to resist sneaking a peek as you drive past a plate glass window and you're similarly unable to refrain from checking the car out as you walk away from it.

Market and Model

The Brera 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 Brera is front wheel drive in its 2.4-litre JTDm 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

Look at the residual figures for the Brera and they're extremely good. When you factor in the options that many Audi and BMW owners will add that are standard fare on the Brera, it looks an even smarter selection and the three-year pence per mile figure is very competitive. The diesels are of course the engines to go for if you're overly concerned with running costs with this 2.4-litre engine returning a 41mpg fuel economy figure and 179g/km carbon dioxide emissions. Insurance is group 16. Overall, as a private buy it stacks up very well.

Summary

This 2.4 JTDm diesel Brera is a winner on almost all scorecards bar asking price. Despite its astonishingly good looks and punchy engine, this is a lot to pay for a 200bhp car. If you can afford it, buy it for what it can do and what it represents rather than any nominal savings you may make at the pumps or on your tax bill.

This 2.4 JTDm diesel Brera is a winner on almost all scorecards bar asking price. Despite its astonishingly good looks and punchy engine, this is a lot to pay for a 200bhp car. If you can afford it, buy it for what it can do and what it represents rather than any nominal savings you may make at the pumps or on your tax bill.

This 2.4 JTDm diesel Brera is a winner on almost all scorecards bar asking price. Despite its astonishingly good looks and punchy engine, this is a lot to pay for a 200bhp car. If you can afford it, buy it for what it can do and what it represents rather than any nominal savings you may make at the pumps or on your tax bill. The 2.4-litre JTDm at the heart of this diesel Brera is a modern MultiJet unit. Here, injection pressure is independent of engine speed and can therefore be varied throughout the rev range, irrespective of the amount of diesel being delivered. This improves combustion, which has significant benefits for both performance and economy. Performance first. The zero to sixty sprint takes 7.9 seconds on the way to 144mph - but that only tells a small part of the story. The pulling power of this engine is just astonishing. This is thanks to a 295Ibft peak torque figure that's greater even than the classic 3.2-litre V6 24v engine can muster. The diesels are of course the engines to go for if you're overly concerned with running costs with this 2.4-litre engine returning a 41mpg fuel economy figure and 179g/km carbon dioxide emissions. Insurance is group 16. Overall, as a private buy it stacks up very well.

The average person hasn't quite figured out that diesel cars can be sexy. But then, the Alfa Romeo Brera 2.4 JTDM isn't the sort of car for the average person. There's nothing average about this sports coupe. Almost everything about it is either brilliant or terrible. The styling is fantastic, the rear seat space terrible. The sense of occasion you get when you drop behind the wheel is hugely gratifying, the sense of occasion most owners report at their local Alfa dealer markedly less so. This is that essential paradox, the car you buy with your heart and not your head, made that little bit more sensible. It's now a car that is by no means the financial gamble of Alfas of old but is still a little left field for those of a conservative disposition. These people can get their jollies from Volvo. The Alfa Brera is cut from very different cloth. The 2.4-litre JTDm at the heart of this diesel Brera is a modern MultiJet unit. Here, injection pressure is independent of engine speed and can therefore be varied throughout the rev range, irrespective of the amount of diesel being delivered. This improves combustion, which has significant benefits for both performance and economy. Performance first. The zero to sixty sprint takes 7.9 seconds on the way to 144mph - but that only tells a small part of the story. The pulling power of this engine is just astonishing. This is thanks to a 295Ibft peak torque figure that's greater even than the classic 3.2-litre V6 24v engine can muster. Mind you, it's necessary to adopt a distinctly un-Alfa-like driving style to get the most out of the JTDm. Instead of searing the engine up to the red line as you would in a normally-aspirated petrol model, you have to get used to changing up a lot earlier. The surge of power begins at 1,500rpm and is all over by 4,500rpm. In-between is enough acceleration to take you comfortably into licence-confiscation territory. Of course, you don't get that lovely free-revving zing while you're doing it - though the five-cylinder engine's note is much more appealing then that of a conventional diesel. But you don't buy a car like this for aural pleasure. Alfa reckons that, thanks to its Multijet technology, this Brera is on average 15% more frugal than its immediate rivals - and the figures bear this out. With an average fuel economy of 41.5mpg, this is a car that doesn't penalise you for having fun. The smaller 2.0-litre JTDm diesel in the Brera is more economical still but only musters 170bhp to the 210bhp of the 2.4. Overall? Well, if you can afford this Alfa, buy it for what it can do and what it represents, rather than any nominal savings you may make at the pumps or on your tax bill. STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, side and knee airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, ABS with brake assist

Scores
Performance 6
Handling 6
Comfort 7
Space 6
Styling 8
Build 7
Value 5
Equipment 8
Economy 8
Depreciation 7
Insurance 7
Total 75

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