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Alfa Romeo Brera 1750 TBi

The advanced 1750 TBi petrol engine shows the Alfa Brera in a promising light. Steve Walker reports.

Ten Second Review

The Brera has a great engine in its 1750 TBi petrol unit but it's not enough to make this Alfa Romeo a great driver's car. Along with the engine's remarkable torque, the Brera's strengths revolve around its eye-catching styling. Small rear seats are partially compensated for by a big boot.

Background

Why did it take so long for Alfa Romeo to fit an engine like this to its Brera? With the benefit of hindsight, a compact turbocharged petrol unit was just what this handsome coupe needed from the start. Instead, the Brera has laboured somewhat with engines including a charismatic, but weighty and thirsty, V6 and a big, dull diesel that slashed the car's charisma along with its running costs. The 1750 TBi engine looks just the thing to give the Brera the buzzing agility and pin sharp responses a car like this needs. Or are we expecting too much? 1750 TBi might strike you as an unusual name for a 1742cc turbocharged petrol engine that most manufacturers would title 1.7 T but the numbers have a special resonance in Alfa's glorious past. 1750 was first the name of a sports car in the pre-war era and then re-employed on certain models in the Giulia 105 series during the late 1960s. These include a 1750 GTV coupe to which the modern day Brera's roots can be traced back. Of course, the Brera itself is no longer in the first flushes of youth but there's hope that the thoroughly modern 1750 TBi engine can have regenerative properties for the car.

Driving Experience

Everyone knows Alfa Romeo knows how to make a pretty car but the Italian marque's engineering expertise is often less widely appreciated. The 1750 TBi unit must go down as one of the most advanced engines of its kind currently on sale with variable valve timing, direct fuel injection, a turbocharger and an ingenious 'scavenging' control system which improves air-flow through the engine and cuts down on turbo lag. The results are impressive with this 1.7-litre engine generating 197bhp and 320Nm of torque from 1,400rpm. It also sounds great while doing so. Performance is pretty sharp with the pull of the engine at low revs proving particularly enjoyable. The 0-60mph sprint can be dispatched in 7.7s with some adroit use of the six-speed manual gearbox and although its best work is done by 6,000rpm, the engine emits a high-pitched roar that's suitably evocative for an Alfa Romeo. On paper, it sounds like a dream ticket but there's a chromosome or two missing from the Brera'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 for your bags.

Market and Model

Kicking off at around £25,000, the Brera 1750 TBi dosen't score badly from a value for money point of view. It has a formidable set of rivals to content with from hot hatchbacks to more focused sports coupes. There's Audi's TT which is couple of grand more expensive model for model. 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 equivalently to the Brera, and Peugeot's extravagantly-styled RCZ. Volkswagen has a choice of Golf GTI or Scirocco coupe and the Renault Megane Renaultsport 250 is another compelling option. At least the Brera is stuffed with features. The entry-level trim includes 17-inch alloys, climate control, rear parking sensors, stability control and a whole panoply of airbags.

Cost of Ownership

There are diesel options in the Brera range that return the model's best economy but the 1750 TBi is a much more suitable engine to have in your sleek sports coupe. Its running costs shouldn't be too extortionate either, the engine managing nearly 35mpg on the combined cycle and emissions of 189g/km. The Alfa won't retain its value as tenaciously as its premium brand rivals but if you can find a good dealer, the ownership experience shouldn't throw up too many problems.

Summary

The best engine ever fitted to the Alfa Romeo Brera is the 1750 TBi petrol unit. It's got the performance, the soundtrack and the muscular low end torque of a diesel but is it enough to elevate the Alfa towards the top of the compact coupe class? That's a trickier question to answer because despite its striking looks, the Brera is flawed as a driver's car. The Brera's appeal hinges around its styling and this highly impressive 1750 TBi engine. If you want the last word in handling finesse and sharpness, there are hot hatchbacks and coupes that surpass the Alfa's harsh ride and bulky feel on the road. It's a car that will divide opinion but if the looks too firmly on the old heart strings for you to resist, the 1750 TBi is the engine to go for.

The best engine ever fitted to the Alfa Romeo Brera is the 1750 TBi petrol unit. It's got the performance, the soundtrack and the muscular low end torque of a diesel but is it enough to elevate the Alfa towards the top of the compact coupe class? That's a trickier question to answer because despite its striking looks, the Brera is flawed as a driver's car. The Brera's appeal hinges around its styling and this highly impressive 1750 TBi engine. If you want the last word in handling finesse and sharpness, there are hot hatchbacks and coupes that surpass the Alfa's harsh ride and bulky feel on the road. It's a car that will divide opinion but if the looks too firmly on the old heart strings for you to resist, the 1750 TBi is the engine to go for.

The best engine ever fitted to the Alfa Romeo Brera is the 1750 TBi petrol unit. It's got the performance, the soundtrack and the muscular low end torque of a diesel but is it enough to elevate the Alfa towards the top of the compact coupe class? That's a trickier question to answer because despite its striking looks, the Brera is flawed as a driver's car. Everyone knows Alfa Romeo knows how to make a pretty car but the Italian marque's engineering expertise is often less widely appreciated. The 1750 TBi unit must go down as one of the most advanced engines of its kind currently on sale with variable valve timing, direct fuel injection, a turbocharger and an ingenious 'scavenging' control system which improves air-flow through the engine and cuts down on turbo lag. The results are impressive with this 1.7-litre engine generating 197bhp and 320Nm of torque from 1,400rpm. It also sounds great while doing so. Performance is pretty sharp with the pull of the engine at low revs proving particularly enjoyable. The 0-60mph sprint can be dispatched in 7.7s with some adroit use of the six-speed manual gearbox and although its best work is done by 6,000rpm, the engine emits a high-pitched roar that's suitably evocative for an Alfa Romeo. There are diesel options in the Brera range that return the model's best economy but the 1750 TBi is a much more suitable engine to have in your sleek sports coupe. Its running costs shouldn't be too extortionate either, the engine managing nearly 35mpg on the combined cycle and emissions of 189g/km. The Brera's appeal hinges around its styling and this highly impressive 1750 TBi engine. If you want the last word in handling finesse and sharpness, there are hot hatchbacks and coupes that surpass the Alfa's harsh ride and bulky feel on the road. It's a car that will divide opinion but if the looks too firmly on the old heart strings for you to resist, the 1750 TBi is the engine to go for.

Why did it take so long for Alfa Romeo to fit an engine like this to its Brera? With the benefit of hindsight, a compact turbocharged petrol unit was just what this handsome coupe needed from the start. Instead, the Brera has laboured somewhat with engines including a charismatic, but weighty and thirsty, V6 and a big, dull diesel that slashed the car's charisma along with its running costs. The 1750 TBi engine looks just the thing to give the Brera the buzzing agility and pin sharp responses a car like this needs. Or are we expecting too much? Everyone knows Alfa Romeo knows how to make a pretty car but the Italian marque's engineering expertise is often less widely appreciated. The 1750 TBi unit must go down as one of the most advanced engines of its kind currently on sale with variable valve timing, direct fuel injection, a turbocharger and an ingenious 'scavenging' control system which improves air-flow through the engine and cuts down on turbo lag. The results are impressive with this 1.7-litre engine generating 197bhp and 320Nm of torque from 1,400rpm. It also sounds great while doing so. Performance is pretty sharp with the pull of the engine at low revs proving particularly enjoyable. The 0-60mph sprint can be dispatched in 7.7s with some adroit use of the six-speed manual gearbox and although its best work is done by 6,000rpm, the engine emits a high-pitched roar that's suitably evocative for an Alfa Romeo. On paper, it sounds like a dream ticket but there's a chromosome or two missing from the Brera'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. Kicking off at around £25,000, the Brera 1750 TBi dosen't score badly from a value for money point of view. It has a formidable set of rivals to content with from hot hatchbacks to more focused sports coupes. There's Audi's TT which is couple of grand more expensive model for model. 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 equivalently to the Brera, and Peugeot's extravagantly-styled RCZ. Volkswagen has a choice of Golf GTI or Scirocco coupe and the Renault Megane Renaultsport 250 is another compelling option. There are diesel options in the Brera range that return the model's best economy but the 1750 TBi is a much more suitable engine to have in your sleek sports coupe. Its running costs shouldn't be too extortionate either, the engine managing nearly 35mpg on the combined cycle and emissions of 189g/km. The Alfa won't retain its value as tenaciously as its premium brand rivals but if you can find a good dealer, the ownership experience shouldn't throw up too many problems. The best engine ever fitted to the Alfa Romeo Brera is the 1750 TBi petrol unit. It's got the performance, the soundtrack and the muscular low end torque of a diesel but is it enough to elevate the Alfa towards the top of the compact coupe class? That's a trickier question to answer because despite its striking looks, the Brera is flawed as a driver's car. STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, side and knee airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, ABS with brake assist

Scores
Performance 8
Handling 6
Comfort 7
Space 6
Styling 8
Build 7
Value 6
Equipment 8
Economy 7
Depreciation 7
Insurance 7
Total 77
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