Is beauty only skin deep? Beddy shacks up with a hot Italian to find out...
The Alfa Romeo brand sits in its own space as a sporting brand. It is not a rich man's toy like a Ferrari, nor does it have the common touch of Fiat. It occupies a unique niche. It's an enthusiast brand - one for the keen driver, certainly, but also for the driver who values individuality and riveting style.
Of course, there is one thing about all Alfas that no one can deny: Alfa Romeo knows how to design utterly beautiful cars. Like the Brera Coupe, the subject of this review.
The coupe sits just behind the range-topping Spyder (effectively a Brera with the roof chopped off) but above the GT in the Alfa stable.
Unfortunately, because sales here are small, the scant Alfa press fleet barely covers the Australian motoring media.
We were cancelled out of a press fleet Spyder (because it had found a Melbourne buyer) but were lucky enough to get hold of a new Brera V6 'loaner' for this review. (Come on Alfa, you need more cars in the press fleet if you want to keep them in the public eye.)
An ‘organic’ interior
The Interior of this car is very lavish and very ‘Alfa’. The cockpit is dominated by half a tonne of brushed aluminium and round dials, round gauges, round controls everywhere. It is much more organic and less clinical than its German competitors.
The speedometer and tachometer dominate the instrument cluster but are well-designed and very clear. Between the two dials is the red-on-black display for the on–board computer.
Here you can setup your Bluetooth connection; parts of the menu system speak and you can also use voice commands to setup and use other functions.
The electronically controlled seats - trimmed in Pieno Fiore leather - are the star-turns of the interior. They are simply just so comfortable – as good as the best leather seats in any BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus I have been in.
They provide support in all the right places, and, although they do not have ‘tight’ side bolsters – something to bear in mind when throwing the car around – are the right compromise between comfort and performance.
Another highlight is the huge sunroof with its electronically-controlled sliding blind system. The glassed area in the sunroof, being around twice the size of a normal sunroof, lets plenty of sun in, but the instrument cluster is designed to be read easily despite the glare.
One negative with the Brera’s interior trim is the door release handles which are made of silver-coloured plastic. On a car of this price level, with the rest of the cockpit dressed in aluminium, you’d reckon some metal door handles might have made the cut.
Another negative is the rear-seat legroom. With two guys sitting up front, there is just no rear legroom at all for those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the back. It’s too tight for anyone but pre-teens.
At 235 litres, the boot offers reasonable space for a car of this size. The bonus is that you can fold the rear seats down to create 546 litres of luggage space in total.
The Brera is a thing of beauty, especially so in the Misano Blue example we had. It curves lusciously back from the lovely trademark ‘V’ shaped Alfa grille to a long raked A-pillar, the lines of the car culminating in a tightly-tucked tail.
Little touches like the chrome detail on the side of the light-clusters add to the beautiful style of the car. The wheels are typically Alfa: 18-inch, and with enough rubber to fill the guards purposefully.
The quad polished chrome tailpipes - rounded rectangular - also add to the sporting appeal and the detail and balance of the design.
Though the Brera has been around for a while, we had lots of onlookers - interestingly, an owner of a new Black Commodore at a service station was transfixed. (And did I mention how much we loved that huge full-length sunroof?)
Under the bonnet
Under the bonnet of this Alfa is a performance-bred 3.2 litre V6, with four valves per cylinder and Alfa’s continuous double variable valve timing setup. Maximum power is a healthy 191kW at 6300 rpm with the rev-limiter kicking in shortly afterwards at 7000rpm.
The Brera also has the option of a 2.2 litre in-line four producing 136 kW but saving 140 kilograms over the V6-powered car. The four, the JTS 2.2, also comes with slightly smaller brakes.
The V6 has purposeful low-end urge even though peak torque of 322 Nm doesn’t arrive until 4500rpm. All that pulling power is needed because, weighing in at a portly 1630 kilograms, this Brera is one beefy Italian. (It’s deceptively heavy for a car of its size… too many pizzas maybe.)
Lift the bonnet and a beautiful engine greets your eyes. Not being hidden under acres of moulded plastic, this is a sight for the enthusiast and one of the subtle rewards Alfa owners enjoy.
On the road
Entering our favourite proving grounds on the roads of the national park just south of Sydney, we start opening up the throttle more to see what this car is capable of on some empty winding roads. Its pace on the road isn't - shall we say - ballistic, more like usefully quick.
Standstill to 100kph takes 6.8 seconds, with a top speed tailing off at 240kph. Safe overtaking and acceleration are the keys here; you feel the power from the V6 providing nice urge but never making you feel like you are in a blisteringly quick car.
The Brera has an adaptive all-wheel drive system known as Q4. It cleverly varies the torque split of power output to the wheels from 72 percent front/28 percent rear, rising to the other extreme, 28 percent front, 72 percent rear.
The Q4 system adds weight to the car, but it's set up to direct traction to the rear in hard press-on driving. It feels very sure-footed over bumps and undulations and, with good quality rubber underfoot, is a quality performance drive.
There is a negative here though. We had the six-speed manual and, although the stubby gear stick is nice and short, the feel is lacking a bit - it could be a touch more connected.
I also noticed the rev-limiter was set 1000rpm lower in first gear at 6000rpm, and 7000rpm on other gears. This can be a tad frustrating during fast getaways.
That said, second and third have such useful torque sitting at the toe that you would happily stay in these gears and play with the lovely sounding V6 when pressing on.
Combined fuel economy as stated by Alfa is 11.5 l/100 km. In our hands, when seriously under the pump with spirited driving, we returned a figure of 19.6 l/100 km. This was under exceptional conditions, you'll do a lot better than this.
Price, safety and options
Being a premium car, the Brera is loaded with safety gear. Fitted as standard are driver and passenger airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, and driver safety aids such as Alfa's VDC stability control system, ABS brakes with ASR (anti wheel slip) and EBD systems.
Auto 'on' front headlights and auto wipers (for when the heavens open) are also nice additions. Lastly, rear parking sensors round off the package.
There are only two options available for the Brera, these being metallic paint and satellite navigation with GSM. Unfortunately, selecting the sat nav option removes the Bluetooth connectivity function.
The Brera comes in three models: the smaller engined JTS 2.2 at $62,990, the JTS V6 in manual at $87,990, or for the JTS V6 in auto coming in at a hefty $90,990.
Many people will buy a Brera for its looks and for the Alfa Romeo name plate. But this car deserves respect. It is a truly beautiful design, inside and out.
The Brera's V6 has real character and, matched to the Q4 all-wheel drive system, is a genuine performance steer. Its great sound is a real bonus.
Build quality is right up there with the best at this price level; to that add exclusivity and uber-cool style. While there are a couple of niggles, there will be many happy Alfa Brera owners. For its style, performance and comfort, this is a car I can happily recommend.
MARK’S BIG STATEMENT
"While many will buy a Brera for its style, this car is more than skin deep. There is a nice engine in there, sure-footed performance and a stylish and beautifully-trimmed cabin.
While sales are flagging, the Brera deserves to succeed. Let's hope importers Ateco can maintain the faith in the brand in trying times. The Brera is a car for red-blooded drivers, if that's you, give it a serious look."
- Italian Alfa Romeo style
- Red-blooded Italian character
- Italian V6 soundtrack
- Rear seat legroom
- Some cheaper materials used on interior in places
Spec as tested: Misano Blue / Premium Black Leather, Xenon Headlights, Bose Sound System, Electric Seat Adjustment, Dual Zone A/C, Rear Parking Sensors, VDC, EBD, ASR, 18 Alloy Wheels.
Base Price: $87,990
Price as tested: $89,740
|Engine type:||60 degree V6|
|Bore x Stroke:||89 x 85.6mm|
|Max Power:||191kW @ 6300rpm|
|Max Torque:||322Nm @ 4500rpm|
|Transmission:||6-speed Manual or 6-Speed QTRONIC Automatic Transmission|
|Economy:||12.2 litres/100km (Combined Cycle)|
|Front Suspension:||High quadrilateral double wishbone|
|Rear Suspension:||Independent multi-link system with quad bi-tube shock absorbers|
|Wheels||18" Alfa Sport Alloy Wheel|
|Brakes Front:||Brembo 330x28 ventilated fixed radial caliper in aluminium with 4x42mm pistons|
|Brakes Rear:||292x22 ventilated combined 41mm piston and floating caliper|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||69 litres|
|Luggage Compartment Volume:|| Rear seats up: 235 litres |
Rear seats down: 546 litres