Alfa Romeo Brera is Bold, Good Looking and Almost There


There are two basic categories of car buyers: the ones who view an automobile as a means of transportation and the enthusiasts. The first group walks into a purchase with their head firmly on their shoulders, considering things such as finance, depreciation and such before signing on the dotted line, while the latter let their heart rule their head.Motoring journalists are, mostly, petrolheads and the crew here at CarScoops is no exception, thus we decided to seek cars that stir the emotions. The Italians undoubtedly do have a long tradition in this particular field; so, with Alfa Romeo getting ready for its big comeback, picking its last mass-production coupe, the Brera, was a natural choice.
Hello, Beautiful
If one were to sum up how a historic brand such as Alfa Romeo has put itself in quite a pickle, he/she would have to look no further than the Brera.
Unveiled as a Giugiaro concept at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show and gaining nearly universal acclaim, it appeared at the same venue just three years later. Only instead of a Maserati (nee Ferrari) V8 under its long hood powering the rear wheels (this would come later, in the 8C Competizione), buyers could choose between a front-wheel drive 182HP 2.2-liter four-cylinder or a 3.2-liter V6 with 260HP and all-wheel drive, plus a 210HP 2.4-liter FWD turbodiesel.
At the time, the Fiat Group had formed an alliance with General Motors, so the Brera was based on the jointly developed Premium platform with double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension that, in a longer-wheelbase version, underpinned Alfa’s 159 sedan and estate, too.
On paper, the recipe for the GTV-replacing coupe was perfect: though not exactly pretty, the Brera was impressively styled and full of Italian flair. To see one was to want one. I recall myslef staring at the exquisitely wrought rear end with its quad exhaust pipes and thinking that it really wouldn’t look out of place with the Maserati trident on it. Moreover, even though the cabin was picked up lock, stock and barrel from the 159, it was a quality item that didn't jar with the rest of the car – especially when specified with the nicely appointed and rich-smelling leather upholstery.
When a car looks this special it’s easy to look past issues such as the abysmal rear-passenger space, horrid visibility and impossibly high boot sill. Coupes are all about looks, not practicality, right?
Talking the Talk, Stumbling on the Walk
Well, they are also about driving thrills and it is on that front that the Brera failed to deliver. The first serious criticism came when you sat in the driver’s seat and tried to get yourself comfortable. It was an exercise in the futile, so in the end you had to compromise.
Then, perhaps most importantly, it was the driving experience itself. The steering was quick and the six-speed manual gearbox taught and precise but the 8.6-second 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) claimed acceleration for the base 2.2 JTS engine was nothing to write home about. If anything, it felt more sluggish than the company’s numbers suggested and that applied to the 3.2 V6 version, too, that was only marginally quicker.
The culprit was the Brera’s weight: 1,500 kg (3,306 pounds) for the 2.2-liter 4-cylinder version and 1,680 kg (3,704 pounds) for the 3.2-liter V6 model. Throw in a couple of people and a tank of fuel and the range-topper came too close to two tones for comfort.
Adding insult to injury, the handling was not as resolved as it should be when negotiating the twisty stuff, with the suspension being too soft on corners yet not comfortable enough on sudden undulations.
The worst part, though, was that the GM partnership had brought along a new V6 that lacked the Alfa’s “Busso” glorious wail and looks. Strangely enough, the other Alfa coupe that was currently on sale, the GT, did feature the “old” V6 that turned only the front wheels.
Yes, it torque-steered like there was no tomorrow, but giving it the boot made you want to switch off the stereo and wind down the windows to hear that sonorous engine. It was a symphony the newer coupe did without and was worse for that.
In the years that followed, Alfa Romeo rolled one revised version after the other, in the process shedding some weight and adding the Q2 electronically controlled LSD.
Ironically, the engine that most suited the Brera was introduced in 2009, just one year before its demise. It was the 1750 TBi turbocharged four-cylinder that boasted 200HP and 320 Nm of torque that practically matched the V6’s 322Nm. Yes, it’s the same engine that also powers the Giulietta and, cast in aluminum, the 4C.
It was too little, too late, though, as the Brera’s fate was sealed and production ceased in 2010…
One Happy Owner
The black car you see in the pictures is owned by an air force officer who bought it brand new and is, so far, completely satisfied with his choice. I can see why; it’s the shape, the “telephone-dial” dark alloys with the red calipers behind them and, once I jump in, the Poltrona Frau leather, SkyView panoramic sunroof, three round instruments in the driver-oriented center console and the hiss of the turbocharger once I push the start button. It’s not ergonomically perfect and the seating position still bugs me but the Italian flair is a welcome departure from the Germanic austerity of its rivals.
Performance is much better than the 2.2, too, with 7.7 seconds for the 0-100 km/h (62mph) sprint and a nice push once you get past 1,800 rpm, courtesy of that turbocharger. Real-world average consumption hovers around the 10 lt/100 km (23.5 mpg US or 28.2 mpg UK) mark and, being single means that, for him, the lack of rear seat legroom is not a real concern.
Long trips are the Brera’s forte and, since not all people are keen on imitating Chris Harris, failing to entertain on twisty roads is not an issue with this particular owner. Mind you, he has already covered 60,000 km (37,000 miles), all of them trouble-free, which shows that worries of reliability are also a thing of the past. After three years of everyday use, the interior shows no signs of wear and tear and, once on the move, nothing creaks or groans - another positive sign that Alfa has finally got its act together.
Almost there
Was the Brera an opportunity missed? Well, it certainly wasn’t a success and it failed to keep up with the competition but it certainly stood out from the sea of BMWs and Audis that greatly outsold it. It also taught Alfa Romeo a thing or two; mainly, that a sports coupe cannot rely on looks alone but needs to be competent out of the box, and preferably light and agile, not heavy and cumbersome. And, of course, a soundtrack to match those looks is de rigeur in an Italian sports car.
It will be interesting to see how its replacement, which is rumored to be based on the new exec saloon’s rear-wheel drive platform shared with the recently unveiled Maserati Ghibli, turns out.

By Andrew Tsaousis
Many thanks to Stathis and Constantina - both passionate Alfisti - for lending us their Brera!
Live Photo Credits: Andrew Tsaousis / CarScoopS

Thumbs Up: If looks could kill, the competition would be lying on the floor, as the Brera looks gorgeous, especially from certain angles. It’s also well-built and feels well-planted and ultra-secure on the road.

Thumbs Down: Weighed down by, err… weight and driving characteristics that made it neither a true sports car nor a great GT. Should sound better, too.

The Verdict: Alfa Romeo rolled out another bridesmaid but for the umpteenth time,not the bride. The Brera's looks alone can seduce you into buying one and it’s more than a decent drive; just don’t expect driving thrills.




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