Brera S 3.2 JTS V6
sports cars are developed
specifically for Britains
those that are tend to become true
The question is,
does Alfa Romeos
special edition Brera S fit the bill?
THE BRERA HAS ALWAYS HAD THE LOOKS. But now, thanks to British performance
specialists Prodrive, Alfa's grand touring coupé sports a 'stiff
upper lip'. To be precise, it's the bits you can't see
that have been stiffened…
About a year ago, Alfa UK decided that keen drivers would appreciate driving
a Brera that had been fine-tuned to maximise its performance potential on UK
roads. Consequently, they called in respected motorsport specialists Prodrive.
Prodrive's mission: to bring Alfa's charming Italian contessa smartly into line
like never before…
So, after all the time and effort put in by Prodrive's engineers (who also run
Aston Martin's racing team), is the Brera S now as good to drive as it is to
look at? By the bye, if you hazard a guess that the 'S' stands for Sport
you'd be wrong. It stands for 'Special' as in Special Edition. And the answer,
we're pleased to report, is Yes, it drives as crisply as it looks.
Prodrive has made a number of significant chassis and suspension revisions,
fitted specially-tuned, gas-filled, mono-tube Bilstein dampers and bespoke Eibach
coil springs (stiffer by 50 per cent than the stock items they replace), lowered
the ride height by 10mm and swapped the standard Brera's Q4 four-wheel drive
for a front-wheel drive set-up.
Did I mention the set of gorgeous black lightweight 19-inch wheels inspired
by the '5-hole' alloys that grace Alfa's oh-so-sexy 8C Competizione? Well, the
Brera's new wheels were commissioned by Prodrive for performance rather than
cosmetic reasons and unquestionably ramp-up the Brera S's eye-candy rating.
More significantly, they also reduce the car's unsprung weight, which plays
a key role in the way it steers, handles and transmits feedback to the driver.
And the cost of all this? Actually, given that Alfa are only planning to produce
500 of these cars exclusively for the British market, a very acceptable £28,450.
Get snugly comfortable behind this re-focussed Brera's leather-rimmed wheel
and it won't take you very long to appreciate that unlike a former British
Prime Minister the Brera S is definitely a lady for turning.
The steering is palpably sharper with more responsive turn-in to corners and
when pressing on there's now less roll and, what little there is, is tightly
controlled. In fact, tightly-controlled is the right description as the 'S'
feels almost track-ready. In answer to your next question, Yes, the Brera S's
ride quality now has a pronounced edginess to it that can, on poorer quality
road surfaces, make it feel just a little too track-friendly.
Engine performance hasn't been increased per se but, thanks to the significant
weight savings (100kg slashed from the kerbweight), the 3.2-litre V6's 260bhp
feels more eager as the Brera powers off the line to 62mph in seven seconds
dead. Accompanied, in traditional Alfa fashion, by a characterful aural score
all the way to the red-line although to hear it at its best you'll want
the windows open. Top speed is 155mph; the official fuel consumption is 25.7mpg
for the combined cycle, with 17.2 and 35.8mpg respectively for the urban and
extra-urban cycles. Our week-long test's combined figure (over a variety of
roads and traffic conditions) came out at 22mpg.
A big (and very welcome) surprise was the controlled manner in which the 'Prodrive'
Brera puts down its 260bhp, given that it's now sent through the front two wheels
as opposed to all four on the Q4 model. Although ditching the 4WD has undeniably
saved weight, one wonders just how agile this sharpened new S would have been
had it been retained after all, Audi's brilliant 3.2 TT isn't in the
least handicapped by its quattro all-wheel drive system.
Whatever, the power and the chassis mods come together nicely on demanding roads,
where the S feels more agile and responsive more coherent, in fact
than its sibling, the 4WD 3.2 V6 Brera. Doing their bit for traction are the
235/40 Pirelli P Zero tyres, their grip properties amply backed-up by powerful
and progressive brakes, traction control and ABS with EBD and Brake Assist.
As already mentioned, the improved steering is both quick and positive enough
to exploit the revised, more agile suspension and, as long as you are precise
with your inputs entering fast bends, the Brera S will hold its line all the
way through. Enhancing the driver's sense of being physically in control is
the precise-action, satisfying-to-use six-speed manual 'box which completes
the feeling of genuine involvement.
Externally there are a number of subtle enhancements to prevent those 'in the
know' from mistaking the S for a stock model, superficially glammed-up with
a set of stand-out 19-inch alloys. Look closely and you'll spot the Prodrive-badged
front stone deflectors, a bespoke 'SV6' emblem on the C-pillar and, at the rear,
four chrome-embellished tailpipes sporting the Prodrive logo and remodelled
to mirror the shape of the Brera's rear lights.
Look inside the enhanced driver-oriented cabin and you'll find exclusive Brera
S aluminium badge plates sporting the Italian and British flags
housed in the headrest recesses. Black leather with red over-stitching is in
plentiful supply: it not only covers the seats but also the fascia, door panels,
steering wheel and gear knob. Red is also the colour used to illuminate the
sporty-looking dials all sport black faces and clear white graphics.
Other smart touches include the drilled aluminium foot pedals and the discreet
black race-style 'Start' button.
Driver and front passenger both enjoy good headroom and sit low to the ground
in pleated leather-covered seats that have manual adjustment (including for
height and lumbar support) but powered backrests. Covered in soft black Frau
leather and deeply bolstered, they make travelling in the Brera S a comfortable
business. For the one in the hot seat, the driving position is fine and well-sited
for piloting the Brera along a challenging stretch of road. Other cabin plus
points: vision out is good; the Brera is easy to place on the road; there's
lots of height and reach adjustment for the steering column; and the three-spoke
wheel is well-shaped and finished with perforated 'work' areas for driving comfort.
Behind the driver are two individual rear seats although, due to their upright
backrests, the high centre tunnel and limited leg and headroom (don't be too
judgemental: the Brera is, after all, a coupé in the strictest definition of
the word) these are best viewed as occasional seats for smaller children or,
more pragmatically, used as an adjunct to the deep, 300-litre boot that easily
swallows four good-size squishy cases. Functionality is boosted by the 60:40
split/fold rear seatbacks that create a two level (if not absolutely flat) load
bay floor when folded down. There's also a load-through hatch incorporated into
the larger rear seatback section. A run-flat spare wheel lives under the boot
The S comes well kitted-out, with dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise
control, hill-hold, power steering, trip computer, electrically-adjustable,
heated and folding (automatically on locking the car) door mirrors, rear parking
sensors, decent sound system with large easy-to-use control buttons (remote
audio controls are also mounted on the steering wheel), one-touch power windows,
driver, passenger, front side, window and driver's knee airbags, electronic
start/stop button, front armrest with temperature-controlled storage compartment
and classy Frau leather interior.
We drove the V6 3.2 JTS version but you can also buy the S special edition powered
by Alfa's 185bhp 2.2 JTS engine both models are priced very competitively:
£24,950 and £28,450 respectively. With its aggressive, hunkered-down stance
emphasised by the lower ride height and bold, black 19-inch alloys, the head-turning
SV6 really does look the business. And while still being a competent Grand Tourer
for extended motorway journeys on both sides of the Channel it
is a measurably more-focussed driving machine for UK roads. And, for that alone,
driving enthusiasts will be grateful. MotorBar
Alfa Romeo Brera S 3.2 JTS V6 | £28,450
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 22mpg
Power: 260bhp | Torque: 238lb ft | CO2 260g/km | Insurance group 18