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Car reviews - Alfa Romeo - Brera - coupe range

Launch Story

Alfa Romeo logo1 Aug 2006

By CHRIS HARRIS

WITH its new Brera, Alfa Romeo returns to a blend of sensational Giugiaro style and hard-charging on-road abilities not really seen since the classic 105 coupes of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Particularly in all-wheel drive 3.2-litre V6 form, the chunky new Alfa is an immensely appealing sports coupe with solid performance and supremely balanced handling. It will sit nicely with the likes of BMW’s new 3 Series coupe and the Audi TT, which are seen as its main competitors.

Sounds like a big wrap for the latest from Milan? Well it is, because the Brera fails to disappoint in practically any way you care to look at it.

The look is low-slung and beautifully balanced, shorter and lower than the 159 it is based on, and lighter to give an improved power-to-weight ratio. The all-wheel drive adds quite a few kilos though, with the V6 weighing 1630kg compared with the two-wheel drive four-cylinder’s 1470kg.

While the 136kW/230Nm 2.2-litre JTS four-cylinder front-drive version promises lissom liveliness, the V6 version adds considerably more, with the most powerful V6 Alfa has ever had channelling its power to the tarmac via full-time all-wheel drive.

The new, all-aluminium V6 now also makes its way into the 159 model launched just two months ago and is, in large part, a donation from Holden’s Fishermens Bend plant right here in Australia.

But Alfa has contributed a lot, adding its own cylinder heads, pistons and engine management systems to extract impressive power and torque – as well as a beguiling exhaust note that recalls past Alfa V6s.

With direct fuel injection and variable camshaft timing for both inlet and exhaust valves, the 24-valve, 191kW 3.2-litre engine produces about the same power as Holden’s 3.6-litre hi-po Alloytec V6 and grinds out a very commendable 322Nm of torque.

Then there’s the three-differential Q4 all-wheel drive system, also seen on the new 159 V6 and operating full time to distribute, in normal circumstances, 57 per cent of torque to the rear wheels. The mechanical self-locking Torsen centre differential will, however, direct as much as 78 per cent to the back wheels, or 72 per cent to the front if needed.

The transmission so far is limited to six-speed manual only, the four-cylinder and V6 using markedly different ratios to suit the specific power characteristics.

The fully charged Brera V6 is quick off the mark, capable of reaching 100km/h in 6.9 seconds and, with its combination of all-wheel drive and intervening electronics, immensely stable on all sorts of road surfaces.

Obviously not as big inside as the GT coupe that still sits alongside it in the showrooms, the Brera, in both front-drive four-cylinder and V6 forms, is fitted out to satisfy those still seeking justification of its premium price.

Both Breras feature Alfa’s expansive panoramic glass roof, 18-inch alloy wheels (wire spoke in four-cylinder, seven-hole telephone-dial in V6), leather interior, climate-control, seven airbags (including a driver’s knee bag), active front head restraints, hill holder and rear parking sensors.

Over the four-cylinder, the V6 Brera adds heated, power front seats trimmed in better-quality Frau Pieno Fiore leather, electric-folding wing mirrors and Xenon headlights with washers.

Alfa is not shy expressing its hopes for the Brera, saying that, along with the Spider model that will come towards the end of the year, it will account for 175 sales in 2006 and total as much as 400 next year. In contrast, only 40 159 V6s are expected to be sold this year, and 150 over the full year in 2007.

Automatic transmission will arrive for the Brera – and 159 – in early 2007.

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