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Alfa Romeo Brera

In a world where engineers are building MPVs which drive like sports cars, it's no wonder some experts are claiming the days of the plain and simple sporting GT are over

Could Alfa's finest hour be just around the corner? Along with the 159, the Brera is certain to cause a stir when it arrives in the spring. Both the front-drive 2.2 and all-wheel-drive V6 are refined and sophisticated coupes that stir every emotion. Unlike its predecessor, the Brera - likely to cost from £25,000-£32,000 - demands few compromises and is gen-uinely usable every day.

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Fortunately, such nonsense has yet to filter through to Alfa Romeo's design studios! Here, the only brief for a new car is to make it sexy, fast and desirable. The all-new Brera, which replaces the much-loved but ageing GTV, is an Alfa from the old school. Due to hit the UK next April, the powerhouse coupe will top the firm's restructured line-up.

Two engines will be available from launch: a base 2.2-litre four-cylinder unit and a range-topping 3.2-litre V6, which is linked to a new hi-tech four-wheel-drive system. Both motors are fresh designs, and replace the GTV and Spider's current 2.0 and 3.0-litre offerings. A 200bhp turbodiesel promising even more torque than the V6 will join the range by the end of 2006.

The Brera oozes Italian flair from every panel gap. This is not surprising when you learn that it was styled by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro and is bolted together by design house Pininfarina. Although it may lack the 'smack-in-the-face' impact of its GTV forerunner, it's a muscular shape that manages to look fantastic from every angle. You'd have to be miserable not to fall in love at first sight.

But don't get the idea that the Brera is simply a flight of fancy or a designer's ego on wheels. Beneath the seductive lines lies an immaculately engineered car that blows its predecessor into the weeds. It borrows much of its suspension set-up from the 159, although a shorter wheelbase gives a sportier drive.

And it is on the road where the Brera impresses the most. Given the firm's recent track record, it comes as no surprise to find that the newcomer handles beautifully. The steering is direct and nicely weighted, and allows you to flick the front end into corners with the merest nudge of the wheel.

What is more of a shock is the refinement. Gone are the jarring ride and wet-weather traction problems that blighted the old GTV. The Brera is positively serene over bumps, and puts its power down with so little fuss that you would swear the tyres were made of treacle.

In addition, the air of refinement filters through to the cabin, which is also well above previous Alfa offerings in terms of quality. Drivers over six feet tall no longer need to adopt the classic Nuvolari seating position, with their knees either side of the steering wheel. The Brera has stacks of adjustment in both the chair and column, which means motorists of all shapes and sizes can, at last, enjoy the Alfa experience in comfort.

Further back you will find a pair of seats, but space is very tight and passengers won't thank you if the journey exceeds a handful of miles. Thankfully, the boot - a pitiful gesture on the old GTV - is a decent size and can even swallow a set of golf clubs if required.

However, our advice would be to forget golf and stick to driving. The firm has hit a sweet spot with the new Brera. It addresses all the failings of the old GTV without losing any of the idiosyncrasies and qualities that make an Alfa so unique. Get in the queue now.

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