Alfa Romeo Brera S

Limited-edition Italian gets suspension tuned for UK roads

As with nearly all Alfa Romeos ever produced, the Brera S has diehard fans reaching for their chequebooks before they’ve even climbed inside. The stunning coupé shares elements of its front-end design with the 159 saloon, but its sharp lines and bulbous rear end mean few cars are as striking.

Styled by Italian design firm Giugiaro (which ironically penned the original Scirocco), the Brera S is the biggest model here. It is 154mm longer than the new VW, but has a wheelbase that’s 50mm shorter. As a result, the long overhangs mean it doesn’t look quite as sporty as either the VW or Audi.

That wheelbase doesn’t help the cabin packaging, either. The rear seats are too small to accommodate even children, and the tiny 230-litre boot has a tight opening. There’s not much room up front, either. The leather seats look great, but they are narrow and set too high, so the driving position isn’t as comfortable as its rivals’ here.

The Alfa’s cabin still has character to spare, though. The dash’s central section is angled towards the driver, and the deep-set dials, analogue gauges and chrome-ringed switches give a real sense of occasion.

But does the Brera S also offer a special driving experience? Alfa commissioned motorsport specialist Prodrive to tune the coupé’s chassis for UK roads. As a result there are bespoke springs and dampers, changes to the suspension geometry and a lower ride height by 10mm.

All of this work is carried out at Alfa UK’s import centre in Bristol, but don’t think of it as an aftermarket tuning special – the Brera S has positive steering and turns in as sharply as the Scirocco. Body control is decent, too. Yet despite plenty of grip, the Alfa can’t escape its weight. At 1,445kg, it’s 147kg heavier than the VW, so it never feels as agile as the Scirocco or as light-footed as the TT.

Crucially, the Alfa lacks performance. The 185bhp 2.2-litre engine is the least powerful unit here, and it has less torque than its turbocharged or six-cylinder rivals. Its 0-60mph time of 8.7 seconds is two seconds slower than the VW’s, and the Brera S is short on in-gear acceleration, too. The engine simply isn’t very flexible and needs to be worked hard. At least the six-speed manual has a short throw and tight shift, but a springy clutch action ruins the feel for the driver.

The Brera S lacks its rivals’ muscle and isn’t as accomplished dynamically, but it is well equipped and has the kind of charm that the Scirocco struggles to match.

Details

Price: £24,950Model tested: Alfa Romeo Brera 2.2 SChart position: 4WHY: With the help of Prodrive’s chassis expertise, the Brera S could spring a few surprises.

Economy

Opting for the Alfa means that you get plenty of equipment for the price. But with 47 per cent residuals, it is likely to cost you more in depreciation, although this limited-edition S variant is sure to become a future classic. Unfortunately, the emissions make it the most expensive company car here, while it also has the highest contract hire prices. The dealer network is small, but servicing costs are cheaper than for the Audi.

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