ItalianCar TestDrive - 1 October 2006


GT vs Brera

How do you choose between two beautiful sisters?

‘But Mr Giugiaro – we already have a perfectly good car in that segment – the GT! And we’ve only just launched it and it cost a fortune!’ ‘But do you not agree my car is beautiful – is beauty not enough?’ ‘Yes, you’re right it is – we’ll change all our production schedules to fit it in and leave it up to the marketers to decide how to do it.’

And with this (totally invented) conversation the Brera became part of the Alfa stable – slotting in pretty much where the GT already was. We first wrote about the Alfa Brera in March 2002 when it was shown as a concept car at the Geneva show (see ItalianCar article here).

  1. The Brera was originally a concept car produced by Giugiaro’s design studio ItalDesign. Unlike other design houses ItalDesign have a policy of only showing concept cars that are ‘production ready’ ie not just in clay model form. Alfa were so impressed with the Brera that they rejigged their product plan to allow the Brera to go into production, so our fictional conversation may not be that far-fetched!

At the time it was going to be ‘composed entirely of carbon fibre’ and equipped with ‘a powerful 90° V-shaped mid-front eight-cylinder engine of more than four litres with almost 300 kW’. It was also going to have scissor doors as well as a number of other special design features. As such it won innumerable awards and was adopted for production by Alfa.

The GT on the other hand was first revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2003 but beat the Brera into production by a considerable margin. And now both cars are in the Alfa line-up.

  1. The Brera sports the ItalDesign logo on the side whereas the new Spider (based on the Brera platform) will have the Pininfarina badge since Pininfarina have re-worked the design for the convertible version

So you’ve decided you must have a two seater Alfa (the Spider and GTV options remember are no longer available) – how do you choose between the Brera and the GT? Which one should you get? Well, we’ve driven them both (Brera in 2.2 and 3.2 versions at the press launch in July, and the GT 3.2 V6 more recently for a week) and here are our thoughts:


Brera

A very ‘polite’ car

Although the production Brera is not as striking as the original concept was, it is still an arresting sight on the road – there’s no doubt about it, it is a beautiful car. If you want to stand out from the crowd, short of buying a Maserati, an Alfa Brera is not a bad way to do it.

For a comprehensive run-down on the complete specification of the Brera check the ItalianCar FACTfile – the following are our impressions from the press drive day.

The drive itself was in Sydney - taking us up to the Hunter Valley via Wisemans Ferry and back to Sydney via the freeway – in fact the same test route we had for the 159 launch. Again it was an opportunity to test both versions of the Brera out on some varied road surfaces. Weather was also variable with a few showers on the day.

  1. Where does the Brera get its name from? Brera is a suburb of Milan where many creative businesses are located

First impressions of the Brera are that – internally – it is a chip off the old block of the new-style Alfas. The interior is almost identical in layout to the 159 – the main difference being that it is lower and, although not cramped, not as spacious as the 159. And any feeling of lack of space is compensated for by the full length ‘Sky View’ glass roof which is standard on the Brera.

It also shares the same gearbox and gearshift and the same very direct steering as the 159. This should be no surprise as the two cars are built on essentially the same platform – the Brera is however 5% shorter, 3% lower and 3% lighter than the 159.

Again – as with our experience with the 159 – the Brera feels like a very ‘polite’ car – no growling or having to wrestle with the gears or clutch – everything is remarkably smooth and straightforward. Both versions have a reasonable amount of oomph in them and in fact almost the only way we were able to differentiate between the two models behind the wheel was by engine power – once you’ve driven the 3.2 V6 you realise what it has over the 2.2.

  1. Who do Alfa see as main competition for the Brera?
    2.2JTS – Audi TT 1.8s / BMW 320
    3.2 V6 – Audi TT 3.2 FSG / BMW 330

There are a few subtle differences between the two models on the outside – the alloy wheels are different and the 3.2 comes with Bi-Xenon headlights with washers. From the rear there’s no way of telling the difference.

One of the things we really liked about the 3.2 version was the Bluetooth telephone system. The car will recognise your Bluetooth phone and – once you’ve keyed in the right code – will communicate directly with it. Then – and this is the great part – the phone is then completely controllable via the car’s voice recognition system.

We’ve all used some form of voice recognition system before and they generally fail to live up to expectations. When we said dial, the car said ‘what number’ and the voice recognition system could cope with 10 digits reeled off as you would in normal conversation. The connection via the internal microphone and speakers could not be faulted either – at either end. The future is here!

  1. Future versions
    Selespeed option on 2.2 and auto version of 3.2 in Jan07

Page I 1 (Brera) I 2 (GT) I

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