The Brera S under its cover at the launch
Brera S in 8C Competzione red
Rear 3/4 view of Brera S
The subtle V6 Badging
New leather dash
Brera S logo on the seat ......
and Prodrive on the mud flap
Alfa Romeo Brera S
Alfa Romeo UK have just launched a new model and it is entirely their baby and it is quite something, it is the Brera S. Developed in close co-operation with Prodrive, it is a UK specific model and while we have all come across the bling it up and call it something different school of manufacture this is actually quite special, I know, I have been in both versions, and after having the Scandinavian flick demonstrated to me by Mr Simon Clark of Prodrive I can assure you it handles.
The Brera S is technically quite interesting and it is probably better to think of the S standing for suspension rather than sport, both versions are developed by Prodrive in close cooperation with Alfa Romeo UK and the factory in Italy. The aim of the design team, which was headed by Peter Cambridge at Prodrive, was to transform the Brera from a GT into a sports car. The brief was not to increase the power of the models, after all, if you want more power than the 2.2 you buy the 3.2 and if 260 bhp is not enough for you then buy the 8C, simple!
Peter's specific field of expertise is in suspension design and the first thing he has done, which was also helped by Alfa Romeo's own model enhancements, is to reduce the unsprung weight of the vehicle, this is a critical area of suspension tuning. Imagine a large lump of metal, like your car, if you hit it with your fist you will have a very sore fist and your car won't move at all while if you happen to have a crane with a wrecking ball and you hit the car it will disappear into the distance, well it is the same with suspension the lighter the suspension parts are in relation to the mass of the car the less they will move the body of the car when they hit a bump. In order to reduce the unsprung weight, Alfa Romeo have lightened the front upright while the Prodrive team have lightened the wheels by two kilograms each, while also increasing its diameter from 17 to 19 inches, they have done this by attention to detail. Using a CAD system they have carefully removed weight from all areas, most obviously where the wheel mounts onto the hub is now sculptured where the bolts go through, a nice touch. The wheels are based on the ones off the 8C and are stylistically identical, however, the Prodrive team have tried to stop you kerbing the wheels by making sure that the tyre stands proud of the rim, another very nice thoughtful touch.
Then Prodrive has turned its attention to the springs and shock absorbers and basically binned the original equipment items and started again. They have up-rated the springs by around 50% but for commercial reasons, they would not disclose the exact rating but that is a major change. They have also lowered the ride height by 10mm this was done in conjunction with the spring manufacturer Eibach. Lowering the ride height will also increase the amount of negative camber the car has, therefore changing the suspension geometry very slightly.
The shock absorbers are manufactured by Bilstein and they are their top of the range gas-filled monotube damper, this is a very advanced design and allows for better heat dissipation and less aeration of the oil that controls the ride, this gives you a damper that is less prone to fade when the car is pushed to the limit. Then the engineers at Prodrive have changed the shock absorber settings, these settings are known as bump and rebound, bump being when the shock absorber is compressed and rebound is where it extends again. These two settings have been tailor-made for British roads while keeping in mind that all-important Alfa Romeo feel.
At the launch, we were given the rare treat of being able to talk face to face with Peter Cambridge and it was exceptionally clear to us that he knew exactly what he was talking about and what he was trying to achieve. Does it work, the answer to that is yes, in fact, the Brera S re-writes the rule book about how much power you can put through the front wheels of a car, most 'experts' say 200 bhp is about the maximum you can sensibly give a front-wheel-drive car while the Brera S has no problem at all coping with 260 bhp.
To add to the cars sports car image Prodrive have re-engineered the exhaust note, on the V6 they have tried to 'bring out the noise' and this is done without making it intrusive. On the 2.2 they have added a Helmholtz resonator, this is a closed pipe attached to the side of the rear silencer by means of a tube. The name comes from Hermann von Helmholtz who discovered the phenomenon in the 1860s but this phenomenon was even known to the Romans who used Helmholtz resonators formed from clay urns to tune the acoustic characteristics of their amphitheatres. As the exhaust gas pulse passes the mouth of the resonator it compresses the gas inside slightly and as the exhaust gas pulse passes this slightly compressed air is allowed to expand again but the gasses inertia creates a slight vacuum and you get a resonance as you do in some musical instruments and from this, you can create a tuned noise which is what Prodrive have done and it works beautifully, the engine now has a burble that is exactly what we have come to expect from an Alfa Romeo.
The Brera S also gets a sportier interior, the new leather seats which look stunning, a leather-covered dash and alloy pedals all just help it stand out from the crowd. Externally the body's only difference's are the tiny S badge on the C pillar and the tiny mud flaps with Prodrive on them. These are just there to stop stones flying up from those massive 19-inch wheels hitting the bodywork, a nice final touch. The overall impression you get of this car is really summed up by that attention to detail. Alfa Romeo UK have made this car especially for us and it works. The Devil, as they say, is in the detail and with the Brera S it certainly is!