The Alfa Romeo renaissance is still going strong. Sure, the Giulia is getting on a bit (it is, after all, in its eighth year), but it still has its merits as a legitimate alternative to the German establishment. And while the Italian marque isn’t a historical bastion for reliability, Alfa Romeo ownership doesn’t come with nearly as many caveats as it used to.
However, it wasn’t that long ago when Alfa’s eye-popping designs were easily the most compelling reason to seek its cars out. The 4C, for example, was a stunner held back by a chassis that was too easily unnerved by ragged British B-roads. Then there was the Brera, which promised so much yet was thwarted by a familiar accusation - it just wasn't as exciting to drive as it was to look at. Unless, of course, you find yourself a one-of-500 Brera S.
The Brera S story supposedly begins with Alfa’s then-UK marketing chief, Nicholas Bernard, who concurred with the consensus opinion at the time, and believed new coupe was suffering from something of an identity crisis. Not as plush as a grand tourer, nor as sharp as a sports car. Somehow, he managed to convince the higher-ups in Italy to give Prodrive a ring and commission it to build a limited-run performance model specifically designed for the UK market.
This wasn’t just a simple rejig of the geometry and a stickier set of tyres either, but rather a major overhaul that righted many of the Brera’s perceived wrongs. Chief among them were bespoke Bilstein dampers paired with 50 per cent stiffer Eibach springs, and a chassis setup happened upon after nearly a year spent developing the car on British B-roads. Beefier Brembo brakes aided stopping power, while new 19-inch wheels saved 2kg per corner while still retaining Alfa’s signature telephone dial coolness. The S upgrade was available with either the 185hp 2.2-litre four-pot motor - which is what we have right here - or with the 3.2-litre V6, which ditched the associated all-wheel drive system for a 100kg saving.
Whether it’s the four or six, Prodrive's upgrades were transformative. The motorsport giants had taken a car that was utterly lacklustre on local roads and turned it into the sports GT it should have been from the start. Reviews at the time praised the vast improvements to body control, steering and overall grip. Admittedly, it wasn’t as dynamically interesting as its rear-wheel drive counterparts, such as the BMW Z4, though comparisons drawn between the Brera and Porsche Cayman in period seem a touch unfair – especially as the latter came at a £15,000 premium. The S, meanwhile, cost only £1,450 more than the base car, with the 2.2 costing a very reasonable £24,950 when new.
You won’t be paying anywhere near that for this example, you’ll be pleased to hear. This 2.2 is number 126 of 500, and looks good for its 15 years and 102,000 miles. And at £7,995, it’s around half the price of the 3.2 S variants to have recently sold. Sure, you miss out on the sound of a V6 (though not the Busso) and a bit of poke, but you still benefit from all that Prodrive goodness. Now, just imagine what Banbury would have made of the 4C...
SPECIFICATION | ALFA ROMEO BRERA S
Engine: 2,198cc four-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 185@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 170@4,500rpm
Year registered: 2008
Recorded mileage: 102,000
Price new: £24,950
Yours for: £7,995
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