Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Alfa Romeo Brera S
Few sports cars are developed specifically for Britain's roads. Those that have been tend to become true 'driver's cars'. Alfa Romeo is planning for the new, limited edition Alfa Romeo Brera S to join those ranks.
After a year of intensive suspension and chassis development at Prodrive, the world-leading motorsport specialist, the result is a sports coupe that subtly enhances all that is good about the original Alfa Romeo Brera, while bestowing it with outstanding driver feedback and handling.
Distinctly different from the rest of the line-up, this unique addition to Alfa Romeo's UK range includes refined styling changes, inside and out. And to ensure ultimate exclusivity, production of the Alfa Romeo Brera S will be limited to just 500 individually numbered models.
Power comes from a choice of two existing direct injection petrol engines - the 185 bhp 2.2 JTS and the 260 bhp 3.2 V6 JTS.
Marketing director at Alfa Romeo UK, Nicholas Bernard, says: "Significantly, the Alfa Romeo Brera S isn't simply about brute force, it's about how the available power is transferred to the road and how the road surface is communicated back to the driver to bring new levels of sports handling and driver-focused confidence and involvement."
Briefed to make the Alfa Romeo Brera S less of a long-distance tourer and more sporty on UK roads, the engineering team at Prodrive developed a unique suspension set-up. Prodrive engineers meticulously experimented with spring rates and ride heights to match the reduced weights of the 2008 model year Alfa Breras. Then followed an extensive damper tuning exercise to achieve the desired ride/handling balance and steering response required by driving enthusiasts in the UK.
According to Prodrive Project Leader, Peter Cambridge, the result is "a car that 'shrinks' around the driver and delivers all the fun and engagement of a sports car driving experience on A and B-roads. Yet, on motorways, offers a compliant and composed ride."
The sports car driving experience is achieved by reducing roll and pitch, flattening the cornering attitude, and subsequently instilling confidence-inspiring steering.
Peter Cambridge comments: "Our painstaking work with the spring set-up controls exactly how much the car pitches and rolls with every lump, bump, camber and pothole on our roads. Then we developed the dampers to control the rate at which the springs respond. Once we were satisfied with that, we set about really affecting the feel and response of the steering to inspire confidence."
To reduce roll and pitch and achieve an even flatter cornering attitude, Prodrive commissioned bespoke Eibach coil springs and Bilstein dampers.
Spring rates are increased by over 50 per cent compared to the standard Alfa Brera, giving the car a more nimble and agile feel, while the specially tuned gas-filled mono-tube dampers give tighter body control. A careful balance has been created to maintain good compliance over ridges and bumps in the road.
At the same time, the suspension static geometry has also been revised to optimise steering and handling. These changes, together with new 19" alloy wheels and Pirelli PZero Nero tyres, have created a more responsive turn-in to corners, with increased driver feedback, allowing the driver to explore the dynamic limits of the car.
To further enhance suspension geometry, the cars have been lowered by 10 mm front and rear. This lower centre of gravity helps reduce roll and improve cornering and braking performance. In addition, the lowered suspension gives the Alfa Romeo Brera S a more purposeful stance.
At each corner of the Alfa Romeo Brera S, unique Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione-inspired, lightweight 19" alloy wheels have been fitted. Although the wheels are eye-catching, the all-new design was commissioned by Prodrive primarily for performance, rather than just cosmetic appeal. The reason is unsprung weight - the weight carried by the car on the 'road side' of the spring and shock absorber. This plays a significant role in the way the car steers, handles and transmits feedback to the driver.
The lighter the wheel, the better it tracks undulations in the road surface without requiring heavy damping to control it. The unsprung weight has been further reduced by the adoption of hollow anti-roll bars and aluminium suspension components from the Factory.
As a result, the weight of both Alfa Romeo Brera S models is lower than the rest of the range. The front-wheel drive 3.2 V6 JTS is almost 100 kg lighter than the Q4 version and the 2.2 JTS version weighs 35 kg less.
The Alfa Romeo Brera S also sounds different from the standard range. The original characteristic growl of the V6 has been enhanced by careful redesign of the rear silencers. Thanks to a Holmholtz resonator connected in tandem with each silencer, the 2.2 JTS model now emits a sportier yet refined burble.
The exhaust has been altered to mirror the shape of the rear lights. Finished with chrome embellishers, they feature a Prodrive logo on the tailpipe exterior. This is just one of several subtle exterior enhancements to the award-winning Alfa Romeo Brera, including Prodrive branded front stone deflectors, and a bespoke red 'S' or 'SV6' on the C-pillar.
Inside the 3.2 V6 JTS Alfa Romeo Brera S, changes are more obvious. Not only are the supportive sports seats upholstered in soft black Frau® leather with red stitching, so are the dashboard fascia, door panels, steering wheel and gearlever. The centre console and instruments are faced in a dark finish. This interior can also be specified on the 2.2 JTS version.
Foot pedals are fashioned from drilled aluminium and the headrest recess houses a limited edition Brera S aluminium plate, featuring the flags of Italy and Britain.
For the record, the 2.2 JTS and 3.2 V6 JTS Alfa Romeo Brera S can reach 62 mph from rest in 8.6 and 7.0 seconds respectively, on the way to maximum speeds of 139 and 155 mph.
The transition from Alfa Brera to Brera S takes place at Alfa Romeo UK's dedicated import centre, near Bristol, and is overseen by Prodrive.
Nicholas Bernard says: "The standard Brera is well loved and delivers a great all-round driving experience. But the Alfa Romeo Brera S is deliberately honed, tuned and fettled for British roads and aimed directly at a dedicated audience of driving enthusiasts."