The Alpine A110 is one of the most eagerly awaited production cars of 2017/18. It marks the return of the Renault-owned Alpine brand for the first time since production ended in 1995. But it’s the A110, produced between 1962 and 1971, that’s the brand’s most iconic model, and inspiration for the new car.
The 2018 A110 has been developed by a dedicated team at Renaultsport in Dieppe. What, they wondered, would an A110 look and feel like if it had never left production, but instead evolved over generations? They didn’t mention a 911, but you get the idea.
The spec sounds as promising as the evocative new Alpine looks – a mid-engined aluminium sports car that’s a little over four metres long produces 249bhp and weighs just 1100kg.
Its most obvious rivals include the Porsche 718 Cayman, Alfa 4C, Lotus Elise/Exige and the four-cylinder Jaguar F-type. But Alpine has also taken a look at the Toyota GT86 and the higher end versions of the Audi TTs during development.
Alpine was founded by Jean Rédélé in 1955. He’d raced a Renault 4 CV and scored class wins on the Mille Miglia and Critérium des Alpes. It’s the latter that inspired the company name, and the philosophy behind his cars: cars that weren’t necessarily the most powerful, but punched above their weight because they were so light and agile.
In a way, it’s the Mini recipe applied to a mid-engined sports car. No coincidence, then, that both won the Monte Carlo rally. In fact, Alpine won the WRC title in 1973, and went on to win Le Mans in 1978.
If you’re thinking that a manual gearbox would be lighter, chief engineer David Twohig argues that isn’t necessarily the case – having no clutch pedal and being able to engineer a floating centre console that didn’t need to house a manual transmission clawed back the kilos. It means this A110 will never be offered with a manual gearbox.
A mechanical limited-slip differential isn’t included. Instead, the ESC-based braking helps to juggle torque between the rear wheels. Four-piston Brembo callipers take care of stopping duties.
The suspension is by aluminium double wishbones all round, which keeps the Michelin Pilot Sport 4s in better contact with the road – in fact, Renault says the harder you go, the better the grip. This is why the springs can be relatively soft, and the anti-roll bars not particularly chunky – there’s no need to resist the roll of the car in the same way you do with a heavier car using strut front suspension. The space required by double wishbones at the rear also means that only a four-cylinder engine will fit.
There are no adaptive dampers, but you do have Normal, Sport and Track modes. These adjust the weight of the electrically assisted steering, throttle response, stability control settings, engine sound and gear shifts. You can turn the stability control all the way off.
A flat underfloor and rear diffuser removes the need for a rear spoiler, and even the cooling vents at the rear are neatly hidden away next to the rear side windows and at the bottom of the rear screen.
Weight has been chased away wherever possible. Sabelt seats weigh 13kg each – half that of the outgoing Megane RS, clips for the ABS sensor cables are made from aluminium, and the parking brake element of the rear brake calliper has been integrated into the main calliper itself.
Its price, the UK figures have been estimated around £50-52k, and for that money, there are tons of competitor options available.
Then there’s the interior, which the overall look and feel is sporty and purposeful, but there’s regular Renault switchgear, pretty average infotainment, and some cheap plastics placed prominently on display.
There’s been a huge amount of pressure on the Alpine team to get the A110 right, and they’ve absolutely delivered.
It looks as desirable as any TT, Cayman, 4C or F-type, and in terms of dynamics and driving enjoyment there’s no doubt this is a five-star car. But it is expensive and some might find parts of the interior a little underwhelming. The styling is pretty unique, to be nice. But I can assure you its most definitely not going to be everyones cup of tea.