Famous French sports car manufacturer’s rebirth begins with a bang
Alpine A110 Première Édition
Price: £50,000 (est)
Engine: 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Power: 249bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 239lb ft at 2000rpm
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight: 1103kg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Fuel economy: 46.3mpg (combined)
CO2, tax band: 138g/km, 26%
Alpine is back, and has delivered a slam-dunk smash hit sports car to ensure its relaunch gets off to the best start possible. Sure, we’re giving you the verdict before the rationale behind it, but when a car’s this good, and comes at you completely out the blue, it’s hard not to let excitement get the better of you.
The brand was born in 1955 and shelved by Renault in 1995. Pleasingly, Renault didn’t kill it off, and the revival seems serious: not only do we have the all-new A110 sports car, there’s also hints of plenty more besides. Intriguingly, bosses name-check Mini when speaking about the future.
The A110 has a £50,000 price tag, but justifies that through using a bespoke all-aluminium architecture. In this sense, it’s more exotic even than the Porsche 718 Cayman it’s going head-to-head with. It’s built by specialists in Dieppe and it’s genuinely a lightweight special – a kerbweight of just 1100kg is exceptional. Further justification for its price.
This means 249bhp from the 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine is plenty. With a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, it’s good for 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds. It’s a charmingly zingy engine, with plentiful exhaust pops in sportier modes; Alpine says it’s not all about flat-out speed but there’s still ample straight-line pace to eyeball Porsches. It’s just a pity the gearbox isn’t as slick as a Porsche PDK.
And the handling? Well, this is a compact car, under 4.2 metres long, and complements this with remarkable agility – more than any direct rival. It’s poised, willing, progressive and linear, with beautifully light and communicative steering probably bettering even a 718 Cayman for genuine feel.
Because it’s so light, the suspension can work exactly as the engineers intended, free from corruption as speeds rise. It doesn’t have trick adaptive dampers but it doesn’t need them: instead, it has an impressively absorbent and supple setup that lets it breath over uneven road surfaces, soaking up grotty bumps and scars with exceptional poise and prowess. It’s as good as a modern McLaren in this respect.
It doesn’t have a trick limited-slip differential either, usually used to more accurately distribute power between the rear wheels, but frankly, it doesn’t need one. Again, the handling balance is so neutral, and the feedback so pure, it’s pretty much perfect as it is. A beguiling and utterly charming driver’s car that you can’t help but be won over by.
Don’t think the everyday stuff is a letdown, either. Inside, there’s decent space for a driver and passenger, and the setup is more adjustable than, say, the bigger Jaguar F-Type. There’s not much oddments space, and the boots aren’t enormous (there’s one both front and rear), but it’s still just about acceptable for a sports car.
What it can’t quite serve up is Porsche-like interior quality. It’s a bit more brittle and cheaply-finished than the £50k German. Some may prefer a bit more substance. But us, we’re happy to accept that this sort of stuff makes the car lighter and more purist: besides, the driving experience more than justifies its price tag.
Alpine has produced something exceptional here. The A110 is a brilliant car to drive, a peach, that betters almost any other sports car on the market and looks a million dollars while doing so.
It’s expensive, and at the mercy of the exchange rate: it may become even pricier by the time it arrives in the UK next summer. But it’s also a car that could better a Porsche 718 Cayman, itself one of the most fantastic driver’s cars around. That’s how special it is. This really is a landmark car, and quite possibly the most deserving five-star car we’ve driven all year.