French Fancies COTD: Alpine A110 (the new one)

Now, this week, the name that kept creeping its bug eye face up was of course Alpine, and it’s no surprise really as it the ubiquitous French sports car. It’s the car French teenagers aspire to own and French engineers want to build. It’s the Gallic Lotus and Porsche all rolled into one wonderful brand.
But, sadly, no Alpine of the past can grace this list as Alpines have always been small and Rear Engined. Well, they have until now. The reborn Alpine is a broader look at what Alpine stands for: light weight monsters which are unbeatable on Alpine mountain passes powered by hot Renault engines. The rear engine nonsense is just a throwback to when Renaults 4cv’s and Dauphines were smoking about Parisian backstreets .

The One we all remember

The Rivals, however, have stayed around while Alpine took its break. In size and weight the new car is aimed squarely at the arthritic Elise/Exige which in many ways is the same car that kicked the Renault Sport Spider’s teeth in over 20 years ago. But in reality the market leading Porsche Cayman is what this car wants to be stealing orders from. Which makes sense, as the original Boxster and Cayman was Porsche’s similar semi reinvention into making midship cars 20 years back.

Anyway, to the car. I make no bones about it, this Alpine is the new car I have been most looking forward to from when I first caught wind of the ill-fated partnership with Caterham. For a while now, I have stopped following to a certain extent what’s going on in car production today as most new cars do not even have a modicum of soul. Driving today in modern Britain, it feels like I am drowning in a sea of crummy crossovers and faux s-line hot hatches with all the show but none of the go. There’s very little on sale now that really gets my heart rate going. I love everything about this new Alpine.

Now, sadly, Renault haven’t been so kind to let me drive one of these wee beasties, but from what I have read from the people I trust the most in Automotive journalism and media I can say with confidence that this car is a little cracker. The reviews show more stars than a Scorsese gangster flick, with almost as many explosions (sorry Harris). Reviewers really seem to have fallen for this car. The Car control professor Chris Harris seemed particularly enamoured with the A110, despite the cars attempt to bring Hammond-sequence injuries to him.

The new widow maker?

It just looks like an absolute hoot to drive, and that must all be down to the boffins from Renault sport who have proven themselves in recent history by making the who’s who in Hot Hatches. The way Renault Sport (ahem, I mean Alpine) have approached the tough task of making a safe but light car is an unusual one. The simple solution of composites like Carbon Fibre is what most manufacturers go for with low production cars. But, this solution is not only expensive, but with track aspirations only a small ding can make these cars no longer viable for repair. Alpine decided to implement small savings here and there which, when added together, make a big difference. For instance, this car has a wiper system that distributes through the blades instead of through a pump, meaning less fluid is needed saving on unpredictable water weight. The rear brakes also handle both parking and actual braking force (usually a separate parking actuator is used in situ with its own pads) and finally, even the racing seats were shaved down to save 13kg over the Megane sports seats. It’s really nerdy stuff, but through this, the team from Dieppe can carefully manage the all important distribution of weight.

Is the Cayman a bit too capable to be a ‘sporting car’ ?

Now, back to that heavy elephant in the room, the Porsche Cayman, which is as it stands is cheaper and a fair but faster than the plucky upstart from Normandy. Reviewers always wax lyrical about how brilliant the car is, and despite losing some of its soul to the new turbocharged fourpot, it’s still in a league of its own in both ability and sales. So, yes, the Porsche is all the sports-car many of us would ever need, and it’s very unlikely that Stuttgart are to worried about the A110. And, if a spec sheet is how you buy your cars, then please look no further than the Volkswagen Golf of performance motoring. For me though, the allure of an underdog with more attainable fun and a good sprinkling of individuality would take my pick every day of the week. But it’s easy to talk big with money you don’t have. If I had the money, of course maybe I could be swayed by the known entity establishment, but for hypotheticals which will never happen, the New Alpine definitely would be my choice.

Looks good in Blanc!

Hopefully U.K. deliveries will start soon because I absolutely cannot wait to see my first one in the flesh.

Vive la révolution!

Jack Wood

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