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Alpine’s dip into Porsche territory is producing Gallic fruit at long last

 

Alpine-A110S-1
Alpine-A110S

The Alpine brand earned its stripes during an illustrious, if narrow period of French rallying history, reports Iain Robertson, its Dieppe-built road cars being rarer in the 1950s and 1960s than hen’s teeth but, while a series of landmark victories firmed up its place in the Motorsport Hall of Fame, a lack of renown meant it missed the headlines.

If any single motor manufacturer could boast of a market leading stance on lightness and mega-efficiency, then it must be Lotus Sports Cars and the Norfolk-based specialist has made darned certain that everybody knows it. Yet, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, the equally specialist build arm of Renault, which has been involved in most of the firm’s motorsporting legacy, let alone developing the Espace line-up and, now, remanufacturing Alpine sportscars, also knows how to apply finite stress analysis, while squeezing more acreage from its cars and keeping bulk down to an absolute minimum.

Alpine-A110S-5
Alpine-A110S

Those early Alpines, rear-engined, blistery and purposefully misshapen, were flimsily constructed but managed decent survival rates. The latest examples, which first started to appear during 2018, relied on retrospective styling, with cues from Alpine’s past helping to provide a design edge. Powered by a much-modified, 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine kicking out a modest 252bhp, gave a promised 170mph top whack, with the ability to blitz from 0-60mph in  around 4.5s. These are certainly memorable figures, underscoring both the lightweight construction and Alpine’s forward intent. Yet, while the present shape is not unattractive, a slightly ‘broke-back’ appearance means that the A110 model range does not quite muster the completeness of image of its 911 nemesis.

Mind you, it is properly suspended and the A110’s chassis dynamics are unquestionably excellent, with its standard traction and stability controls switchable to the ‘off’ position, should the enthusiastic driver want to find out the car’s true limits. Competently engineered, the tyres are not over-endowed with grip, because Alpine wants its customers to indulge in the car’s inherently sound balance and to have fun. The interior detailing supports the proposition with cliche-type rocker switchgear and a bespoke touchscreen, the seats providing plenty of lateral and spinal support, with good available space and adjustment potential for a six-foot tall driver. Stoically mid-engined, driving through a seven-speed, automated-manual, twin-clutch transmission, it is interesting to note that both of the new A110S and GT variants benefit from an additional 48bhp that makes no apparent performance difference..although it can crack the 0-60mph sprint in 3.9s.

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Alpine-A110S

Buying into Alpine ownership is a fairly pricey proposition, the base A110 costing from £49,905, with the A110 GT at £59,355 and the slightly racier and aerodynamically enhanced A110 S demanding £59,955 of your hard-earneds. While the base model is generously equipped, both of the other specifications take slightly different routes to achieving similar purposeful goals. Although a little more expensive, the Lotus Emira does present better value for money in my view, while the significantly pricier Porsche 911 is not really a direct rival, a situation that sits better with the smaller Cayman model that is also more competitively price-tagged. However, if rarity is a desired quality, the Alpine provides the right response.

You do not expect class leading space utilisation from a mid-engined sportscar but the Alpine does provide a well-shaped front boot with around 100-litres space, while an equally roomy rear boot with 96-litres, suggests that someone’s thought about it. The cockpit is roomy enough for two people but they should be prepared to travel light. There are pockets and bins available for motoring paraphernalia but the disabled motorist might as well score the Alpine from a shortlist, as even the most readily flexible of mobility aids just simply will not fit.

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Alpine-A110S

Conclusion:       If you want a rare French equivalent of the Audi TT, an Alpine A110 should fit the bill, even though it lacks the more practical features and equally beloved build quality of the German hatchback. Fun handling and faithful responses to driver input are driver pleasing characteristics, which serve to highlight that Alpine still has an uphill climb to achieve a best-in-class reckoning against its key rivals, in what is a fairly competitive environment.

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Alpine-A110S