Images are courtesy Groupe Renault.
This is a car that, in 25 years’ time, American enthusiasts will be lining up to import. It’s the 2018 Alpine A110, and while it shares its name and lines with the rear-engined French rally star, it’s a thoroughly modern sports car that has today’s Porsche 718 Cayman, Alfa Romeo 4C, and even the Lotus Elise, in its crosshairs.
The introduction of this new model marks the return of the legendary Alpine marque, which is now a fully owned subsidiary of Renault. Founded by Renault tuner and racer Jean Rédélé in 1955, Alpine (prounounced al-PEEN) was headquartered in Dieppe, Normandy, and this firm debuted the A108 Berlinette in the early 1960s. This diminutive, tubular steel-chassis, fiberglass-bodied two-seater sported sleek coachwork penned by the Italian master stylist Giovanni Michelotti, and in its ultimate A110 form, would go on to win the first World Rally Championship in 1973.
While the Alpine nameplate would continue on rear-engined sports cars like the A310 and GTA V6, it gathered dust on Renault’s shelf until 2012, when the automaker brought it back on a heritage-inspired concept car, dubbed A110-50, conceived to celebrate the golden anniversary of the famous Berlinette.
That racy concept would be followed by another, more blatant tribute to the Berlinette: the 2015 Alpine Celebration. This show car made its debut at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and was also shown at that year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The Celebration was a smash hit, and its production-viable appearance set the sports car world buzzing.
Renault fanned the flames with 2016’s Alpine Vision concept, which appeared still more production-ready, and featured revised headlamps, wheels, and a different exhaust treatment. It was revealed that a mid-mounted turbocharged four-cylinder provided the power. The company’s design chief told reporters the Vision “reflects 80 percent of the style of the forthcoming road car.”
And so it did. The actual Alpine A110, which recently began production, sports usable side-view mirrors, a wheel design more akin to that on the 2015 Celebration, and few other minor detail changes. It’s a real looker, and an obvious tribute to the original beauty.
The first A110s to leave Dieppe will be Première Edition cars, of which 1,955 will be built—that number being a nod to the marque’s founding year. The entire run, whose €58,500 sticker price in France is roughly equivalent to $69,495, sold out almost immediately. When deliveries begin in early 2018, those special examples come with forged 18-inch alloy wheels and satellite navigation systems.
The production A110 is a compact, lightweight sports car, whose 96-percent aluminum monocoque features a 95.2-inch wheelbase and 164.5-inch overall length. Aerodynamics were optimized with a flat bottom and functional rear diffuser, and careful attention to detail (example: Sabelt seats weigh 13.1 kg/28.8 pounds each, half that of a normal sport seat) has kept curb weight to 2,432 pounds, giving the 1.8-liter/109.7-cu.in., 16-valve dual overhead-cam four-cylinder a chance to really perform. Fitted with a turbocharger and direct injection, this transversely mounted engine makes 252 hp at 6,000 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 5,000 rpm.
Purists were saddened to learn that a Getrag-sourced, paddle-shifted seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual is standard; no three-pedal manual is available. Regardless, the specifications are impressive, with a four-wheel double-wishbone suspension and weight distribution pegged at 44:56, front-to-rear, aided by positioning the fuel tank and cooling system up front. This Alpine has been optimized for speed, with 0-62 mph happening in 4.5 seconds and a top end electronically limited to 155 mph.
It’s also been announced that a racing variant—the A110 Cup, prepared by Signatech—will participate in the 2018 Alpine Europa Cup, a one-marque racing series. The lowered, stiffened racing versions will use trick adjstable Öhlins dampers, and will run 270-hp versions of the standard 1.8 turbo, here mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox.
If you’re reading this in North America, it will be decades until you can legally drive a 2018 A110… but if, now, you could, would you?