The combination of a lightweight body, a mid-mounted engine and rear wheel drive in a two seat sports car is always going to raise a smile. The Alpine A110 will have you needing surgery to remove the grin on your face.
Renault has breathed new life in to the famous French brand Alpine. At present Renault Ireland has no plans to import the brand to these shores but was kind enough to lets us have a 191 for a week of testing. The revived brand is heading rapidly towards being a premium electric brand and to have a classic petrol powered sports-car on sale seems a little short-sighted or dare I say indulgent.
The Alpine looks ‘incroyable’ (sorry) with its subtle French tricolours on the rear flanks, double bubble roof and proud badging. The body form is low and sleek with a rear end that tapers away. Although Porsche has a rival for the A110 the Alpine looks like no other car, and this is a big part of its appeal. There is a small shallow trunk under the bonnet and a modest boot at the rear. I went to do the big shop and chickened out, filling only a small trolley with shopping and even then I still had to use the passenger seat for my cargo. As with all sports cars bespoke luggage can be had but shopping bags that fit an Alpine are another story.
Inside the two seater are comfortable and supportive leather seats from the French maker ‘Sabelt’, a couple of digital display screens (driver’s and centre console) and buttons for the gearbox and two column mounted gear paddles… oh and there is a red sport button on the steering wheel that is now one of my favourite things. You sit low and secured in the A110. The ride quality and refinement levels are absolutely fine to use the car as a daily driver. There is lots of plastic but you comfort yourself by saying at least it is lightweight. The passenger gets a rally-inspired metal foot plate to brace themselves with should you decide on a drive to release your inner Mikka or Sebastian! The centre screen can display the usual things but also as part of the ‘Alpine Telematics’ option loads of technical stuff like gearbox oil temperature (handy for nipping to the shops) and the next preselected gear.
The A110 Legende is a homage to the original and often temperamental Alpine A110. Speaking of temperamental on one day of testing the sound system and phone connection froze and wouldn’t work for a solid couple of hours despite restarts. It did come back to life later the same day randomly! The A110 weighs just 1,123kgs and this is down to having a body and chassis that is 96% aluminium. The suspension is double wishbone all round. The mid-mounted, turbo charged, four cylinder engine comes from Renault Sport and is a 1.8 litre with 252hp and 320nm. Power is delivered to the rear wheel via a 7-speed DCT (double clutch) automatic. We had the optional ‘sound pipe’ active exhaust that makes glorious music. Parps, barps, barks and burbles are plentiful and really enhance the sportier driving experience. We had the optional ‘Focal’ high end sound system in our test car, so motorways need never sound monotonous or droney.
Performance is brisk and entertaining to say the least! The sprint from 0-100km/h takes 4.5 seconds… and feels glorious. The shove in your back from rear wheel drive is intoxicating and the added bonus of the two front wheels having to do just one job – steer cannot be understated. Most other cars with front wheel drive or all wheel drive also have to put power through the front wheels also. As I always say a quick car is only as good as its brakes and the Alpine has impressive 4-pot ‘Brembos’ and 320mm brake discs front and rear. The rear brake caliper features a 2.5kg weight saving in built parking brake.
The driving experience is joyous and potentially addictive. The car feels light, is ultra precise and simply goes where you point it with vigour. If it were a dog it would be a Collie, capable and eager to do as the owner intends. On Irish roads the A110 masters them all. It fidgets and skips a bit on poor surfaces but you and your talent will always be able to keep it on the intended track. Where most petrol powered sports cars are big on emissions the Alpine manages a reasonable 156g/km of CO2 (€280 motor tax). If you are on an economy run you can average 6.4l/100km (WLTP). The A110 we tested would cost circa €80,000.
The Alpine A100 Legende is a hoot and incredible fun.