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Is a lighter, faster Alpine A110 coming?
New A110 is good. But where does Alpine go next - speed, SUV, electricity?
So Alpine has landed, and the car is very good indeed. The question is where it goes next. Because it has to go somewhere. Renault didn’t resurrect a brand that had been dead for 20 years merely to build a one-off.
Managing director Michael van der Sande said as much last week, hinting there would be other versions and projects, but not what they might be. So what follows is pure supposition.
Alpine has spotted a gap in the market. It’s one that many people pay lip service to, but few actually pursue. Light weight. The big marques are too bound up in large scale production volumes for this to make sense. An Audi TT uses a Golf platform, with all the benefits/restrictions that brings. An M3 is still a 3 Series, it might have a carbon roof but the savings are measured in single kilos. Even Porsches are getting progressively bigger and heavier – the four cylinder Cayman S is 34kg heavier than its six-cylinder predecessor, for example.Alpine arriving with an optioned-up launch edition car weighing 1,103kg is amazing. It’s also expensive to do, which is why it costs 58,500 euros. So it’s safe to assume light weight is going to be Alpine’s calling card. Saving any more weight is going to be very difficult, adding more power… not so much.
The 1.8-litre turbo is shared with the forthcoming Megane Renaultsport. In that car Renault has already told us it’ll have 276bhp as standard and 296bhp for the Trophy. It’s no great leap to think there will be an uprated A110 engine (it’s currently 249bhp), the whole car probably slightly lighter and harder. There’s going to be a one-make race series next year, so it could tie in with that, wear a historic badge (Super, maybe) and have a stand out stat to boast about. 0-62mph in under 4secs perhaps? 1,050kg must be possible. They might even find the money to do a manual gearbox.
A roadster is probably inevitable, perhaps first shown at the Paris show next year, though I suspect it’ll just have lift out roof panels rather than anything more elaborate. A full convertible would risk losing the iconic line of the rear glass and lift out panels would be a good, light weight solution.
But beyond that it gets tricky. Alpine needs to establish itself as a successful brand - and probably turn a profit before Renault-Nissan head honcho Carlos Ghosn will allow them to invest in a second model line. And what would that be? Not a hot hatch as Renaultsport has that covered. A four-seat sports car perhaps, to take on the 911? Very risky. Just look at the Lotus Evora – good car, but it doesn’t sell. A GT car? Hardly fits the lightweight Alpine brief, does it? Although the old A610 was vastly underrated…
An SUV then? Same applies, with the caveat that potential sales might outweigh any concerns about devaluing the brand. But how to do it? It would surely have to be based on the Qashqai/Kadjar or Juke/Captur platform and then the risk is that you’re simply slapping an Alpine badge on a car with no historic tie-in, modest weight saving and little reason to exist. You’re back in the land of badge engineering and your brand equity goes down the pan quite quickly at that point.
But then how faithful will Alpine be to light weight? Five years ago, everyone was banging on about lighter weight being the route to greater efficiency, but now all heads have swiveled in the direction of electricity doing that job. The fact electric cars are heavy doesn’t seem to be an issue that bothers anyone. Yet.
Will Alpine buck that trend and build a lightweight electric A110? It’s a tempting thought, not least because from Zoe and Twizy to Leaf, parent company Renault-Nissan has invested so much in electricity already. But they also can’t risk immediately devaluing the Alpine brand, so if it was even possible, it would be years away. And would the A110 architecture even lend itself to electric power? I’m no expert, but I had a look at the chassis and can’t see where you’d be able to put the batteries and keep the weight minimized and centralised. Doesn’t look like it’s been designed with electricity in mind.
Alpine is back, and that’s great, but as it where it goes from here… well, it’s going to be fascinating to see. What do you think Alpine will do beyond the A110?
Photography: Mark Riccioni