Blimey, that looks pretty intense.
Correct. This is the Alpine A110R – the ultimate version of the little French sports car and the one with the hardest core. Looks like those sit-ups have paid off.
The diet has too, because although the standard A110 is already a lightweight, the R is barely-there. It weighs just 1,082kg, meaning around 34kg has been extracted using an array of carbon fibre bits, a special R exhaust with 3D printed tips and a distinct lack of sound deadening.
The carbon items include the bonnet, roof and that strange-but-serious looking rear visor panel, as well as the seats and those fantastically nerdy, mismatched 18-inch wheels. There’s also extra carbon aero bits, including a new front lip, side skirts, rear wing and diffuser.
You’ve already driven this car though, right?
We have. We first drove it in Spain back in January this year, but we’ve now had a go on proper best-of-British tarmac. Of course, by that we mean some brilliant B roads, but also plenty of stretches with enough potholes to shake the fillings from your teeth.
So come on then, can it cope with our roads?
Well, the first thing to point out is that the A110R does have some suspension changes to match the racecar-like looks. It sits 10mm lower than even the A110S and the springs are firmer too.
It certainly feels stiff as a result, but amazingly it’s never thrown off course by bumps in the road and generally seems unfazed by the worst our roads have to offer. Impressive for a track-ready sports car. Plus, the ride height and damping is adjustable if you really need to slacken it off.
But could you really live with it day-to-day?
Is it too firm? That’s what you’re really asking. Well, you’d only arrive at the A110R if you were shopping for a proper sports car that could handle more than the odd track day, so you’ve probably already accepted that Rolls-Royce ride quality won’t be on the cards. And with that in mind the A110R is perfectly acceptable. Because it’s light it won’t crash head-on into bumps – it’s more like a skip and a hop over each one.
Other practicality points? Well, luggage space hasn’t been compromised so there’s still a 100-litre boot up front and a 96-litre one under the rear wing, although rear visibility has now been reduced to nowt with that giant carbon engine cover.
The rest of the interior is awash with Alcantara and is brightened up by those dog tongue door pulls. You still get the same slightly unresponsive 7.0-inch touchscreen as in the other Alpines, plus a Focal audio system, air conditioning (surely that could save some more weight) and those carbon bucket seats.
Oh, those seats. They really are brilliantly comfortable and allow you to sit right on the floor of the A110, although five-point harnesses can get a little wearisome if you just want to pop to the shops.
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It’s still quick though, isn’t it?
Well, there are no changes to the more potent version of the A110’s powerplant, so planted midship is a 1.8-litre four-pot that makes 296bhp and 251lb ft of torque. Plenty given the lack of mass and enough to drop the 0-62mph time to 3.9 seconds.
Plus, because there’s less drag and yet more downforce, top speed is up to 177mph. Of course, you won’t experience that extra 7mph (over the A110S with the aero pack) legally in the UK, but the beauty of the A110R – and all Alpines in fact – is that they feel fun at sensible speeds. The R may look like it takes itself too seriously, but actually it’s every bit as involving as the other A110s, and the steering and brake feel is even better.
It also sounds like a proper sports car. Okay it might not have the wail of Porsche’s 4.0-litre flat-six, but for a small turbocharged four-cylinder it has plenty of character. There’s a purposeful whistle under acceleration and then some excellent blow-off noises when you come off the throttle. We’d love to see this exhaust and the lack of sound deadening make their way across the rest of the A110 range.
What else could I have for the money?
Interestingly, if you want to walk into a dealership and buy a brand-new car, there aren’t many direct rivals to the A110R on sale at the time of writing. There’s a chance you might be able to take on a cancelled order for a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, but that has pretty much made way for the even harder GT4 RS and Spyder RS. Otherwise you could cross-shop the Alpine – which starts at a hefty £94,990 – with a second-hand Lotus Exige Cup 430 or a lightly used previous-gen BMW M2 CS.