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The Top Gear car review:Alpine A110
For:A genuinely different rival to the Porsche Cayman, and a fine advert for light weight
Against:Its approach may be too dedicated for some
What is it?
It’s the new Renault Alpine A110. And it’s something very different. On the surface it’s perfectly straightforward, a compact two seat coupe in the mould of the Porsche Cayman and Audi TT. But underneath the new A110 is perhaps the world’s best example of the virtuous circle approach to automotive engineering.
It’s light. Really light. Lotus light, yet with the creature comforts you need to make it a pleasing daily driver. How light? Just 1,103kg for the flagship version including fluids and so on. That’s 300kg, approaching 25 per cent, less than the Porsche or Audi.
How? Firstly by designing it from the ground up with little carryover, and secondly by sweating the small things. So it’s an aluminium bodied, aluminium chassis’d, aluminium suspended sports car that has a modest 1.8-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine developing 249bhp and 236lb ft of torque at 2000rpm. That’s mounted behind the seats and drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed Getrag double clutch gearbox – perhaps the only thing about the car that’s not the lightest possible option.
“We have tried to follow Colin Chapman’s principle, which is still valid, so if we have low mass, we can have moderate power, so we don’t need super wide tyres or big, heavy brakes and so on,” says Alpine’s chassis technical leader, Thierry Annequin. “We have chased all grammes everywhere on each component and each system to achieve this weight.”
Everywhere you look you see this attention to detail. Take the rear wheel – there’s no secondary brake caliper for the electric parking brake (EPB), it’s now integrated into the primary brake itself. That saves 2.5kg. And getting Brembo to integrate their software into the Bosch ECU instead of bolting on a separate control unit and wiring has saved another kilo. And the brackets that hold the EPB cables and hoses are aluminium too, “this is unusual”, claims Annequin, “but it saves seven grams here, 12 grams there and it adds up”.
The Sabelt seat is a mere 13.1kg – half the weight of the Recaro seat in the current Megane RS; integrating the ball joint into the upper control arm instead of putting it in a separate housing saves 300g per corner and so it goes on. The message from Alpine, building its first car since the final A610 rolled out the Dieppe gates 22 years ago, is that light weight matters. Jean Redele, the man who founded Alpine in 1955 and named it for the type of driving he wanted his cars to excel at, would be proud.
The approach certainly promises to make the Alpine efficient – the claims are 46.3mpg and under 138g/km of CO2, numbers a standard Cayman can’t get within 7mpg and 30g/km of.