- Max Speed
I’m sorry, how much?
£59,140. For this exact car with a throaty Focal hi-fi and bum-warmers within its slender caramel seats, you need over sixty thousand pounds. Not that it matters, but I’ll explain why later.
It’s a 1.8-litre Renault engine opened with a keycard from the Nineties. I’m out.
Your loss. This is a fabulous sports car. But it’s also rolling proof that ‘being a fabulous sports car' isn’t good enough any more.
A low-slung two-seater has to work as an aspirational, brand-sensitive object of raw desire. Porsche (the world’s most profitable car company) does that rather well.
Alpine meanwhile is becalmed in the A110’s awkward adolescence. The achingly pretty mid-engined coupe was unveiled to massive acclaim exactly four years ago, at the 2017 Geneva motor show.
Since then Alpine’s flogged all the Launch Editions, splintered the range into base-spec and posh trim, done the quick one – the stiffer A110S – and begun fiddling with the colour palette.
There’s even been a terrific Safari’d concept car. But it’s too early for run-out ‘final editions’ and there’s no budget – let alone much of a market – to set about squeezing in a bigger engine or a manual gearbox. A convertible? Non.
Any other ideas? It’s tricky to make a stripped-out special when the standard car makes a bag of Quavers seem lumpen and weighty. If they make an A110 Trophy-R, it’ll be heavier still just from the stickers.
So they’ve decided to make it a luxury designer handbag instead?
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That’s harsh. Though speaking of luggage, this new A110 Légende GT is not just a car. For your £60k, you get three bespoke suitcases thrown in sur la maison.
Otherwise, this is an A110 that’s dressed to impress. Inside, amber leather chairs face a dashboard where matt grey carbon fibre trim has been swapped out for gloss-finish panels flecked with coppery inserts.
It’s an odd choice, almost giving the car an electric vibe, which of course it isn’t. Alpine’s announced the future is battery-powered and twinned with Lotus, but this Deluxe110 remains powered by the standard car’s 249bhp four-cylinder turbo engine, rather than the upgraded 296bhp punch of the A110S.
Right decision, we reckon. This is a chassis car, not an engine car. More poke and stiffer ride steered the A110S away from what made the standard car such a breath of fresh air.
Perceived quality on the other hand, it cried out for. Curious ex-Cayman owners won’t have been very impressed with prehistoric Renault switchgear hanging from the steering column and lurking on the centre console. And that’s all still here.
So’s the unfathomable touchscreen with its hopeless smartphone connectivity and radio reception slightly worse than a nuclear submarine’s. I’d have taken the duller carbon as-was and blown the budget on some milled buttons and longer paddleshifters myself. Especially as the shiny new binnacle glints sunlight and reflects in the windscreen.
On the other hand, this is a turbocharged French two-seater with supremely comfortable, expensive-smelling upholstery and flashes of lightweight weave dotted about the cockpit. It’s a bargain-bin Bugatti Chiron. I grant you there’s not an enormous amount of other traits in common. Sod-all rear visibility?
What about on the outside? I don’t see many Légende GT badges for my £60k.
There aren’t any. What you do get, if you look very closely, are translucent grey rear light clusters (which actually look the business) and a natty set of semi-gold 18-inch alloy wheels. Up close they’re a truly intricate design that’d happily grace any Lamborghini hypercar. I’ll fight anyone who says that parked up, in spotless Mercury Silver, this sporty tadpole doesn’t look more expensive – more exotic – than a Porsche 718 Cayman.
But you’re going to have to be a world-class, ocean-going Alpine nerd to spot these tweaks. Perhaps you’ll hear it instead – the valved sports tailpipe is thrown in too, amping up the diminutive but willing engine’s gargly note. Does some decent pops’n’bangs too.
Hang about – how much heavier does all this garnish make your lightweight darling?
About 20 kilos. Add on a bit more for the optional heated seats. But at 1,123kg this is still closer on the scales to the late, great Lotus Elise than any rival from Porsche, let alone a BMW M2, Toyota Supra or Jaguar F-Type.
Are you having a downer on this car or not?
I’m naturally predisposed to be cynical about rebadged tarted-up cars. Whether it’s a Ford Vignale or a Mercedes-Maybach, there’s always a whiff of the ‘mug-magnet’ about a car – even a very good one like a Fiesta, an S-Class or an A110 – that’s been liberally rolled in cow-hide’n’carbon. That suspicion you’ve been seen coming with your wallet open, and you’re about to be had for a prize chump.
Happily, even adding slightly fussier (potentially heavier) rims and the sumptuous peanut-butter interior hasn’t ballsed up what we love about this genius little sports car.
The way the A110 flits daintily down the road like a water boatman, treading lightly while the steering wheel chatters away with feedback and the chassis pivots delicately about your hips is just as addictive, in its own unique way, as neck-snapping launch control in a Tesla, a line-lock Shelby Mustang burnout or tripodding around a bend in a classic hot hatch.
It’s a love letter to lightness, and a Goldilocks marriage of power and grip. No wonder Gordon Murray bought one.
And yet unlike a Lotus, you could live with an A110 every day. The climate control blows vigorously, it’s comfortable, relatively quiet and very well-behaved, good for 35 to the gallon and it’s a doddle to park. Fitted baggage ought to make the best use of the front and rear boots, but I can’t be sure as this car arrived without the set. Presumably another journalist took a fancy to them. I’ll keep an eye on eBay.
I could bore on about there being nowhere un-rattly to put my iPhone or the dated keycard and the main storage tray only being accessible to a bomb-disposal robot, but I’m not sure I care. And like I said earlier, none of this actually matters.
Probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, but Alpine’s only building 400 units of the Légende GT. This one’s number 93, and they’re all now ‘allocated’. Word is you can still get your hands on one, but you’ll have to be as swift and agile as the car itself to secure it.
So if you were about to snark ‘whoever’s going to pay sixty grand for an ‘Alpine Luggage Edition’, don’t worry. Almost everyone who wanted to already has.
£59,140 (£60,376 as tested)
1.8-litre 4cyl turbo, 249bhp, 236lb ft
7spd DCT, RWD
0-62mph in 4.5sec, 155mph
38mpg, 156g/km CO2