Alpine A110S: is the lightweight sportster a good daily?
The Alpine A110 still feels like a new car to me. Partly because you still have to explain it everywhere you go. “No, Alpina do BMWs. No this isn’t a BMW. Yes it is owned by Renault. It’s not actually a Renault. Apart from the engine. And the gearbox. And most of the interior fittings.”
In truth, the A110 is not new, so far as the car industry is concerned. It’s middle aged. Launched to monumental acclaim in 2018, it’s now mired in the mid-life no-man’s land of sports car life arcs. Special editions painted zany colours keep popping up. Sales are not exactly booming – just about topping 2,000 a year.
Alpine has just refreshed the model line-up and added much-needed Apple and Android phone pairing to the dire internal touchscreen. And at last, we’re able to live with one for a few months. How does that lightweight ethos and designer-label Renaultness fare on contact with The Real World?
We’ve gone for the A110S, because it’s the version we’ve been least convinced by so far. Alpine conceived this car as a less-is-more exercise, low in weight, power and grip – then set about rejecting all those concepts for the S. It ups the 1.8-litre Megane RS engine’s power from 248bhp to 296bhp. It’s 0.3sec quicker from 0-62mph, but in truth it doesn’t feel journee-et-nuit faster. It also wears wider, stickier tyres, and spring rates are a massive 50 per cent stiffer stiffer. Anti-roll bars are 100 per cent stiffer. And it’s a whopping 4mm lower. The S is also 96kg heavier.
Spend £4,650 on the carbon fibre aero pack and you’re heavier still: officially the splitter adds 61kg of downforce at the front, while the wing heaps 80kg onto the rear.
This A110S is fully loaded, with £660 posh alloys wrapped in £640 Michelin Cup tyres, a £552 speaker upgrade, a £1,560 paint job and some suspiciously Porsche-esque mickey-taking, like a £468 storage pack (a piece of betting and a leather pouch between the seats) and another £468 for folding anti-glare door mirrors.
The resulting price of over £71,000 puts this car firmly in new Lotus Emira V6 and Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0 territory: cars which were outshone by the regular £50k A110 in our big group test. But that was a halcyon day on Wales’ best roads, and this is the daily grind. Where the Alpine lies in our affections in six month’s time will be fascinating to discover.