Alpine A110 2018 Road Test

The all-new Alpine A110 breathes new life into a classic name. It also opens an exciting new chapter for both Renault and quirky French sports cars in general. Fast, agile and fun, the 2018 A110 is a remarkable return to form and puts Alpine right up there alongside the likes of Audi and Porsche.

A big claim? Well, despite its clear nod to the past, the new Alpine A110 isn’t a copy and paste revival of a classic car. Far from it. Look beneath the retro styling and you’ll discover a modern and capable sports car that will easily match the Audi TT RS and Porsche 718 Cayman S.

The mid-engined chassis, for example, is built entirely from aluminium - a first for Renault - while the flat underbody and rear diffuser work to suck the car to the road, without the need for a traditional rear spoiler. This means the A110 is extremely light and grippy. It’s also extremely fast.

Weighing just 1080kg, the Alpine scampers over bumpy road surfaces with ease, while its double-wishbone suspension provides mountains of grip, by keeping the tyres flat through the corner and pushing them down onto the road as you push into the bend. The A110 has its limits, but the direct and responsive steering makes it easy to judge grip and make slight corrections should the rear-wheels start to lose traction. 

Alpine A110 International Test Drive - December 2017 (19)

Thankfully, Renault hasn’t sacficed the car's comfort for its high speed performance. And because it's so light, the coil springs are relatively soft, which means you don’t get the typical sports car brick-like rigidity and jolty ride quality at around 30mph and 40mph.

Speed bumps and potholes can be covered without your back molars being rattled and parking is also relatively painless. Admittedly, rear visibility is poor, with the back window giving a postbox view of the world, but the A110 is easy to steer at low speeds and this means you can guide it into a compact parking spot, with the sensors providing a reassuring bleep to inform you of any unseen kerbs or lamp posts. You also get two useable boots, with 100 litres provided under the bonnet and an additional 90 litres under a small hatch in the back.

However, the A110 is not a car for city centres. It's really at home on a twisty B road or the race track. The four-cylinder turbocharged engine is a perfect match for the light and nimble chassis, with the 1.8-litre unit delivering 252PS to the rear wheels. The high revving engine provides peak torque - 320Nm - from just 2000rpm, which means the A110 is willing to break into a gallop from pretty much the moment you apply the throttle. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is fitted as standard too and is brilliantly configured, with long ratios that make it easy to get the A110 into its stride.

The Alpine does have a few minor issues. The smart but minimalist cabin feels a little short on quality compared to the likes of Audi and Porsche. It's not a bad place to while away the hours, with lots of headroom and two comfortable seats, but some cup holders and door pockets would have been nice. There’s no glove box either and Renault’s infotainment system also feels a long way behind the tech that is commonplace in its German rivals.  

Alpine A110 International Test Drive - December 2017 (91)

The decision to buy a Alpine A110 will depend on two things: your ability to pay the estimated £50,000 list price and your views on paying this huge sum on a sports car that’s built by Renault. We have no doubt that badge snobs will already be scoffing at this point, but their loss will be your gain.

Despite its lack of premium credibility - at least for now - there is no hiding from the fact that the Alpine A110 is a brillant car. It’ more involving to drive than the TT RS and boasts much more character than any of the 2.5-litre 718 Caymans. It also sets new benchmarks for refinement and comfort at low speeds.

The only real issue we can raise is with the dealer support network. Renault say they will have seven Alpine specialists up and running in the UK by mid-2019 and only these centres will be able to sell and service the A110. This will undoubtedly limit the A110’s appeal to some buyers.

That said, sports car purists will love what Renault has done here. And what's even more exciting is thought of more Alpines in the future. Renault tell us that it's plough huge resources into the expanding the original Alpine factory in Dieppe - where the A110 is built - and more cars are set to follow, including cup and racing editions. If so, we think the likes of Audi and Porsche will have to rethink their future plans, because quirky French sports cars are back. And boy are they good.  

The Renault Alpine A110 will go on sale in the Spring 2018 with deliveries starting in the Autumn.

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