The previously completed history of the Alpine brand begins as an epic epic and ends as a French tragedy. Renault dealer Jean Rédélé built his own coupe, the A106, in 1955 on a Renault basis. After that debut follows an A108, which evolves into the legendary A110. The illustrious sports car wins rally after rally with a light fiberglass body and small four-cylinder in the back, aided by a disadvantage that experienced drivers turn to their advantage; the theoretically unlucky heavy ass swings him arbitrarily through impossible turns. In 1971 the successor, the A310, comes first with four and then with six cylinders. Under the direction of Renault, which Alpine takes over in 1973, an Alpine GTA, V6 Turbo and the A610 follow, which breathed its last in 1995. For Alpines, they have become too heavy and expensive. Men with money prefer better-finished Porsches. Alpine disappears, the spirit of Rédélé lives on. Renault Sport continues to build sports cars at the Alpine factory in Dieppe.
In 2016 there is news. Renault comes with a new A110. It has been decided that the Alpine will return to the path that has been left with the heavy six-cylinder. It will be a light four-cylinder according to the original recipe, almost. The new turbo engine moves to the front of the rear axle for better weight distribution, and the body is made of aluminum. The car itself is getting bigger, wider and heavier, but 1,080 kilos remains anorectically little. Optically, the remake imitates the murdered innocence of its predecessor like two drops of water. Same mischievous twin headlights, same silhouette, same trademark: no visible aggression. He is a tender response to the ubiquitous coarseness. May the days of cuddly sports cars revive.
I was delighted with the original 110; so small, so fast, so French lovely. I just couldn’t fit in it, so cramped. The new one is a retro car without retro pain. In the bucket seats, which have been skinned down to the frame, a long journey does not become a way of the cross. It drives incredibly fast with 252 hp. Guts that were in the old game with fire is now safe and the controls are great. Alpine wisely dived into a sparsely occupied niche. Its only competitor, the Alfa Romeo 4C, loses on all essential points. The Alpine has more power and better straight-line stability than the extremely track-sensitive Alfa. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is superior to the technically comparable six-speed 4C. In addition to a minimum of comfort, the Alpine offers some all-round visibility, and for all that it is also ten thousand euros cheaper.
Let’s just hope he stays intact. Alpine is a fiery brand for better and for worse. I know of a 110 owner who told me about a narrowly extinguished engine fire. I can still hear Jaap van Zweden reminiscing about his A310. Great car, but did I know those things just caught fire? In January of this year, an Alpine pre-series featuring Top Gear presenter Chris Harris caught fire at the Monte Carlo Rally. And now I’m stuck in traffic for an hour with a flame-resistant serial copy due to a car fire on the A28 that throws me its ultimate test of strength.
He keeps it. The bin doesn’t make a sound. He hasn’t gotten too good has he? For the real thing, such a retro car has to play Russian roulette with you, always threatening to succumb to its primitive hubris. He has to make noise, produce scary noises. He must be a troublemaker. The spell rests on the pseudo-authentic unpredictability of a survival trip. At the same time, there lies the dilemma. What concessions is today’s consumer willing to tolerate from such a sports car? He wants to be able to 250 but not a chassis that shakes the guts out of his body. He does not want to give up the romance with the ropes with the loss of air conditioning, electric windows and LED lighting. Regularly. Nevertheless, he is not real. Although the multimedia screen and the Focal hi-fi should have been omitted, a good balance has been found between greedy and dressed, although I would have liked to hear a dashboard crack for the SM feeling. Fortunately, the windshield wiper blades fly.
What if he doesn’t catch fire, but lives up to the expectations? Then Renault has done humanity an enormous service and this Alpine was a masterful closing note of the hunting season.