Renault Alpine A110 ride review

5 Jul, 2017 7:00am Steve Sutcliffe

We take a passenger ride in the new Alpine A110 as the comeback of Renault's sports car brand nears completion

This is a big moment in the history of Alpine, the once iconic French sports car brand that went dormant for a few decades, but which is now on the cusp of making a spectacular return with the all-new mid-engined Alpine A110.

I’m sitting next to a chap called Terry Baillon as we spear serenely but also very quickly through the French countryside just south of Lyon. He’s driving, I’m watching, wondering, trying to work out just how good the new A110 will be to drive – because from the passenger seat it already feels pretty damn tidy to me.

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It’s an intriguing car for all sorts of weird and mostly wonderful reasons, the new A110. It deliberately eschews huge horsepower – it boasts just 249bhp and 236lb ft from a 1.8-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine – and instead Alpine has gone back to its roots and obsessively kept weight to an absolute minimum. To a point where the claimed kerb weight for the prototype I’m sitting in is just 1,103kg with fluids, including half a tank of petrol.

As a result, it has 226bhp per tonne whereas a Porsche Cayman has 225bhp per tonne. The difference is that in order to generate its number the Porsche needs more power because it weighs more in the first place. And that, in a nutshell, is what will make the A110 so different to drive from its nemesis, claim its creators

“We have gone for maximum agility with this car” explains Baillon as we continue to drive along what turns out to be a great road, at a faintly ridiculous speed. “By removing as much weight as we could, everything else is so much easier to get right” says Baillon. And from the way the A110 changes direction seemingly so readily, with almost zero perceptible inertia, one can’t help but think they are already a long way towards getting it spot on with the A110.

From the passenger seat the interior of the car looks high in quality, low in complexity. It feels expensive in here, the ultra lightweight carbon seats lovely to snuggle right down into, visibility excellent for a mid-engined car. The sounds – and thrust – coming from the turbocharged engine just behind my left ear are also highly convincing. The noise is way better to listen to than the more anodyne thrum of the new turbocharged Cayman, and the acceleration feels proper. As in 0-60mph in not a lot more than four seconds and, just guessing, 0-100mph in around 12sec.

But it’s the Alpine A110's ride and the suspension control that feels most impressive of all from the passenger seat. As ever, there are different modes to scroll through that alter the characteristics of the engine, exhaust and gearbox maps, none of which I’m especially aware of from the wrong seat. But the suspension and dampers remain the same in all modes, which is a refreshing departure and shows the confidence Alpine has in this car. And to put it simply, it just works.

The A110 glides across the ground in a similar way to an early Lotus Elise in that it appears to have huge grip and composure but also a beautifully fluid ride at the same time. There are no harsh edges to its responses, instead the springs and dampers appear to be able to deal with just about anything they encounter. 

It feels quite soft in its roll stiffness, true, but with Baillon at the wheel – who is head of chassis development and quite clearly a hand – the A110 simply feels fast, composed and refined. It also sounds surprisingly good for a four-cylinder turbo, and just appears to be incredibly well sorted, full stop.

We drive the A110 for ourselves in late October/early November this year in the south of France and, after this brief experience from the other seat, I for one just can’t wait.