What we’re driving: Alpine A110 Première Edition
What it costs: RRP $97,000 (as tested, $106,500)
Why we’re driving it: We love it when a car company does something a little off-the-wall and Renault’s decision to revive the renowned Alpine nameplate by building a 21st century homage to the legendary A110 sports coupe of the early ‘70s, ranks right up there.
At a starting price of $97,000 you do need to have fairly deep pockets to afford an Alpine A110, which slots neatly between the price of on-paper rivals such as the Alfa Romeo 4C at $89,000 and the Porsche 718 Cayman at $115,000.
Alpine has committed to building just 1,955 units of the A110 Première Edition, of which Australia gets only a few dozen. As such, finding a Premiere Edition may now be difficult but its place has been filled by two alternatives, the Alpine Legende and the Alpine Pure.
On the outside
This contemporary version of the A110 is unapologetically inspired by the 1969 original, featuring that car’s rally-inspired twin front headlights, wide and sculpted flanks, distinctive bonnet spine and wraparound rear screen.
The A110’s simple clean silhouette looks as if it could have been sketched on the back of a designer’s napkin, characterised by a single, graceful line that flows unbroken from the swooping front to the duck-tail rear of the car.
The overall look is delicate and elegant, the car’s designers having skillfully reinterpreted the original without resorting to retro pastiche.
LED running lights and ‘X’-shaped LED taillights point to the cars modernity, while gorgeous 18-inch Fuchs forged alloys, hiding colour-coded Brembo brake calipers speak to its sporting intent.
Under the bonnet
Like Alpines of old, this contemporary version is powered by a Renault engine, or at least one that’s been tuned by Renault-Sport.
The mid-mounted turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder sits right behind the driver’s shoulders, making its presence heard in the cabin with a delightful mix of crackles, growls and pops.
It’s lively, too, with outputs of 185kW and 320Nm driving the rear hoops through an excellent seven-seed Getrag dual clutch transmission. The feisty four-pot propels the slinky 1.1 tonne coupe to 100km/h in a rapid 4.5 seconds – as fast as the Alfa Romeo 4C and four-tenths zippier than the base twin-clutch Porsche Cayman.
On the inside
The Alpine’s compact cabin is dominated by a pair of striking Sabelt one-piece sports seats, clad in quilted leather, Alcantara and gorgeous polished aluminium.
You need to slide your bum in over huge thigh bolsters to get in, but once there you’re held in place as snugly as an astronaut on a moon launch.
Ahead of the low-slung driver’s seat is a compact and gorgeous leather-trimmed steering wheel and behind that a pair of matt-alloy paddle shifters.
A bright red circular ‘sport’ button near the lower spokes is just a thumb-press away when you’re ready to get serious in Sport or Track modes.
There’s no gear lever, just a trio of buttons on the buttress-style center console for D-N-R and a cutaway section beneath which provide what little stowage space there is. A compact and somewhat basic multimedia system with 7” touchscreen provides conveniences such as satellite navigation, climate control and smartphone mirroring.
There’s enough space for a 6’2” driver to seat comfortably, but visibility out of the cabin isn’t great, thanks to the low roofline, rear buttresses and a slot-like rear screen.
On the road
Point the A110 at any piece of sinuous back-road and its entire reason for being becomes immediately apparent.
This is a driver’s car par excellence, its impressively light weight, combined with a stiff bonded and riveted aluminium spaceframe, and the supple agility of all-round double wishbone suspension, imbue it with road holding and handling that makes every drive a delight.
Light, delicate and with ultra-eager steering the Alpine responds almost telepathically to driver inputs, darting eagerly in and out of bends, its superbly communicative front end providing just the right balance of grip and feedback.
The fact the A110 wears relatively narrow 205-section front tyres, with 235 rears, means it feels beautifully light on its feet and is also impressively compliant, supple ride quality belying its precision handling.
Alpine has pulled off a rare feat with this car, adhering to the original’s ethos of lightweight construction and pure driving pleasure, while overlaying that with enough modernity to make the new A110 safe and comfortable.
Yes, it misses out on a couple of key features like AEB and a rear parking camera, but what it lacks in electronic nanny aids the A110 more than compensates for with its brilliant handling, exhilarating performance and gorgeous looks.