French carmaker Alpine (pronounced Al-peen) is making a comeback after an absence of more than 20 years. After driving the new A110, I can safely say that sports car aficionados will rejoice.
Its designers have got it spot on. The front is an appropriate tribute to the original A110 “Berlinette”, with four round headlights (LED) and a prominent spine along the centre of the bonnet.
Its double bubble roof, flat underfloor and rear lower diffuser keep the body devoid of ugly spoilers. The car’s bulging wheel arches, blue brake calipers and a single, centrally positioned exhaust hint of its sporting pedigree.
On paper, its vital statistics are impressive. A mid-mounted turbocharged 1.8-litre engine sends 252bhp and 320Nm to the rear wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Weighing just a tad over 1.1 tonnes, the lightweight car hits 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h – enough to make its competitors sit up.
But figures are nothing if they do not translate into actual performance on the road. On this front, the A110 delivers.
The journey to a private race circuit is lined with B roads with off-camber corners, tight turns, and fast and swoopy bends. The A110 feels composed throughout, gripping the asphalt like a leech on skin.
No matter how hard I try to unsettle it, all it betrays is understeer – easily quelled with a gentle lift of the throttle. Stopping performance is exemplary, too, thanks to four 320mm brakes.
The car does not have fanciful adaptive dampers or a limited-slip differential. Instead, its lightness – by virtue of an almost all-aluminium construction – works in its favour. Its ride is on the firm side, but its double-wishbone suspension manages to soak up bumps and surface imperfections with exceptional poise. Its steering is also incredibly communicative. Feedback is as pure as it comes.