Alpine has unveiled its new range-topping rear-engined A110S, bumping up the power, lowering the ride height and tightening up the suspension in the name of pure driving pleasure, while still keeping its quintessentially French character.
Since Alpine was resurrected by Renault in 2012 as a high-performance halo brand, the venerable A110 has formed the company's entire range, in Pure and Legende variants. With droopy-ended looks recalling a century of iconic French car designs and an array of headlights across the front to recall the original A110 of the early 70s, it's got a sporty neo-retro look that speaks to snappy handling and a fun drive.
Its 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder turbo engine was never the most whelming of powerplants, though, making 250 hp and 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque, which is less than Renault's own Megane RS and requires drivers to work the gearbox pretty hard to keep things on the boil.
The new A110S has been tuned up to deliver 288 hp in an attempt to address this issue, if not in what you'd call spectacular fashion. Maximum torque is unchanged, but is made for longer as the engine revs higher. Still, at road speeds, that's a solid power output with which to punt around a lightweight 1,114-kg (2,456-lb) two-door sportster like this, and working the 7-speed dual clutch auto transmission is part of the fun.
It's not much quicker, going from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) takes 4.4 seconds for the S, and its stablemates are only a tenth of a second slower. All the Alpines are electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), so the extra top-end horsepower doesn't buy you any extra cred on the autobahns, either.
A nice tight set of corners is where you'll really notice the difference with the A110S getting a 4 mm (0.16 in) lower ride height, and 50 percent stiffer springs with firmer damping. The anti-roll bars are 100 percent stiffer, and new 215/245mm (8.5/9.6 inch) "GT Race" wheels front and rear, wrapped in Pilot Sport 4 tires round out the handling and grip improvements. So you're looking at a significantly firmer ride, but the A110S is happy to trade some ride comfort in search of cornering precision and hard-charging action. If the Pure is your twisty road car and the Legende is your tourer, the A110S sits somewhere between sports and track focus.
Other differentiating features are mainly cosmetic, such as little flag thingies on the rear pillars, orange brake calipers and orange stitching in the interior. There's sporty Sabelt seats, and aluminum pedals and footrests. Spending a little extra will get you a glossy carbon fiber roof that reduces the weight of the car by 1.5 kg (3.3 lb), or a set of Fuchs alloy wheels that drop some 5kg (11 lb) off the unsprung weight.
Sales will begin late this year, and the price will start at €66,500 (US$75,000). At that price, the Alpine A110S will mainly be competing on its unique looks, quirky approach and sharp handling as you can get a lot more performance for your dollar if that's what you're going for.
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