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Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

Autocar logo Autocar 14/05/2018 Richard Lane

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review
© Autocar

What is it?

If you’ve read and fully digested Matt Prior’s dispatch from the launch of the A110 last year, you already know just how special a car Alpine has built.

What you’ll read here is an interim report between it arriving for the first time in the UK and a full Autocar road test. It’s during the latter, spread over ten pages in the magazine, that the A110 will be subjected to the rigours of road and track both bone-dry and treacherously sodden, to stopwatch, telemetry and noise-monitoring gear, and finally to the subjective views taken by several road testers. We will discover whether it’s good for the five-star verdict early impressions suggested.

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

What makes the prospect so exciting is that five-star cars are generally rather more expensive than most people are prepared to spend. At around £50,000 you could say this Alpine also falls into that category, but for many it won’t – it’ll be slap-mouth-wateringly-bang in the middle of toy territory.

Let’s quickly remind ourselves what an Alpine A110 actually is, beyond a vividly re-imagined interpretation of a ‘Berlinette’ built in the 1960s – one that proved pretty handy on a rally stage.

The original A110 slung its engine out beyond the rear axle, whereas the modern car positions a 1.8-litre turbocharged unit behind the cabin but within the wheelbase. Its four cylinders make only a modest 248bhp but an entirely new aluminium platform means a kerb weight of just over 1100kg.

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

Cars built to ‘Pure’ specification use smaller, 17-inch wheels and one-piece Sabelt buckets (the very same as on our fully loaded ‘Premiere Edition’ test car) to bring that figure down further. By comparison, a Porsche Cayman equipped with a PDK gearbox weighs nearly 1400kg.

You can get a lighter Cayman with a manual transmission, of course, but the Alpine comes fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch from Getrag. That’s right, there is no manual. The auto has been modified from what you’ll find in the Renaultsport Clio, however, and now uses wet clutches and custom ratios.

Suspension is by double wishbones front and rear, and the tyres are refreshingly narrow 205-section affairs.

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

This being a sports car with pretensions of purity, drive is delivered to the rear axle alone, which does without a limited-slip differential in favour of a system that brakes the inner wheel during cornering. Using an open differential saves weight (and money), though there’s also the fact that an LSD can corrupt steering feel just off centre – just ask Lotus. 

What is it like?

It’s no secret the A110 is an exceptionally fun car to drive. It might, however, take you a moment or two to realise it in Blighty.

a car driving down a country road © Provided by Haymarket Media Group

Potter along and electro-mechanical steering is light on road feel and the front axle likes to go hunting on the broad spectrum of British roads whose surface is need of remedial work.

You don’t get the unrealistic but satisfying sensation the contact patches of the tyres are at all times sitting perfectly flush with the tarmac, as you do in a Cayman, and at the first it’s all a bit vague. You might even feel disappointed.

You’ll notice too that this car won’t corner as flatly as some rivals, and that the damping isn’t as assertive as it might be. There’s a pervasive fidget, which is perplexing because the suspension setup feels a touch soft. You might begin to wonder whether the A110 is simply ill-suited to life on this side of the Channel.

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review But something of a turning point soon arrives – once you’ve got your head around the proportions of the Alpine. Not that it feels remotely claustrophobic within, but an A110 is tiny.

It is narrower that a Clio 220 Trophy, in fact, and considerably shorter than that car’s older brother, the new RS Mégane. You wouldn’t think it, given the sweeping kamm-tail-esque rear end and the aluminium bodywork theatrically draped over the haunches.

Such modest dimensions encourage to you start using the road width to its fullest, to start carving lines within your lane, and to exercise an intensely pneumatic-sounding engine that’s not notably tractable but it likes to spin.

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

Accompanied by snorting upshifts, you start to go quicker – not by a lot – and it’s then the realisation comes that this chassis possesses such a sweet, sweet combination of a control, roll and grip.

I'm not sure any other car currently on sale so surreptitiously gets you so instinctively straddling the limit of its adhesion. Second- and third-gear corners are an utter delight, the A110 feeling up on the balls of it feet and with a definite rear-biased, adjustable poise.

At speed the steering finally possesses some heft, and the nose of the car likes to shadow the inner white line a touch more tightly than the tail. 

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

That additional slack in the suspension, and the car's terrifically intuitive roll-rate in relation to steering input, is key. There's a benign predictability to the rear-led manner in which an A110 crosses the grip threshold that you find yourself driving the wheels off the thing on almost any kind of road.

Really get on top of it – as you surely will, such is the confidence you’ll take from this chassis – and the A110 can leave you frothing at the mouth. 

There will be times when won't want that, of course. And, no, an A110 isn't as cultured as a Cayman at a cruise, being louder and more agitated, but it's just about good enough to tour in and has luggage space in the back and under the bonnet.

a man sitting in a car © Provided by Haymarket Media Group You're also unlikely to put your back out climbing into it, though it is quite a drop down into the quilted buckets. Over-the-shoulder visibility is extremely poor, mind.

Should I buy one?

Unquestionably you should experience an A110 before you take your £50,000 and bolt, unthinkingly, for the familiarity of Porsche or BMW.

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

Both manufacturer’s rival models are quicker than the Alpine, and while the 718 Cayman S possesses a depth to its handling you’ll never tire of exploring, the M2 opens a sluice gate for cheap rear-driven thrills. You’d be delighted with either.

But probably not as delighted as you’d be with an A110. It is not flawless, but the contrasting attributes that appeal in its German counterparts are bedfellows in the Alpine, which manages to be both fun and interesting at almost any speed. On British roads it can entertain like few others.

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition specification

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review © Autocar Alpine A110 Premiere Edition 2018 UK review

Where Sussex, UK Price £51,805; On sale Now; Engine 4cyls, 1.8-litre, turbo, petrol; Power 249bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 239lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1103kg; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 4.5sec; Fuel economy 46.3mpg; CO2 138g/km; Rivals Porsche 718 Cayman, Alfa Romeo 4C

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