Beneath that retro exterior lives a turbocharged 2.5-litre V6; fine chassis balance and informative steering made this a tough opponent for the 944
14 January 2016

During a significant overhaul of the Alpine A310 in the mid-1980s, Renault installed a V6 turbocharged engine and created the GTA Turbo. With its rear-engined layout, an ultra-sleek 2+2 body and a claimed top speed of 155mph, it combined old and new with some panache.

Its engine was essentially the Renault 25 Turbo’s with an intercooler, a redesigned exhaust system, modified ignition and injection and a larger sump. As a result, the 2458cc V6 put out 200bhp at 5750rpm and 210lb ft at 2500rpm.

“It is no easier to categorise than its predecessors,” David Vivian wrote in Autocar’s sister publication, Motor. “Although more confidently a ‘supercar’, it remains a dedicated and beguiling oddball – a cross, if you can imagine such a thing, between the rear-engined but effective Porsche 911 and its slicker, more practical 944 Turbo stablemate.”

Vivian travelled to the Netherlands to test a GTA on road and on track at Zandvoort, lining up a 944 Turbo for comparison. He wrote: “The new chiselnosed body – made up from glassfibrereinforced resin panels glued together and mated to the steel chassis – is both bigger and sleeker than the old A310’s. The A310 was indisputably cramped, a pretend 2+2. The new car’s cabin is roomier in all directions, with genuine ‘occasional’ seats in the back.”

The Alpine performed well on Zandvoort’s main straight. It sprinted to 30mph in 2.2sec, 60mph in 6.0sec and 100mph in 16.0sec. The more powerful but heavier 944 Turbo pipped the Alpine to 60mph in 5.9sec and had pulled out just over a second’s lead by 100mph.

“On the road, the Renault feels even quicker than these figures would suggest, but for the wrong reasons,” Vivian reported. “As with the R25 Turbo, the suddenness of the power delivery and the protracted nature of the preceding turbo lag contrive to make progress anything but fluid. Spasms of acceleration squirt the Alpine Turbo past strings of slower traffic in very short order, but the novelty soon wanes on twisting roads that demand a more measured application of power.”

The reward for finding a clear, winding road, though, was handling of an order beyond the reach of all but the best-sorted 911s. Vivian said: “The Alpine is satisfying and forgiving, with light, informative steering and terrific grip from the squat tyres. Its initial tendency is to run wide, but power can be used to settle the cornering line and, in extremis, slide the tail.

“There’s little that’s subtle about the ride, which, while superbly well controlled at speed, is interminably restless and jars over transverse ridges.”

Vivian concluded: “We were fans of the A310 and the Alpine Turbo is better still. It has a wonderfully dramatic presence on the road and its chassis is second only to those of the best machines.”

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Comments
5

14 January 2016
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14 January 2016
They can be, you can buy mid 1980s GTAs for five figure sums. Look for the subsequent A610 though and you're looking at big money - in France you can find them advertised for €50,000 or more.

14 January 2016
Always loved these. I sat in one at a motorshow around 1987 and it felt terrific. Even loved the oddball styling, it looked so different to the never-changing Porsche competition (though I think they'll be in much better shape almost 30 years later...).

14 January 2016
Always loved these. I sat in one at a motorshow around 1987 and it felt terrific. Even loved the oddball styling, it looked so different to the never-changing Porsche competition (though I think they'll be in much better shape almost 30 years later...).

14 January 2016
I saw one once in a car park - it looked great. One of those cars that one couldn't walk by without imagining being behind the wheel on a lovely, clear road.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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