French firm’s rear-driven sportster only three years away
12 June 2008

Despite rumours of delay and cancellation, Renault’s plan to launch its first bespoke sports car since the RenaultSport Spider - and to revive the Alpine brand - remains intact.Company insiders have told Autocar that the new Alpine model will arrive in 2011. Renault product development boss Patrick Pelata said that, contrary to previous information, the car will be affordable, lightweight and rear-wheel driven.“Since the company’s conception in the 1950s, Alpine cars have been defined by their lightweight constructions and their affordability,” Pelata told Autocar. “Our intention is to revive the brand with a car that has the same virtues.” Powered by a longitudinally mounted four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, the new Alpine roadster’s closest rival will be the Mazda MX-5 – but the Alpine will trump the Mazda on power, with at least 220bhp to call upon. Expect it to cost slightly more than the Mazda too - Renault’s target price for the car is £20,000.To ask consumers to pay any more for an Alpine would, according to Pelata, be against what the brand stands for. “That’s why we can’t simply produce a Renault version of the Nissan Z,” he explained; “it would be too heavy, too costly and too expensive to run in the increasingly CO2-conscious European market.”“Also, the business case for such a car does not add up for Renault,” Pelata went on. “For Nissan, the success of the 350Z depends on American sales, and Renault doesn’t sell in America.”The origins of the platform that the new Alpine will use remain undefined, although the biggest clue dropped thus far was the Nissan Urge concept – an open, longitudinally-engined two-seat concept shown by Nissan in 2006, based on a shortened version of the 350Z’s underpinnings. “The Urge was a great idea,” Pelata explains. “I like it very much.”So it’s been suggested that the Alpine is being developed through the Renault-Nissan alliance, on a new rear-drive platform created out of modified 350Z underpinnings - but to make the case watertight there needs to be a business reason for Nissan, as well as Renault: “our partnership is one between independent companies,” Pelata says. “We only co-operate when there are benefits for both sides.”The payback for Nissan, after volunteering its 350Z platform, could come in one of several ways: a Nissan version of the Alpine is among them, to sit below the 350Z – but Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn’s rule, that Renault and Nissan models should never directly compete with each other, would make that possible only if the Nissan was differently priced and positioned.That gives us the tantalising possibility that this project might also yield a Nissan-badged replacement for the much-missed 200SX coupe.

Matt Saunders

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12 June 2008

Sounds cool- so long as they don't mess up the styling (they are a bit hit and miss at the moment!)

12 June 2008

Looks great from the sketch, and with hot Renaults at the moment getting better and better this should be a cracker. A sticker price close to £20k surely would mean an order book as long as your arm.

14 June 2008

Rear driven but not rear engined.

For many years Alpine specialised in light weight rear engined cars that out handled the comtemporary Porsche 911s and used tuned all aluminium Renault engines. They forced Porsche to develop a series of specials and bigger engines after winning the World Rally Chamionship a number of times at the begining of the 1970s.

And they provided the mechanical basis for many Lotus models as well.

Today such an uncompromising approach may not be possible but can they not find a bit more of that flair again?

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