Currently reading: Alpine A110 first ride: will it be a Porsche 718 Cayman beater?
Alpine’s bold intention for its new A110 is to create a lightweight sports car to rival the Porsche 718 Cayman on track while remaining comfortable every day on the road
5 mins read
5 July 2017

We’ve seen the Alpine A110 production car – the model that revives the famous Alpine name – on the show stand at Geneva and we’ve learnt all about its technical specifications, but we won’t actually drive the car until October. However, I have just spent a day riding in it at Renault’s Aubevoye test facility in the north of France. 

Before I was allowed to belt myself into the A110’s fixed-back bucket seat, Chief Engineer David Twohig and Product Planning Director Eric Reymann took a few minutes to set the scene. "We started doing some customer clinics as far back as 2012," says Reymann, "first with pure car guys, people who owned specific Porsches, Caterhams or Lotuses, and then with everybody else. We found there was an appetite for a sports car that could be comfortable to use every day, but that was also fun on the circuit."

Alpine A110 makes Goodwood Festival of Speed dynamic debut

"We wanted to build a car that was a pleasure to drive on the road at 40mph," adds Twohig, "but still bloody good when you go and do a track day every couple of months." From there, Twohig and his team defined the A110’s technical specifications, placing lightness front and centre. 

"If the car is light,’ he continues, "that allows you to bring the spring rates down, so you don’t have a super stiff car that’s a pain to drive every day. That’s why the A110’s body is made from aluminium. 

"The second important thing is the suspension set-up. We’ve got double wishbones all-round, which is very unusual in this class. The 718 Cayman, for instance, has MacPherson struts on its front axle."

It’s worth revisiting chapter one of the vehicle dynamics textbook here, because those double wishbones, as well as the lightweight build, really do underpin every one of the A110’s dynamic characteristics. Double wishbones allow the engineers to control wheel camber in hard cornering, whereas a less sophisticated strut arrangement does not. By controlling wheel camber, you’re keeping the tyre contact patch flat to the road surface, rather than allowing it to ‘fall over’ into positive camber, where it can’t grip effectively. 

In a car with strut suspension, that can be achieved by fitting whacking great anti-roll bars to stop the body from leaning over in a bend. But that simply ruins the ride quality. 

"Because we have double wishbones all-round," explains Twohig, "we don’t have to fight against the body roll. That’s why the A110 uses very small, hollow anti-roll bars, which are really good for the ride."

With weight kept to a minimum – just 1080kg at the kerb – and that double wishbone layout, the foundations of a good sports car are in place. The A110 should be agile and grippy (even on its relatively modest Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres), with a pliant ride quality and good body control. Everything else should simply follow along from there.


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Let’s dive a little deeper. The A110’s suspension arrangement, says Twohig, gives it best in class camber linearity. That makes it progressive at the limit rather than spiky and unpredictable. Furthermore, in really hard cornering, the toe angle adjusts to slight toe-out, which gives gentle understeer characteristics, meaning there’s a safety margin built in. The basic chassis balance can therefore be tuned to be quite neutral, or even oversteery. All of that makes for a car that’s fun and adjustable at low and medium speeds, while also being stable and secure at high speeds. We call that the Holy Grail. 

It’s worth noting, though, that double wishbone suspension isn’t without its drawbacks, mostly relating to packaging. A strut arrangement would have enabled a bigger front storage compartment. It’s encouraging to know Alpine’s priorities are as they should be. 

There aren’t many people on this earth better equipped to demonstrate the A110’s dynamic ability than Laurent Hurgon, and there can’t be many better places to experience the car right on the limit than Aubevoye’s high-speed test track. Hurgon, the French racing and development driver, pilots the A110 with such commitment and ability around the flowing track – which links terrifyingly fast bends with tight, complex corners – that I can hardly believe I’m riding in a car so dainty and benign looking. This thing feels like a wild animal. 

Straight-line performance is strong and there’s even an authentic sports car soundtrack to go with it, while the double-clutch gearshifts feel sharp and snappy. The Track ESC mode allows a certain amount of slip – enough that the car will drift slightly in low-speed corners but not beyond that – and with the systems switched off entirely, the car will hold long, lurid and very progressive slides. It also feels amazingly agile and responsive in direction changes while being safe and stable at high speed. 

Over rougher sections of the test facility – by which I mean surfaces that would cause many cars to leap clean over the perimeter fence – that pliant ride quality is very plain to see. I don’t know of many cars that combine body control and ride quality as well as this. 

Does any of that actually make the A110 fun to drive? We won’t know until we drive the car later in the year. I am now more confident than ever, though, that the Alpine will have what it takes to give the mighty Porsche 718 Cayman an equally mighty scare.

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Join the debate


5 July 2017
Cars always feel faster from the passenger seat (when you have no control), and I fear this will be another two-pedal sportscar with no manual option? Much as I like the concept of a small lightweight coupe, I fear that it will be hard to sell against established German rivals. Let's face it, this car's predecessors the A310 / Alpine GTA didn't fare well a generation ago against the Porsche 911, despite the fact that they drove exceptionally well. I hope the A110 does better.

5 July 2017
It's expensive but looks cheap. Should have made an MX5/TT rival.

5 July 2017
Seems like the Alfa 4C all over again. Nice idea, but wrong engine, wrong gearbox, wrong price. (even if the suspension is pretty good)

5 July 2017
It looks like a £20,000 car.

You can get a brand new good looking Mazda MX-5 for £18,500.


5 July 2017
Nice enough, but to my eyes, the styling is not a patch on the original. Right now, I'd go for the MX-5, especially the RF targa for its originality and price.

5 July 2017
GT86 then. But the 86 has a manual

5 July 2017
Aluminium bespoke body and suspension,looks great inside and out,just
over a ton with about 270bhp? If Renault gets the price right they're
on to a winner should be about 35k - 38k tops to under cut the Germans.

5 July 2017 it will undoubtedly depreciate like a stone dropped over a cliff and it will likely be temperamental and unreliable too.

This alone is a good enough reason to always choose the Porsche.......

5 July 2017
Thekrankis wrote: it will undoubtedly depreciate like a stone dropped over a cliff and it will likely be temperamental and unreliable too.

This alone is a good enough reason to always choose the Porsche.......

Undoubtedly there's always one cock sucker that spouts that kind of crap.

5 July 2017
4, 5, 16, 18, 21, Laguna, Megane , Clio, several Trafic vans....all were bought cheap and all were unreliable, although I enjoyed them all.


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