What is it?
You might imagine the only question that really needs answering is whether the new Alpine A110 S is 'better' to drive than the basic A110 of five-star road test fame.
And fair enough. Initially it seems as though that is very much Alpine’s intention for this fresh variant of its lightweight sports car. The ‘S’ moniker, the 40bhp power bump, the firmer, shorter springs and stronger anti-roll bars, the larger brake discs and wider tyres are all exactly the sort of things manufacturers do when they want to make an existing model quicker and, as they always tell us, even better to drive.
But the official line is that this A110 S – driven here in the UK for the first time, although we've previously sampled it on much drier Portuguese roads – is simply another version of the A110, and one better suited to track days. Nothing more, nothing less; there is no hierarchy. Alpine says the original A110 turned out almost exactly as intended, so it hasn't needed to introduce a more serious model to flush through some improvements.
The firm even expects the slower car to outsell the S three to one – a surprise, given that the £56,810 asking price for the A110 S is a reasonable-sounding £7000 more than you’d pay for a comparably equipped A110. For the record, the car you see here also has £2208 worth of lovely carbonfibre roof (easily visible because it barely meets your bottom ribs) and £936 of forged ‘Fuchs’ wheels. Along with other options, it comes out at £63,000 – about the same as the resurrected six-cylinder Porsche Cayman GTS.
The two rivals will surely meet here at some point in the future, but if you think the Cayman’s new naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat six makes it the obvious choice against the four-cylinder Alpine, think again. The A110 S is still the only one of these two cars that uses double-wishbone suspension all round, and the only one with an all-aluminium construction. In short, the French car is the more exotic: a mid-engined supercar shrunk in size, performance and price, but perhaps not in personality. At only 1114kg, it's also much lighter than the Cayman.