What is it?
The danger was always that Alpine would spoil the second iteration. In its original 2017 guise, critics reckoned the modern A110 was an unusually good little sports coupé – light, quick, agile, comfortable and well resolved on all fronts. Rarely had an all-new product popped out of the pod so perfectly formed.
The car was rapidly embraced by the UK’s automotive intelligentsia. Master engineer Gordon Murray started driving a Launch Edition to work. Rock star car collector Nick Mason bought one and so did ex-Autocar TV pundit James May.
All were responding to the car’s lightness, its inspired use of simple and affordable proprietary Renault components and its exceptionally pretty body that neatly referenced the revered 1960s A110 without over-egging the pudding.
The trouble was that it didn’t sell. Impressed potential buyers stood on the brink – then bought a Porsche 718 Cayman.
After several years of frustration, Alpine began a fightback, geared to new big boss Luca de Meo’s ‘Renaulution’ revival plan. The Renault Sport performance car arm was rebranded Alpine and the Renault Formula 1 team ditto. It was announced that Alpine prototypes would contest the Le Mans 24 Hours. Talk of the Dieppe-based brand’s potential demise abruptly ceased.
The moves yielded results. Poor (if Covid-affected) 2020 European sales of 1527 improved 74% last year to 2659. In France, the expansion hit 117%; here, the figure was 92%. Awareness of the brand grew and A110 sightings on Europe’s roads approached a critical-mass stage.
Then a new problem emerged: how would Alpine stimulate new sales with improvements to a car whose styling and performance were so much admired without ruining it?
Several months ago, its solution emerged: to improve the car’s main area of weakness (the infotainment system) then gently reorganise the models into three logical strands: base (Alpine A110), grand touring (A110 GT) and overtly sporty (A110 S). Dress them up with new paint, decor and options – including an aerodynamics pack for the S that cuts drag and boosts high-speed stability – but preserve everything else.