What is it?
Alpine has been busy of late.
Not only has it joined Formula 1, if only in name, but just like Jaguar it has also committed early to becoming an electric-only brand. Already there’s an entry-level hatch and crossover models in the pipeline, as well as something more sporting, to be co-developed with Lotus.
The arrival of the new A110 ‘Légende GT’ is therefore very small fry. You might even now refer to the A110 in all its guises as Le Petit Dinosaure – a car propelled as it is by nothing more futuristic than a four-cylinder combustion engine, and one soon to be permanently consigned to its maker’s back-catalogue.
And yet, at £59,410 the limited-edition A110 Légende GT, of which only 400 examples will be built, is the most expensive Alpine to date, and that makes it worth discussing – particularly in light of where the brand is headed.
Because if parent company Renault is to realise its ambition of making Alpine self-sufficient to the extent that it can fund its own assault on Le Mans and entirely support its own racing endeavours across the board, it needs this historic marque to generate profit. And a fair amount of it.
The problem right now is that each A110 is (or is very close to) loss-making, which is what happens when you develop an all-aluminium sports car with double-wishbone suspension almost from the ground up, then sell it for as little as £48,000, in the case of the entry-level Pure.
But here's the thing: good profitability is something the mainstream makers usually achieve by combining sporting prowess with luxury. World-class engineering is simply not enough in the mass-market. You need opulence, too. It’s something Porsche does well, it's why Lotus isn't outselling Ferrari, and the very concept is what the Légende GT tentatively explores for Alpine.
So if you’re wondering whether £60,000 is pushing it for a four-cylinder machine without much badge-recognition outside enthusiast circles, so are Alpine’s product planners.
Well, probably. What the Légende GT makes us ponder is just how comfortably the luxury approach sits with something that shares parts with much cheaper Renault hatchbacks. Indeed, how far upmarket can you push the Alpine brand, as we know it now?