Hard to believe the Alpine A110 has been around for more than four years, especially since I’ve only properly got to know it over the past 12 months.
In that time I’ve had five separate drives in various Alpines but the stand-out was the Alpine A110 Legende GT that uses the hotter (292bhp) engine and better brakes of the S-model, combined with the more supple suspension of original editions.
It’s no secret that for all its virtues — including an extruded aluminium chassis that radically undercuts all comers on weight — Alpine has had a bit of a struggle finding buyers. At one point the new marque seemed on the point of going down for the last time, but Renault’s dynamic new CEO Luca de Meo arrived out of the night to change the name of Renault’s F1 team’s to Alpine and gave the whole thing a boot up the backside. Which included launching the Legende GT special edition...
The revival of the A110 has been a terrific relief for me, as someone who always loved the original rear-engined, 1963-77 models. UntiI recently I had actually driven further in early Alpines than current ones. Back in the day I spent a glorious half-day in an original A110 works rally car on a series of forest rally tracks — noting that the handling was so brilliantly adjustable you could almost “get” how works drivers achieved those crazy cornering angles. Then, for a classic car magazine I tested an original A110 against a Porsche 911 of the same era, coming down on the side of the French car for all its flimsiness, funny wheel angles and low-born Renault mechanical bits. Despite all it was delicately beautiful, wonderfully agile and did a lot with very little.