Let’s be honest: Americans don’t like French cars. While the Renault Dauphine once challenged Volkswagen for supremacy in the United States, it wasn’t Renaults that you see in old pics of upstate New York traffic heading to the aquarian exposition known as the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. To be fair, Italian cars often suffer from the same indignities as French cars, but France never produced a Ferrari. Nonetheless, there are French cars that make some enthusiasts wax poetic, such as Alpine.
Alpine has been back making cars since 2017 after laying dormant since 1995. The result of that rebirth, the A110, has inspired lust from folks who feel having a Porsche Cayman isn’t enough. A homage to the A110 that was produced from 1961-77, the neo-A110 features aluminum construction, a 1.8-liter turbo-four of a design derived from Renault’s association with Nissan (with Alpine reengineering it for 249 horsepower), and a negligible sub-2,500 pounds. Car and Driver says the basic car has “received heaps of praise for its lively handling, communicative steering, and compliant ride.”
Alpine was originally an independent company until it was bought out by Renault in the 1970s. The Alpine A110 and A310 were legendary in rallying, and they do have a small following in the U.S. Even the post-1983 Alpine GTA , the first version launched under Renault ownership, has its fans, but market conditions for it and its A610 successor (which was discontinued in 1995) nudged Renault to put Alpine street cars to rest till the revival little more than five years ago.
C&D reports that a track-inspired Alpine is slated to hit the Champs-Élysées shortly. Called A110 R, this Alpine features reduced weight to the tune of 75 pounds thanks to carbon-fiber hood, wing, rear diffuser, wheels and rear window plug with intakes. As a result, weight is down to 2,385 pounds, which is somewhat shocking in a world where passive restraints have given us two-ton compacts. Horsepower has been bumped up to 300 horses from the standard A110, giving a power/weight ratio that would make Lotus fans cry. Track-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires connect to a suspension lowered 0.4 inches, and it can sink lower by an equal amount thanks to adjustable shocks. Inside, carbon-fiber Sabelt seats (with six-point harnesses, no less), and microfiber and carbon-fiber surfaces add to the racing aspirations.
Like other versions of the A110, the A110 R will only come with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Bummed? No worries—the car isn’t available in America, so what’s the use? But in a world where engineering seems to lead to technological excess, Renault and, specifically, Alpine should be commended for giving a nod to the way things used to be.