How to fix the Alpine A110

This may seem like a pointless bit of writing given the press plaudits the Alpine A110 has received since it launched in 2018. But I reckon there’s still a bit for the French brand to play for. 

There’s no doubt about the original Alpine A110’s fabulous heritage, taking wins in the Monte Carlo rally against tough competition. This was a light, quick, and nimble French sports car which offered a fantastic alternative to the Porsche 911 at the time. 

The rebirth in 2017 was greeted with open arms and the driving reports were glowing. CAR magazine reported:

“This is an unintimidating yet thrilling sports car to chuck down a sinuous road, and the best possible advertisement for reducing weight instead of increasing power.“

So why am I putting the Alpine A110 under scrutiny? Well despite its athletic abilities, it still falls short in a couple of key areas against its competition. 

The interior

One of the key criticisms of the A110 vs the Porsche Cayman seems to be the interior. The interior on the A110 is not exactly a let down. There’s quilted seats, leather here and there, and a bit of stitching too. 

Of course, adding elements of luxury also tends to add weight. The philosophy behind the A110 and what makes it work so well is its light weight, so engineers and designers would have to carefully consider or problem solve how to increase the levels of luxury and comfort into the car without adding weight. 

We don’t need 76-way adjustable electric heated seats, but the fixed buckets on the production car, as wonderful as they may be for sports driving, reduce the options for finding a comfortable position for passengers and longer journeys. 

We also don’t need 18-speaker sound systems, but the infotainment system has also come under criticism from various sources as has some of the switchgear.

The facility to store items in the cabin and more generous boot space for those weekend trips away will add another dimension to the car. I don’t believe adding luxury touches will impact its driver focused ability either.

Lift the interior here and there, add more storage, and Alpine will make it very difficult for potential customers to gravitate towards the default choice of the Porsche. 

There’s no manual option

Alpine argued with perfectly fine rationale as to why the new A110 was not engineered to cater for a manual transmission. The press at the time chose to not focus on the lack of a manual either, instead celebrating other aspects.

This is not a high powered supercar where the tachometer sweeps across the rev range in a second. This is a car about balance and driver input so why deny that completeness by not including a manual option? The key point is “option” as many consumers don’t want to bother changing gears themselves but surely  for a car whose philosophy is involvement a manual transmission completes the brief. 

Can you imagine what an A110 in manual might be like to drive? I reckon it would be a brilliant thing dancing between gears, balancing the throttle and weight of the car through corners much like a “French Lotus”. 

The Porsche 718 is offered in manual. The BMW M2 Competition is offered in manual. And there is going to be another player in town soon in the name of “Z” that will have a manual option. 

History tells us that few brands can get away with compromising cars. These days with adaptive dampers and sophisticated suspension technology as well as decades of R&D customers want and expect cars that can do it all. Would the Alfa Romeo 4C have survived and even rejuvenated Alfa Romeo if it was offered in manual with a more comfortable interior? I’d wager that yes it would have, or at least it would have had a stay of execution. 

The A110 had been engineered without consideration for a manual option even down to the interior, so chances of a manual in this current guise at least, are slim.

But keep the good stuff

In Australia, the price is spot on. An entry level Alpine costing around $110,000, while and entry level 718 Cayman will set you back around $134,000. That’s a huge price difference. 

There’s also no question about the Alpine’s ability as a drivers’ car. Does it need an extra two cylinders? Nope. 

The styling is a wonderful homage to the original without being pastiche. If there was another generation of the A110 in the future, would it look the same? It would be a difficult job for designers to deviate greatly from the formula they’ve created. 

With Renault having gone through a great deal of turmoil these past couple of years and announcing huge cutbacks, the future of the A110 and Alpine brand seemed uncertain although it is buoyed by the recent announcement that the Renault Sport F1 Team will be renamed the Alpine F1 Team. 

If there is indeed another Alpine A110 perhaps it can address the above “issues” and really dominate the 2-seater sports car segment at its price point. 

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