HOMONYMS are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. So, for some people the word Alpine is something relating to Alps, areas of high mountains, or a plant that grows in said high mountain areas.
But for the uninitiated, Alpine (pronounced Al-peen) is a small French sports car company and their new A110, here in Premiere Edition guise, is something special you should know more about.
So, English lesson over for today, what we have is a modern-day recreation of Alpine’s iconic 1960s and 70s sports car of the same name. Most noted for its rally success in the early 70s, the latest version shares many style cues with the original.
That beautiful Berlinetta style body shape, unique 4-LED headlight signature and Alpine Blue paintwork are just a few that are easily identifiable.
Back in the day, the final competition-spec original A110 received a 1.8-litre engine, and the new model shares this capacity care of a de-tuned version of the Renault Megane R.S. engine producing 185kW of power and 320Nm of torque.
Mid-mounted with air intakes and vents right behind your shoulders, a rorty exhaust note that burbles and crackles on overrun, the A110 makes all the right noises, like a good sports car should.
Mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission that is smooth and seamless during everyday driving in Normal mode, but ferocious and ruthlessly efficient in Sports and Track mode, it delivers ultra-fast up-shifts and perfectly balanced downshifts.
Riding on 18-inch forged Fuchs alloy wheels, the A110 handles incredibly well thanks in part to its 96 per cent aluminium chassis. It’s light. Really light. Weighing in at 1,094kg – 315kg lighter than the Audi TT and 270kg lighter than the Porsche 718 Cayman.
That’s a huge difference when compared to the competition, and it shows through the corners and in the sprint to 100km/h. Just 4.5 seconds is all it takes to dispatch that marker, which again is faster than its rivals.
The A110 features an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h, but top speed isn’t what this car is about, the driving experience is where the Alpine shines, and makes you feel you’re in something more special than a garden variety hot hatch.
Crouch down into the low-slung coupe and settle into the lightweight Sabelt racing seats (which weigh only 13.1kg) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how comfortable those fixed bucket seats are.
Then you will notice the snug cabin that cocoons you in carbon fibre, leather and splashes of colour. You’ll feel instantly at one with the A110. Press the slightly naff red starter button and the Alpine stirs to life. You are ready to go.
Press the ‘D’ button in the centre console for Drive, and as mentioned earlier, you’ll see how effortless the A110 works it’s way through the suburban streets and traffic and you will understand how it can return a combined fuel consumption of 6.2 litres/100km.
Reach your favourite stretch of road however and push the red sport button on the steering wheel and you are greeted with a new dash layout and slightly more aggressive parameters for the engine, exhaust, throttle pedal, steering assistance and gearbox.
Give the computers some time to learn you’re driving style and the car responds by holding gears for longer and changing down earlier for a fairly intuitive experience. Not perfect, but definitely better than a lot of other sports modes on the market.
Take things a step further by holding the sport button down and you are greeted with Track mode. The digital dash display changes again, this time into an almost Jet Fighter style layout dominated by the tacho and gear indicator.
The same parameters in sports mode are retained, but this time the gearbox automatically selects ‘M’ mode for manual. Now you are in total control, using the steering wheel mounted shift paddles to work the Alpine to its limits.
By the time you have even looked at a corner, and thought about turning into it, the A110 feels like it’s already done it for you. It’s almost telepathic, like an early model MX-5, in its handling response, and it just continues to hold on from there.
The Alpine is strange in the way it responds while loaded in a corner; it waits for you to decide what’s next, it gives you options. Keep your enthusiasm in check and you can hold a neutral balance that will see the in-dash G meter post some impressive numbers.
Get aggressive with the steering and throttle however and you can provoke an oversteer that is easy to control and playful. Keep a steady throttle and add in some more steering lock and you can have subtle and safe understeer.
Not many cars today are that playful and adaptable on the limit, that’s for sure.
Entertainment and comfort are enhanced by a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia system with navigation, a brilliant Focal audio system, and Alpine Telematics for all sorts of vehicle information, including an array of graphs, gauges and data.
Smartphone connectivity is achieved through Alpine mySPIN, which can be thought of as a Lite version of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. It offers some smartphone replication through the multimedia screen, however it’s too clunky and un-intuitive for our liking.
Priced at $106,500 plus on-roads (as tested), the Alpine A110 comes with a 3-year/100,000km warranty, with the first three services capped to a total of $2,340, although some additional service items aren’t covered in this figure.
When compared to its main rivals, the Alpine comes in more expensive than the Audi TT ($86,876) and the Alfa Romeo 4C ($95,455), but significantly less than the Porsche 718 Cayman ($132,052).
Think of the 2019 Alpine A110 as Switzerland, an extremely capable sports car that has no brand loyalties. It’s for someone who likes to be a little bit different and doesn’t have to explain themselves.
It’s for someone who wants to turn heads with pedestrians and other motorists mouthing “what is that?!”, which happened to us on multiple occasions. It’s for someone who wants a pure driving experience.
If this is you, enjoy the Alpine A110 for what it is, a sports car that will turn heads, divide opinions and always leave you with a smile on your face.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Renault Australia. To find out more about the 2019 Alpine A110, contact your local Alpine dealer. As this vehicle is a two-seater, we have removed the Family Friendliness category from the ratings below.