Alpine A110 review: meeting the hype beast

Cars

The Alpine A110 has taken the sports car world by storm. But can it really live up to such a glowing reputation?

You’ve met the Alpine A110 before. You will have done somewhere, whether it’s on telly or in a magazine, or perhaps even in the flesh, when one of the few lucky owners that have taken delivery flashes past in a pert little ball of blue Frenchness.

And were that the case, you might have wondered quite what all the fuss was about. The A110 is a pretty little thing, sure – but could this cute little sports car really be the revelation – the Cayman slayer – everyone’s painting it out to be?

 Alpine A110 rear badge

After all, Porsche has ruled the roost in this sort of territory for years now, its cars’ precision and pace meaning they offer a driving experience quite unlike anything else you can buy for the price – even if that price isn’t exactly everyday. Not even Jaguar, with its years of sports car experience and the beautiful F-Type, could beat the boys from Stuttgart. Surely Alpine, on its first attempt, can’t have gone and done it.

The A110’s cockpit gives off promising signs. Diamond-quilted leather pads the door cards; blue stitching lines the centre console, dash and steering wheel. There’s a vast, red ‘Start/Stop’ button – mirrored by one marked ‘Sport’ that nestles within the crook of a steering wheel spoke. Only the infotainment – a slightly crude-looking affair with no shortcut keys that requires lots of screen presses to get you to where you want to be – is a bit of a let-down

 Alpine interior

But the minute you get the A110 moving, all is forgiven. Accelerate hard and the engine’s yowl fills the cabin, overlaid by a shrill transmission whine reminiscent of a rally car’s straight-cut gearbox. It’s fast – 0-62mph comes up in 4.5 seconds – but not so fast it terrifes you, its pace laid on in a glorious wodge of turbo-fed torque that gives way to a screaming, rev hungry top end you want to exploit again and again.

Gearchanges aren’t quite fed in with the whip-crack pace of Porsche’s PDK system, but they’re still crisp and smooth, and never once does the gearbox dent the Alpine’s acceleration.

What really astonishes, though, is how deft and delicate the A110 feels. Where a Cayman seems to want to claw your face off with its grip and traction, the Alpine dances and skips from corner to corner. Its steering is fast, neat, precise and beautifully weighted; its chassis feeds back every little bit of weight transfer to your backside with gentle sways and pitches. The A110 works so well because its double wishbone suspension been set up with a degree of softness, and that enables it to tell you what’s happening with each and every throttle feather or steering tweak.

A happy corollary of this extraordinary damping is that it reduces all but the chunkiest of ruts to subtle vibrations. The A110 rides astonishingly well for such a taut, balanced sports car, and even more amazingly, all this is achieved without the aid of adaptive dampers. Its lightness is key to all this – at a shade over 1100kg, so it doesn’t need hefty suspension solutions to help it manage its weight.

Together with a gearbox that shifts imperceptibly in fully automatic mode, what this means is a car that’s never a chore when you want to drive it gently – and one that’s unspeakably joyful when you don’t. It’s difficult not to wrap yourself up in superlatives when you climb out of the A110, and that’s why it’s been so vaunted.

Believe the hype though; this is an extraordinary little car, and one that really has shown all of the established sports car manufacturers the way home.

 

 

 

 

 

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