ALPINE, the Renault-owned performance marque — synonymous with rallying in the 1970s — has added to its line-up and all four models will be available in Ireland for the first time.
oining the entry-level A110, the GT and S, is a blistering track-ready R model which will seriously put the frighteners on its German rivals — namely BMW’s M division and Porsche.
Surprisingly the R uses the same engine, gearbox and chassis as the A110, but to make it quicker and more agile, engineers decided to shed any extra weight (-34kg), make it more aerodynamic and improve the handling.
A quick glance and the changes to the two-door coupe are immediate with its unique matt blue paint plus, of course, the black carbon fibre bonnet, roof and rear window.
Those with a keen eye will spot the same super-light carbon used in the front splitter, side skirts, rear spoiler and diffuser. Even the wheels are made from the magic weave and not only save 4kg a corner, they are more durable and give greater heat resistance.
The staggered rims really are the pièce de résistance, and on closer inspection, you’ll notice added caps on the rear to lessen the drag effect and create more downforce.
To give it extra grip they come dressed in semi-slick Michelin PS Cup tyres coupled with stiffened adaptable dampers.
Inside, the only real difference is the suede finish in the upper dash, and the carbon fibre bucket seats with five-point harness.
Those over 6ft or carrying a couple of extra Covid pounds are advised to close the door before belting up, such is the snugness in the cabin. The rear-view mirror has been removed so you’ll need to rely on the colour reversing camera, but in a car like this, it’s what’s in front that matters.
Fire up the 1.8-litre rear-mounted turbo-charged unit, hit the Sport button on the flat-bottomed steering (complete with red 12 o’clock marker) and the fun begins in earnest.
The hit of adrenalin is instant as the four pot roars into life, snarling and popping as you race through the sublime seven-speed twin clutch gearbox. Power is laid down in a civilised fashion — building quickly — giving you the feeling that the engine is naturally aspirated.
But drop the hammer and the kick in the back is all too evident — with the full thrust of the 300 horses hitting 100kmh in just 3.9 seconds.
It’s remarkably composed on the road and even on the busy motorways around Madrid, it was surprisingly comfortable.
Yes, the ride is a tad choppy, especially at lower speeds, and traffic humps and uneven surfaces a bit unpleasant, but the A110R could easily double up as an every day car. That said, this little pocket rocket is a bit of a hooligan and the track is where it’s most at home.
It’s also where the overall package comes into play and you really notice the lightness (weighing in at just 1082kg), agility, grip and responsiveness.
Lining up in the pit lane of the Jarama circuit we felt safe to double click the Sport button to activate Track Mode.
The steering, suspension and gear ratios slip into race mode and everything is quicker, sharper and more immediate.
Hairpin bends, chicanes blind apexes… nothing could faze this savage machine and on the straight my rivals were tipping well over 230kmh before braking late (I’m not that brave) only to start all over again.
A truly epic little beast and if the sterling prices are anything to go by — decently priced. No official figures as yet but in the UK the entry-level A110 starts at £51,990 (€59,000), while the A110R is a hefty £89,990 (€102,000).
It seems we missed the allocation for 2023, so be quick with your order for next year.
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