FEB 16th 2016
New Mid‑Engined Alpine Prepares To Take On The World
The concept Alpine driven up the Goodwood hill by Lord March last year – marking not only the opening of the 2015 Festival of Speed, but also the renaissance of the charismatic but sadly long-absent French sports car firm – will be ready for the showrooms next year, the company has confirmed.
And this is what a production version of the mid-engined two-seater coupe will look like. Exactly the same then, minus a few stickers, as it did at FoS last year, as these pictures released today show. But the workers at Alpine haven’t been wasting the past eight months.
They have finalised the new car’s interior – it is shown here for the first time – decided on a power unit – a four-cylinder turbo – and confirmed the new car will be built in Alpine’s spiritual home of Dieppe, in a factory currently being refurbished for the job. The first cars are due to roll out the doors for spring next year.
There has even been time to take the original blue Goodwood car and its new white prototype twin to the Col de Turini in the eponymous Alpine area for a photo opp to recall various Monte Carlo triumphs of the past.
Despite all that the car is, officially and somewhat disappointingly, still a concept. When we saw it last it was called Celebration concept, to mark Alpine’s 60th anniversary; the car you see here is called Vision concept. Give it its production moniker – the rumour is Alpine A120, a natural follow-on from the Monte-winning A110 – and you’d think it was ready for the showroom now, but Alpine is adamant it’s still 20 per cent show car. We surmise maybe wheel size will come down an inch, the ride height will be a little more sleeping policeman friendly, and any last remnants of showcar glitz be removed. But other than that – it’s the finished article.
Which is? An Alfa 4C, Porsche Cayman rival with a coupe body overflowing with Alpine styling cues from the past, and a claimed emphasis on an immersive driving experience rooted in light weight construction and maximum agility. Pretty much then as his lordship found when he drove the blue car up the hill last year… see more on that and our chat with the car’s designer, Antony Villain, at FoS last year here.
Power outputs of 250bhp in the base car and 300bhp in a higher performance version have not so far been confirmed by Alpine. But the firm is saying the car will dispatch 0-62mph in under 4.5 seconds. We might not know engine size (maybe a 1.8) but we do know it will be hooked up to a dual clutch transmission with shift paddles behind the steering wheel and gear selector push buttons on the centre console.
The dash is an all-digital affair with a TFT touch screen that’s configurable in a host of ways, including the likelihood of many motor sport-inspired functions – witness, as well, the nice throwback touch of a giant stopwatch on the centre of the dash. The engine start button is a big red knob under a lift-up flap. By the look of the heavily bolstered seats there will be no lack or cornering support; notice too the racing harnesses.
Materials such as aluminium, quilted leather, microfibre ‘technical’ fabrics and carbon all feature inside, in what Alpine says is a balance between heritage and modernism with a dash of motor sport influence thrown in. The chunky three-spoke steering wheel gets a Sport button which along with the metallic-look chunky switches and air vents are backlit with, you guessed, Alpine-blue illumination.
After a 20-year absence from the market, however, Alpine’s renaissance and its avowed intent to ‘carve out a clear niche in the premium sports car market’ will take far more than just enthusiasm. Alpine may be well known in France but to be a success the new model must sell well in North America and Asia, as well as Europe – where the UK and Germany are expected to each take four times as many cars as France itself. Ironically France has gone off cars like this.
Alpine is known for its ‘David vs Goliath’ sporting successes in the past, but this could be its biggest challenge yet. We will know more when the car at last sheds its ‘concept’ tag and we see what it can really do – fingers crossed at the Festival of Speed this year.