Alpine A110S: The Cayman hunter
Can the Frenchie finally become the benchmark?
If you're in the market for a sporty two-seater coupé that ranges between 250 PS and 300 PS, chances are you'll be looking at this car, the Alpine A110S. This new variant of the already popular A110 is more powerful, lighter, and grips even more to the road. Back in 2017, we were lucky enough to be part of the first ones in Switzerland to try the new A110, and we absolutely adored it. Question is, can this enhanced A110 become the new benchmark of this highly competitive segment?
They may not be that many competitors to the Alpine A110, but I'd say that they are all quite vigorous. From Germany you have the benchmark, the Porsche 718 Cayman T with 300 PS that costs $68'900, the 310-horsepower Audi TT-S that starts at $49'800. Then, from England, you have the Lotus Elise Cup 250. Even though the Evora would make more sense in this comparison, Lotus now only sells it with a minimum power output of 416 bhp. The Elise Cup 250 makes 250 PS for a starting price of $65'900. Also from England, you have the 4-cylinder Jaguar F-Type that costs $61'600 and has an engine that produces 296 PS. From Italy now, there is the Alfa Romeo 4C which has 240 horsepower engine and sells for $67'150. Finally, from Japan (or Germany...) you have the Toyota GR Supra, which in its entry-level spec costs $42'990 and produces 255 PS. There is some variety here, from track-focused sports cars ready to destroy lap times to GTs that are more oriented towards daily driving. The 292-PS Alpine A110S, that starts at $80'000, tries to bring the best of both worlds together.
Expensive, isn't it? It may be the priciest of the lot, but the Alpine feels and looks expensive. It's well equipped as standard, well built, and you immediately get a sense that Renault spared no expense in the engineering department. For some, the Alpine is a no-brainer. For others, the A110S is a refreshing piece of kit. The people who will buy this car are the ones who find the Cayman too obvious, the TT-S not sporty enough, the Elise Cup 250 and 4C not usable enough on a daily basis, the F-Type too posh, and the Supra too German. If you're still hesitant don't worry, you'll see that the Alpine makes more sense than you'd think.
I don't know about you, but I'd like my two-seater coupé to be fun, light, quick, good-looking, and comfortable enough for weekend trips. The Alpine just seems to tick all the boxes, and its closest rival here might be the Porsche 718 Cayman T. The A110S might be more expensive, but with a similar equipment, the Porsche might end up at the same price point. The Frenchie is also way lighter than the German as the Cayman weighs 1'390 kg against 1'114 kg only for the Alpine. That truly contributes to the fun factor and it's nippiness on the road. On the other hand, it would have been appreciable if the Renault-owned brand offered the A110S with a manual gearbox option, like the Porsche. In the end, they are both great cars and it all comes down to your own taste. Yet, personally I think the Alpine has this extra spice that makes it cooler. Is it due to the neo-retro look? Unlike the Legende pack on the standard A110, a trim which pays tribute to the brand's glorious past, the "S" wants to showcase that it is not only a looker, but a very capable sports car. That's why our press car was painted in this really cool matte Gris Tonnerre colour (Thunder Grey) with orange details.
Fundamentally, the "S" did not change visually from the standard version, and that's a pretty good thing, cause the base model is already a stunner. There are no spoilers, or added scoops to mess the design up. Alpine still did some changes, but you can't really see them, and it starts with the engine. Alpine added 40 bhp to the "S" and the car can now go a tenth faster from 0 to 60 mph (4.3 seconds). But that's not it, the car's handling has also been sharpened with the addition of modified suspension and anti-roll bars that are two times stiffer. The result is a much more focused, grippy, and stable sports car than the normal A110.
But a question still remains. Is it better than Porsche's 718 Cayman T? The philosophy is very similar, and they are both sublime sports cars. The Alpine is faster though, and it's mainly due to its weight. All this weight saving also means that it's more economical by about 10mpg. On the other hand the Porsche benefits of a more recognized sports car brand image, more practicality and a better infotainment system. Also, the Cayman is the only one that offers a manual transmission option. Driving with a stick is certainly more engaging and I don't see why Alpine did not offer it since their A110 is all about procuring the best t driving experience. In the end, it all comes down to how you will use your car. If it's more of a weekend car, go with the Alpine that is more fun, exclusive, and driving it feels more like an event. If you plan to drive your car on a daily basis, pick the Porsche. It's more usable, comfortable, and practical.
The Alpine A110S is certainly one of the best sports cars I have ever driven, and it nearly ticks all the boxes for me. The "S" is light, fast, nimble, stable, stylish, fuel efficient, and is quite rare. It just misses out on a couple of elements like the lack of storage space, the not-so-good infotainment system in which you need to go in a submenu to adjust the volume, and the price that is just too high in my opinion. Apart from that, the French manufacturer paid close attention to details and has done an impressive job at building a distinctive sports car. I think that by now you may have realized that fell in love with the A110S, haven't you?
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