It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of the Renault Alpine A110 around here. Built between 1961 and 1977, the rear-engined, rear-wheel drive Renault Alpine has gone down in history as one of the greatest rally cars of all-time, up there with the Mini, Ford Mk.I Escort, Lancia Stratos, and Audi Quattro. But unlike those cars, it has such a beauty, a charm, and an indescribable Frenchness that it easily has a home in the Autos Cheat Sheet dream garage. So we’ve been closely following Renault’s reboot of the Alpine brand (which disappeared from the roads in 1995) very closely, specifically the all-new mid-engined road car designed to take on the Porsche Cayman and Alfa Romeo 4C.
Officially unveiled at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, we tried our very best to hold onto our journalistic integrity and not drool all over the French Blue contender to the Italians and Germans, but unfortunately we failed. In a very serious letter we penned to the company outlining a case for importing it stateside, we said:
As we Americans say, you got a real purdy car there, Renault. Clearly with your choice of graphics on the concept, you’re familiar with the VW Vortex community, and can see what dedicated American enthusiasts will do to your beautiful European car once used ones become cheap enough for first car fodder. But here’s the real reason why we need the Alpine, Renault: it’s a mid-engined coupe with an engine note that sounds like the reincarnation of its rally car ancestor, and you’re planning to sell it for under $40,000. Under $40,000! That’s Toyota Sienna Limited money. That’s mid-range Ford F-150 money. What that isn’t is mid-engine exotic money. You’ll have the whole market to yourself.
Keep in mind that we wrote this before we saw what the interior, engine, or any kind of concrete specs looked like for the car. Today, we know that it’s called the A120, and that the rest of our questions will be answered on February 16, according to a post on Alpine’s Twitter account.
Like the original A110, we know that the A120’s will be powered by an inline-four mill. But that’s where the similarities end; the A120’s engine will be mounted amidships, and be based on the 1.6 liter turbocharged powerplant from the Renault Clio RS, one of the hottest hatches in Europe. And according to Autocar, while the Clio’s mill churns out 250 horsepower, the hottest A120 is expected to push closer to 300. The British magazine claims the car will also weigh in at a svelte 1,110 kg (2,425 pounds), making it considerably lighter than the 1,415 kg (3,119 pound) Porsche Cayman.
The return of the Alpine brand doesn’t stop at the A120 either. Following in the footsteps of traditional performance car builders like Lamborghini and Lotus, Alpine is reportedly planning on following up the A120 with a performance SUV, which Autocar says “its development is already at an advanced stage ahead of a planned launch by 2018.” The magazine says the performance people mover would likely be based on Renault partner Nissan’s Gripz concept, which is likely replacing the company’s iconic Z-Car lineup by decade’s end.
Despite our mixed feelings on performance SUVs, we’re thrilled to have Alpine back doing what it does best: putting French performance on the map. Having multiple models in the lineup should be enough to ensure that the brand sticks around for a while, and who knows, maybe success in Europe means Renault can use its Nissan partnership to bring a few cars our way too. While we aren’t holding our breath on that one, after February 16, it might be that much harder to resist the urge to go to Europe and see exactly what we’re missing.