A famous French brand now enjoying a second wind in the modern age, Alpine was responsible for some great cars over the years. Here are our favourites
The recent resurrection of the Alpine brand was capped at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix when rising star Esteban Ocon not only took his maiden F1 win, but the first for the Renault team under its new Alpine branding. The team’s cars may have taken on a pinker appearance for 2022, but the brand’s success represents quite a turnaround for the French outfit.
Alpine only returned to the market in 2017 after 22 years away, but has long been a part of French folklore. Here are our favourite cars from its history – and its fantastically retro-modern current era.
The A110 wasn’t Alpine’s first sports car – Jean Rédélé founded the company in 1955 and launched the A106 coupe, which later evolved into the A108. However, the A110 is the most iconic, achieving fame in rally circles and being reimagined as a modern continuation for the brand’s relaunch in 2017.
The original car was based on Renault 8 mechanicals and stayed in production from 1961 until 1977, with various derivatives getting more powerful en route.
The futuristic wedge shaped A310 was unveiled at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, signalling a bid to take on the Porsche 911. However, the fuel crisis of 1973 didn’t help, and led to Renault taking a 70 per cent stake in Alpine to save it from extinction. Engines ranged from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder from the Renault 16, to the famous PRV V6 that would continue into later models.
The A310 survived, and like the A110, was continually evolved before being discontinued in 1985; later models gained dramatic wheelarch extensions and aerodynamic aids, such was the style at the time.
Renault 5 Alpine
The Alpine name would appear on one of the earliest hot hatches, too. Beating the Golf GTI by a few months, the Renault 5 Alpine was launched in 1976 and had twice as much grunt as a cooking model. In 1979 it went on sale on Britain badged as the Gordini, as Chrysler owned the rights to the Alpine name in the UK at the time. Later versions from 1982 were turbocharged, too.
Power came from a 1.4-litre overhead-valve engine with 92bhp – performance was strong thanks to the car’s lightweight build, while cornering was improved by stiffened suspension.
Renault Alpine GTA
A svelte French coupe with a V6 engine, lightweight body and a class-winning 0.28 drag coefficient, the GTA was the first Alpine model to be officially sold in the UK. RHD versions were sold in the UK from 1986 too, albeit without the Alpine name due to those rights issues, and remained available until 1990.
A naturally aspirated version was joined later by a turbocharged version, followed by a limited-run Le Mans model sporting a bodykit and multi-spoke wheels.
Renault Alpine A610
The A610 arrived as a replacement for the GTA in 1991, and despite looking similar, shared only its windows. Only 68 RHD A610s were sold in the UK, and the model’s demise in 1995 would mark the end of Alpine for the next 22 years.
Power came from the same V6 engine, albeit bored out to three litres and producing 247bhp. Special edition cars included the Albertville 92 and the Magny-Cours, the latter made to celebrate the Renault-powered Williams victory at the French Grand Prix in 1991.
Styled as a retro homage to its rear-engined predecessor, the all-new Alpine A110 is an altogether more modern proposition. Its 1.8-litre engine is turbocharged and mounted in the middle of the aluminium chassis, and connected to a dual-clutch seven-speed gearbox.
Despite its modern underpinnings, the latest A110 stays true to the original in key areas: it’s impressively light, usefully compact and boasts a much more compliant ride than most modern sports cars.
It’s not exactly a classic yet, but we’ll always have time for modern cars as thoughtfully designed and old-school in their execution as the latest A110.