19 February 2016

Renault teases Alpine resurrection; is it worthy of the name?

The only noteworthy rear-engined cars are the Chevrolet Corvair, Porsche 911 and VW Beetle (and its countless derivatives), right? Wrong. There was also a brand called Alpine, founded in post-war France, that used engines built by Renault in an RR layout. In 1961, they introduced their A110 model. For much of its life it was a very good-looking also-ran.

But development continued and by the early 1970s the A110 was quite the stout performer and was able to power out of corners early due to the lump of metal over the rear wheels. In the right hands it was so capable, in fact, that it won the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally piloted by Ove Andersson. Two years later, the Alpine factory team captured the first-ever World Rally Championship (WRC) in 1973.

Unfortunately, that same year the oil embargo impacted demand and by 1974 overall sales had slid by 33 percent. That’s when Renault stepped in to rescue Alpine. Equally unfortunate for Alpine’s rally program was that Lancia launched the Stratos and subsequently dominated the WRC.

And even though the A110 ended production a few years later (1978), it retains a rabid cult following. So we are ecstatic that Renault debuted a concept called the Alpine Vision, slated for production in 2017. Its styling is clearly influenced by the A110 and Renault will market it as a Porsche Cayman and Alfa Romeo 4C competitor.

It is causing quite a fuss online and has already received extensive, fawning coverage from multiple automotive news sources. But there is one question that nobody seems to be asking: Will the 2017 Renault Alpine (or whatever they end up calling it) have a rear-mounted engine? Will the driving experience, and immediate out-of-the-corner acceleration, mimic the original’s ’73 Rally Championship-winning manners?

The performance and spec targets are impressive (sub 4.5s 0–60 mph and about 2400lb weight), but all of this means nothing if the new model doesn’t retain the original’s layout. So, Renault, is the new Alpine rear-engined or are you reviving a name and slapping a pretty face on it?

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Denton GA February 24, 2016 at 14:36
    Good question. Purely a WAG, but with such a small rear opening, and an obvious "hump" inside the rear glass, I would guess a mid-engine with the glass opening with the "trunk" for access. I've owned an A110 1300S for along time, and it actually has good access, and the sub-frame easily allows dropping the entire drivetrain from the bottom. FYI, one A110 was built in Spain by a serious rally enthusiast with a 911S engine. Now that was the ultimate A110 of the day.
  • 2
    Eric Northern California February 24, 2016 at 14:42
    I love that Renault is considering reviving the Alpine. Yet I don't feel this new design completely captures the look of the original. If I saw this going down the road I would not recognize the Alpine heritage. ...Buy maybe I am wrong, i'd probably have to see more photos.
  • 3
    Jim Richardson TX February 24, 2016 at 16:18
    One online article said it is to be a mid-engine design.
  • 4
    Yoav Gilad Traverse City, MI February 25, 2016 at 14:31
    We have confirmed that this concept will be mid-engined. With that knowledge in hand, does your opinion of the concept change?
  • 5
    Deak 78641 February 26, 2016 at 16:07
    The mid/rear layout has been known for a long time and was always the concept so there's no change per se. Maybe not so inspiring in pictures, like all Alpines in my opinion they just look better in the flesh. I prefer the subdued "clean" styling as compared to say an Evora or Elise with an overabundance of body flourishes. They look real sexy until you realize what a pain in a$$ they are to wax and detail. At the core you can bet this will be driver's car. This is Alpine's mission statement for the car. Mazda returned to this core competency with the new Miata and was smart enough to retain the excellent manual gearbox which sadly will not be an option on the Alpine. If it ever makes it to market in North America, there will be a space for it in my garage :)

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