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?