The R is sharper, stiffer and more powerful than the standard A110, but it's also over £30k more expensive
4.0 out of 5
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It's expensive, yes, and the ride is no longer as soothing as the original A110’s, which is a shame. But the A110 R is so much sharper to drive it just about gets away with its relative lack of civility. It’s become a proper track weapon, yet on the road it’s still just about comfortable enough to be usable. We hope that’s still the case when we drive it back in the UK.
Alpine is on a roll right now. Its global sales are up by over a third year-on-year and its reputation as a manufacturer of serious but fun-to-drive sports cars is growing rapidly where it matters.
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There’s also a convincing range of EV sports cars in the pipeline to rival the company’s main competition from Porsche, Lotus et al.
But for the time being, the A110 is still very much Alpine’s stock-in-trade car, and the new A110 R is its new superstar.
It’s not cheap at just a tenner short of 90 grand, nor does it boast any more power than a regular A110 S, its 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo engine producing the same 296bhp and 340Nm as the S and GT cars.
Instead, Alpine has gone down the ‘clubsport’ route to give the A110 R the extra focus and performance it surely needs to justify its £30k+ price hike. As such, the R’s kerbweight has been reduced by 34kg while its aerodynamic and mechanical grip have been increased by adding wings and fitting more aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres as standard.
Car group tests
The interior has also been pared right back, making the A110 R look – and feel – quite a lot like a competition car inside. Carbon fibre appears throughout, including on a pair of fixed-back bucket seats, both of which have six-point Sabelt harnesses.
Perhaps the biggest difference compared with the ‘normal’ A110, however, is the chassis set-up, and that’s where Alpine has taken a gamble with the R in order to give it some edge. The regular A110 is no track monster but is instead a lovely road car, with suspension and steering that’s as soothing as it is sharp.
The R isn’t like that. It has much stiffer suspension and far less roll, so it has a lot more grip and is several seconds a lap quicker around any circuit as a result. Hence the reason it also features a new on-board data logging system, the whole shebang being very much aimed at the well-heeled track day enthusiast.
On a track, there’s no doubting the A110 R’s extra pace and precision. It feels much sharper than the regular versions and has much better roll control at the rear. Its steering is beefier in weight and more urgent in its response, andturn-in is far crisper. There’s also massively more stability and power under brakes and just more bite everywhere on a track.
What’s more, the new bucket seats and six-point harness clamp you in position much better behind the R’s suede-rimmed wheel. This alone gives the R a much more focused feel on a track. In the regular versions you need to cling on to the steering wheel for support when cornering hard; in the R the support comes more naturally from the excellent new seats.
Rear visibility has taken a hit because the rear screen has been ditched in favour of a lightweight carbon panel (even the rear-view mirror has been ditched).
Bottom line; the R now feels like a proper track weapon, whereas the less expensive versions are road cars first and foremost that just so happen to be fun-enough to drive on a track. The R is the exact opposite; it’s a track car that is in Alpine’s own words, “usable” on the road.
In the event, however, it actually works pretty well on the road, better than a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 arguably, because it still retains a decent degree of compliance to its suspension, more so than the harder riding Porsche.
Ultimately, however, we’ll reserve judgement on the car’s road behaviour because most of the roads we drove on at the launch in Spain were far better surfaced than back in the UK. We’ve a suspicion the more aggressive suspension settings might.
|Model:||Alpine A110 R|
|Engine:||1.8-litre 4cyl petrol turbo|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive|
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