The best production car in the world at any given moment is usually said to be the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, though you could be forgiven for thinking the honour actually belongs to the Renault Alpine A110. The A110 checks all of the boxes: rear midengine, rear-wheel drive, dual-clutch transmission, almost 300 horsepower, real history. It weighs only a little more than 1,089 kg, and it looks good.
To get some measure of Renault’s ambitions for the brand, note that the automaker’s Formula One team will be known as Alpine next year. Renault, you see, is very high on Alpine, if recent remarks by Renault CEO Luca de Meo are anything to go by. So high that De Meo felt comfortable enough to make the following prediction, via this (paywalled) Bloomberg story.
De Meo, 53, claimed to reporters last week that if he combines the cutting-edge engineering work Renault’s motorsports program does with the “quasi-artisanal” work conducted at the company’s Alpine factory in northern France, “You could get a mini Ferrari.”
The comparison is not as ridiculous as it might sound, even if the cheapest Ferraris are three times the cost of an A110. (Alpine doesn’t sell A110s in the U.S., but they cost the equivalent of around $US75,000 ($105,338) in Europe.) The reviews of the A110 have been rave, so it’s not crazy to think that Alpine could one day make a car that would compare favourably with a Ferrari.
Take James May’s review from last year, for example:
Ferrari and Alpine (pronounced al-peena in the home market, it seems) also have more in common than you might think. Take their sales numbers: Renault’s original ambition was to build 6,000 A110s a year. It came close last year, selling 4,835. In 2019 Ferrari sold over 10,000 cars, the first time for a company that’s survived on sales in the four-figure range, appropriate for a boutique manufacturer of fun cars.
More broadly, Renault seems in it for the long haul with Alpine. De Meo has said that Alpine would probably do an EV or multiple EVs. Perhaps there will be a model to compete with the Porsche 911, as the A110 goes after the Cayman. I would be properly chuffed if Alpine pulled off all of this, because that might slightly increase the minuscule chance of Alpine ever coming to America.
One can always dream.