For many, the Alpine name conjures up images of the iconic A110 - and now the racy Renault sub-brand has revealed its latest concept, which looks to the past for inspiration. The Alpine Vision concept was unveiled in Monte Carlo.
Alpine bosses say that the concept is nearly production-ready, and will go on sale in 2017. The upcoming Alpine will hit dealers in Europe first before being rolled out globally - maybe even marking a return to the USA for Renault.
Alpine unveiled the car near Monaco, choosing the roads visited by January’s Rallye Monte Carlo as a backdrop for the brand’s ongoing renaissance. We saw previous concepts at the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year, but fans will be hoping this is the final piece in this car’s drawn-out puzzle.
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn told us: “I’m bringing Alpine back." “We see Alpine as a strategic move for the Renault Group”. According to Ghosn, the production version of the Vision concept is an opportunity to “leverage our performance and expertise on track” in a modern, reinvented lightweight sports car.
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While the newcomer is still strictly a concept, bosses claim it’s capable of 0-62mph in less than 4.5 seconds thanks in part to its lightweight, mid-engine layout. Alpine design director Antony Villain said the Vision “ticks all the boxes expected of a modern, exclusive Alpine sports car. It blends a fiery spirit, inspired by motorsport success, with Alpine’s legendary expertise, plus a French flavour found in every detail”.
The Vision concept gets a low, sleek profile, similar to last year’s Le Mans debut. The sculpted sides mould into pronounced rear haunches, which narrow to give the illusion of an elongated tail, but the twin exhausts previously seen have become a single pipe in the centre of the rear bumper – apparently because one is lighter than two. However, the big interest is inside, as this is the first time we’ve been given a glimpse into the Vision’s futuristic cockpit.
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The designers have used a complex array of leather, fabric, aluminium and carbon fibre to give the car a modern yet retro feel. The doors get black leather trim with contrasting white stitching, while the quilted bucket seats are accompanied by race-inspired harness seatbelts. Ahead of the driver, there’s an instrument panel comprising a customisable TFT display, flanked by sporty carbon fibre.
The steering wheel is trimmed in thick black leather, framed by the automatic gearbox’s shift paddles. The buttons and air vents are backlit in Alpine Blue.
We’ll see Alpine progress steadily over the next few years, with three distinct pillars to the brand’s development. Alpine managing director Michael van der Sande said the company’s first priority is building an “outstanding car” before continuing to build the integral team and dealer network “enthusiast to enthusiast”.
“Finally we will go racing”, he said. A family of Alpine sports cars is expected over the next few years. Ghosn wouldn’t elaborate on what these might be, but insisted lightweight “would not be an exception”.
It appears the brand could make an even hotter RS version of the near-production model – and our exclusive image shows how it could look.
According to our French sister magazine Auto Plus, the standard Alpine sports car, mooted for release next year, will feature an all-new 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine with around 250bhp. But later on, a racier model, tuned by Renaultsport, could bump that figure up past 300bhp.
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While that might not sound like much, Renault promises the focus will be on low weight to worry the likes of Lotus. The extra power will be made possible by tweaks to the ECU and cooling system, with larger air intakes at the front and in the doors.
Other exterior changes will reportedly include swollen rear wheelarches to allow wider tyres to be fitted, boosting grip and stability. Racier alloy wheel designs will also debut, and the front end gets cross-hatched LED lights to distinguish it from the regular car.
Speaking to Auto Express at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, Renault vice-president Bruno Ancelin told us the advent of the first model will spawn further Alpine efforts. “We are working on the first car, and out of [that] we are working on the line-up,” he said. “So model number one, which we call the AS1 – Alpine Sport 1 – we need to see further. [Then we’ll] look to the complementary models we will have in the line-up.”
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We expect the Renaultsport version of the Alpine later in 2017, after the standard Alpine goes on sale. The Renaultsport model is likely to cost at least £55,000 with the regular sports car around the £50,000 mark. The Alpine Vision concept will be on display at the Geneva Motor Show next month, with the production car revealed before the end of 2016.
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