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Road tests

Alpine A110 R 2024 review: almost the perfect sports car

The A110 R takes a brilliant base car and makes its experience even more magical

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

The Alpine A110 R’s high price tag might seem to make it a tough sell when the base car offers 90 per cent of the thrills for just over half the cost. But it’s that final 10 per cent which elevates the R to driving nirvana. This is a sports car which might well go down in history as an all-time great – it feels alive, engaging and nuanced, and delivers the life-affirming driving experience you’d expect for nearly £100,000.

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The Alpine A110 has long been a beacon of light for passionate sports car drivers. Its focus on lightness and purity over outright horsepower figures or lap times has captured a small but passionate group of fans and any new variant is a hotly anticipated voyage of discovery for those so inclined. The A110 R is the latest, most extreme and most expensive iteration, and despite coming with no more power than the existing S and GT variants, costs from £96,990. That is £42,500 more than a base model. The question is, can it possibly be worth such an extreme price?

Helping justify the extra cost is a medley of carbon fibre components that turn what is already a special little sports car into a high-end supercar in miniature. In addition to the roof, which could already be specified in carbon fibre on the S model, comes a unique vented bonnet and rear engine cover, both finished in the same high-gloss carbon. 

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There are also a range of aero devices constructed in carbon fibre, including an aggressive splitter, rear diffuser and sideskirts, as well as a larger rear wing mounted on milled aluminium goose-neck supports. Yet the most ambitious application of carbon fibre is found at the wheels, which have different designs front-to-rear and are exquisitely constructed under their high-gloss lacquer.

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Carbon isn’t just a feature of the exterior as the one-piece Sabelt carbon seats are also derived from the black-stuff, with three-point harnesses replacing traditional inertia-reel seatbelts. This is joined by extensive use of micro-suede throughout the interior including on the roof, pillars and door cards, as well as the dash and rear bulkhead that’s now solid on account of the R’s carbon rear engine cover. 

As well as sharpening the A110’s aesthetic the true aim of these new elements is to reduce weight, which in the R is just 1,082kg – a 34kg drop over the S. This might not sound like a massive difference considering the amount of new components applied, but Alpines are already featherweight creatures, and the difference is certainly felt. 

Putting it simply, the A110 R drives like a laser-guided missile. There’s an uncanny ability to float over the most challenging road surfaces with complete control and composure laced with incredible feel. Compared to the standard car, which has a lovely flow, the R is noticeably more locked down, but it does this with more delicacy and poise than the S, combining the best elements of each. 

We suspect that, in some part at least, this is the handy work of those carbon wheels, which reduce unsprung weight – a critical element for any high performance car. But there’s more to it than that. Every dynamic element feels like some serious time and consideration has gone into its calibration. The steering for instance, feels sharper and more alive than in the base cars, so too the power delivery and the transmission. And, of course, you’re held in place by a superb set of seats that provide a perfect view out over the low-set dashboard.

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Unlike in a Lotus Emira, where it can feel like the weight of the powertrain behind you is becoming a liability, the A110 R feels perfectly balanced. It goes about its business with a much lighter touch even than a rival Porsche Cayman

The engine might be seen as a downside to some buyers, as there are no obvious technical changes under the carbon fibre engine cover, but with less mass to motivate, the turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder feels more enthusiastic than it does on the S and GT variants. 

In fact, the reason it doesn’t produce more power can be directly attributed to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is already at its peak power and torque rating with 296bhp and 340Nm of torque. The drop in weight does help on-paper numbers – not that those are something of particular focus for Alpine – with a 0-62mph time of just 3.9 seconds. On the road performance is more than adequate, however, we did get the impression that a few more horsepower wouldn’t be unwelcome on track days at larger circuits. 

Yet despite a track-focused appearance, it’s on the road where its magic emanates most strongly. Right from when you click the orange starter button, there’s an energy coursing through the car that’s unmatched by almost anything with a crankshaft and pistons. 

As for rivals, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is no longer available which means there is only the more aggressive RS to compete with. Despite a similar mantra, that car offers a very different driving experience. Of course, £96,990 is a lot of money for an Alpine, but if you’re keen on owning what could well be one of the very high points for the combustion-powered sports car, the A110 R is worth every single penny.

Model:Alpine A110 R
Price:£96,990
Engine:1.8-litre 4cyl petrol turbo
Power/torque:296bhp/340Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph:3.9 seconds
Top speed:176mph
Economy:41.5mpg
CO2:153g/km
L/W/H:4,256/1,798/1,238mm
On sale:Now
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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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