A Modern Moment: Driving the Alpine A110

rafted by overzealous French designers and engineers with a beautiful fiberglass body sitting atop a steel backbone chassis, tipping the scales at just over 706kg.

To created its nimble character, an equally agile engine powered the A110, which hosted a range of engines. Starting with a tiny 55 horsepower 1.1-liter engine, it was later replaced with a slightly larger and much more potent dual Weber-carbureted 1.6-liter engine, boosting power to a much more respectable 168 horses.

And while the A110’s advanced engineering and numerous race wins might have cemented its status in the books of motorsports history, it was the car’s beautifully curvaceous body that left a mark on the hearts and minds of many a hot-blooded young adolescent.

It’s not hard to see why of course, the A110 was designed by the legendary automotive designer Giovanni Michelotti, known for his elegant, timeless designs for the like of Ferrari, Maserati, and even BMW. The A110’s stunning lines, intricate details, and poised stance were a testament to Michelotti’s talent and expertise. He shaped a car that was not only beautiful but also functional, designed to slice through the air (and your heart) with minimal resistance and seeing one in the flesh (metal) today is still likely to stop one in their tracks, I know I have.

Alas, the A110 I have with me is not that car. While the original A110 was built to win races, this new one, which comes almost half a century later, is designed to capture your heart.

While the Alpine A110 is not entirely new, it is a car I have been wanting to drive ever since I first saw pictures of it online. It is such a beautiful and timeless design that perfectly pays homage to its predecessor with its smooth curves and beautifully reinterpreted details. The A110 is quite unlike many other cars on the road today, and amidst a sea of aggressively styled cars, the A110’s friendlier aesthetic is a breath of fresh air. I like the A110 so much I bought a 1:18 model of it. 5 years after it’s Worldwide launch, I now have the keys (card) to one, albeit for just a weekend.

The new A110’s tribute to its origins goes beyond its appearance. Like the 1970s original, Renault and Alpine have taken a minimalist approach to the car’s engineering to reduce weight, using aluminum for the body panels, chassis, and suspension components.

They have also removed any unnecessary features or components that would add weight without contributing to the car’s performance. For example, the A110’s interior design is simplified with fewer buttons and controls than other cars in its class, as Renault and Alpine aimed to shave off even the slightest gram wherever possible.

Thanks to this obsession with weight savings, the A110 weighs just over 1,000kg, a remarkable engineering achievement considering the high level of equipment that has been retained. The weight balance has been carefully considered as well with a near-perfect 44:56 front-to-rear weight distribution. And as we all know, less weight (and more balance) equals fun. It’s time to get in and thumb that big red starter button to awaken our turbocharged 1.8-litre friend from the Megane RS.

On the move through local traffic, the A110 is surprisingly civilised and while comfort levels wouldn’t give the German-luxo-barge brigade anything to worry about, it is for a lightweight sports car, rather comfortable. While you can still feel everything that’s going on underneath you, the ride isn’t crashy, unlike a Mini JCW. And with everything on the softest (as it can be) setting, the A110 is easy to run around town in and with a more relaxed throttle response can even feel slightly lazy at times before the turbo spools up.

Give the go-pedal a heavier stab, though, and you’d best be prepared to draw a line through traffic because, even with “just” 288 horses to work with, the A110’s weight of 1,080kg allows it to pick up its pace quickly in turbocharged fury. And with its ability to quickly translate even the smallest steering movements into motion, you can easily make your way through traffic by deftly navigating through small gaps that might make other modern cars uncomfortable.

Just be careful not to attract unwanted attention while having too much fun on the road, punching through the gears as the A110 orchestrates a symphony of mechanical melodies – from the rushing bellows of the intakes, the whistling winds of the turbos, and the cacophony of micro explosions as unburnt fuel ignites with atmospheric oxygen, shooting out of the rear pipes. Yes, it can be difficult not to have too much fun.

For one to really enjoy an A110 though, one has to make the effort to hunt, to hunt for the right roads, the narrow, twisty roads, away from traffic, away from the nosy crowds and away from every other thing that could ever bring you down.

It is on these roads where the A110 shines, allowing you to explore the depth of its abilities, to go deeper, faster and harder with each passing turn. And as you dive into one corner after the next, mindful of its mid-engined layout, you’ll find the A110 consistently keeping up, staying poised and controlled as you rotate through each corner without any hint of it ever biting back. Allowing you to, once again, rediscover the joy of the journey, the euphoria in the drive and the reason why you have the keys to an A110 in the first place.

Would a manual transmission further elevate this experience? Perhaps. Does it suffer without it though? Not one bit. Has my itch been scratched? Definitely. That said, I wish I could afford one, but make mine blue.

What do we love? It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, it’s quirky and then some. In short, a future classic.

What are we not too sure about? Starting at S$271,000 without COE. It’s quite a significant amount of change. That said, we hear the other lightweight sports car that has just landed is about to command almost twice what the A110 is going for, so, I guess that’s another way to look at it.

What can be improved? The infotainment system is horrendously slow, outdated and is in need of a UI redesign. Or provide an option to delete it entirely.

Quirks? It has a cupholder that perfectly fits a takeaway latte cup, and a rear boot that keeps food warm.

Thanks to Alpine Center Singapore for letting me play Alpine driver for a weekend. It was a momentus treat!


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