Alpine sports car "as good as finished"

words - Feann Torr
Renault's reborn performance brand, Alpine, to be previewed before 2016 launch
There's been non-stop speculation about the first production car to wear the resurrected Alpine badge ever since Renault announced the new undertaking, in partnership with UK car maker Caterham.

Although we know the slinky new sports car will be a lightweight apex animal, designed for handling not top speed, and that it will be an affordable exotic priced at around 60,000 Euros ($92,000) when it goes on sale in 2016, Renault is keeping the lid tight on specifications, such as engine and gearbox combinations.

Nevertheless, Laurens van den Acker, Renault's senior vice president of corporate design and a contributor to the new Alpine design, is pumped about the project and talked excitedly of its progression during a chat at the 2014 Geneva motor show.

"The Alpine design is as good as finished. I can't wait for 2016," he said. 

"Normally you want to be young, but I want to be two years older to see it come out," enthused the designer, who was visibly animated when the subject turned to Alpine.

He says the car is "still on track for 2016," but wouldn't be drawn on the particulars. 

"Sports cars are fragile. There's always 10 reasons to not do them. That's why we're keeping a low profile," he chided.

Since the design focus is on light weight, we could see a high-output four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine slotted between its axles. Already we've seen 265kW and 309kW four-pot screamers finding recent favour with the likes of Mercedes-Benz AMG and Audi quattro, though it's unlikely Alpine will need such power.

Van den Acker did let slip the new Alpine sports car would be unlikely to wear a Renault badge, as was previously thought to be the case so as to bathe the rest of the French brand's cars with the exotic car's luminescence.

"The idea is that it is its own brand," he said. 

"We've been through all the scenarios, there are pros and cons for every scenario, but to give it its due it's probably best if it's its own brand."

"We will sell as many as we can, but it will be low volume. There's only so much room for sports cars in your life. The moment you start a family, sports car go out," he laughed.

Tipped to be built in both left- and right-hand drive configurations and sold globally in small volumes, the Alpine is a veritable certainty for the Australian market due to the locals' love of performance cars.

It will be built at Renault's Alpine factory in Dieppe, France, and its underpinnings will be shared with Caterham in its own version of the vehicle – although the British brand's sports car will have a completely different exterior design.

And when might we see the new 2016 Alpine's design, considering it's virtually finished?  

"I think we're still in the process of figuring out how to launch it," confessed van den Acker. "I think we'll do something. Hopefully a sneak peak," he grinned. 

The 2014 Paris motor show in September should be very interesting indeed.

Picture: Alpine A110-50 concept car

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Published : Tuesday, 11 March 2014
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