Renault’s reborn sports car subsidiary Alpine has confirmed it will reveal its mid-engined, lightweight, turbocharged sports coupe before the end of 2016, with European sales to commence from April next year and the rest of the globe to swiftly follow.
To tide us over, the company today revealed a concept car called the Alpine Vision - the latest in a long line of show cars including the Alpine Celebration - said to be about 80 per cent accurate to the incoming production model.
As we reported last year, the new Alpine Berlinette (which some have speculated will be called the A120) will be produced alongside the Renault Clio Sport at the company’s small but newly modernised plant in the French town of Dieppe.
Alpine has confirmed some key facts and figures on the Vision, which we gather will carry over to the road car. We know the car will have only two seats, set ahead of a mid-mounted turbocharged four-cylinder engine - potentially a version of the 1.6 in the Clio RS200.
The new Alpine concept, as expected, sports an automatic transmission — we previously predicted the six-speed dual-clutch unit from the Clio RS.
The new coupe is promised to dash from 0-100km/h in less than 4.5 seconds and, although not confirmed, the mid-engined design also points to a rear-wheel drive configuration.
Such a design, and with those acceleration figures, would potentially see the new Alpine coupe cross-shopped with the Porsche Cayman, which will soon get refreshed looks, new engines and a new '718' badge. (Its 718 Boxster twin has been revealed already.)
However, speaking with CarAdvice last year, Alpine CEO Bernard Ollivier said that a direct rivalry with the Cayman is not the company's intention.
“We know Alpine today is not Porsche, of course. Our challenge is to explain our strong point,” he said.
Like the original fibreglass Alpines of the 1960s and 70s, the more conventionally constructed new ‘A120’ will be a featherweight. Alpine makes it clear that it still prioritises low kerb weight over raw power.
Visually, the concept has a low and sleek profile, rounded bonnet, twin round headlights and sculpted sides leading to pronounced rear wings that narrow towards the rear to form an elongated tail, incorporating horizontal rear lights.
The marque’s arrowed ‘A’ badge is visible on the front wings and on the sides of the car, along with more subtle references to the A110 and other models.
The cabin sports a material mix of leather, microfibre fabrics, aluminium and carbon and “exudes a contemporary feel”.
The bucket-style seats incorporate motorsport-inspired harness belts coupled with aluminium fastening buckles. Their quilted leather upholstery combines with a microfibre fabric that is apparently both “sensuous and technical”.
In front of the driver is an instrument panel composed of a customisable TFT display underneath a carbon cowling. The two pedals and aluminium footrest feature a three-triangle pattern symbolising Alpine peaks.
The three-spoke steering wheel, also in aluminium, has a thick rim trimmed in top-stitched black leather. Framed by gear-shift paddles, it houses a tempting ‘Sport’ button. The main switches are enhanced by Alpine Blue backlighting that also illuminates the centre of the air vents.
The centre console rests upon a prominent, leather-trimmed aluminium structure. Taking cues from an aircraft cockpit, it appears to be floating inside the cabin. It houses a multimedia touch-screen tablet topped by a circular stopwatch.
Expected to be named A120 - in honour of the brand's most famous and popular vehicle, the A110 - the new coupe will go on sale across in Europe from second quarter of 2017.
Alpine parent Renault says the new coupe will be pitched into the premium sports car market. According to the company's figures, the segment is currently sized at around 200,000 vehicles per annum.
Reasoning that the premium sports sector is "supply-driven market that is sensitive to change and new arrivals" and that "demand is set to increase in the majority of emerging markets", Renault projects that this segment will grow by around 50 percent by 2020.
An Australian launch for the new Alpine coupe is locked in for 2017. Exact timing is still to be confirmed, but with left- and right-hand-drive production expected to begin simultaneously, a rapid rollout could be on the cards.