Renault Australia remains hot on the prospect of bringing the reborn Alpine brand to our market as soon as 2017, taking its sporting credentials up another notch.
Company managing director Justin Hocevar told us last week at a local preview drive of the new Megane that the Alpine sub-brand would bring a welcome “hero association” to Renault’s fast-growing local operations.
Revealed in late-stage (A110-inspired) concept form earlier this year, the Alpine coupe — to be potentially called A120 — will be a mid-engined, super lightweight, turbocharged two-door made alongside the Clio RS in the French town of Dieppe.
The Alpine A120, or whatever it will be called, should be revealed in full production guise this year, potentially at October’s Paris motor show. The new coupe will go on sale across Europe from the second quarter of 2017, with simultaneous right-hand-drive production expected.
The Alpine brand, bet know for European rallying, is now a part of the wider Renault group. In its pomp in the early 1970s, Alpine finished 1-2-3 at the Monte Carlo rally, spanking Porsche, Lancia and Ford.
“It’s well and truly on our radar, any brand loves having hero brand associations like that. It is its own unique distinct brand but clearly part of the group, and we want to see that brought to Australia,” Hocevar said.
“We know that Australians love sporty vehicles, we’ve proven that with the Renault Sport range, head office knows that,” he added. Australia is the global number two market for RS Megane, and sells 10 per cent of global Clio RS production.
As we reported last year, Renault Australia has pondered selling the Alpine online, a la the Subaru BRZ, though Hocevar said this week the full business model was still being established for our market.
"The distribution strategy has not crystallised globally, and nor has it locally. Whatever the structure is, we'd love to innovate and it'd be a great brand to do it with, but it's too early to say how it looks. We'll certainly wait for the global direction on it," he said.
Above: A classic A110 pictured in France last year.
The Alpine Vision pictured here – the latest in a long line of show cars including the Alpine Celebration – was said to be about 80 per cent accurate to the incoming production model.
Based on our chats with Alpine executives, and what we know of the concept, we can predict some tech specs for the road car.
We know the car will have only two seats, set ahead of a mid-mounted turbocharged four-cylinder engine – probably a version of the 1.6 in the Clio RS200 and Megane GT. The Alpine concept, as expected, sported an automatic transmission, likely 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.
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.
The concept cabin moved the Alpine brand upmarket, a material mix of leather, micro-fibre fabrics, aluminium and carbon-fibre, an instrument panel composed of a customisable TFT display underneath a carbon cowling, and prominent blue back-lighting among the highlights.
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 a “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 per cent by 2020.