Renault Australia is steadily gearing up to launch the eagerly awaited Alpine sports car brand here in 2018, likely priced just under the conceptually similar Alfa Romeo 4C.
The lightweight and likely mid-engined two-seater is creeping ever closer to production, slated to begin in 2017 in Dieppe, France, alongside the Clio RS.
Happily for Australian performance enthusiasts, our market remains part of the global Alpine rollout, despite the sub-brand’s lowly badge recognition here.
While no timing is confirmed, we can expect a 2018 launch. And, given Australia’s high standing in global Renault Sport sales — the world’s number two destination for Megane RS last year, and taking 10 per cent of global Clio RS volume — it’s a strategic market.
No distribution method has been communicated as yet, but expect a showroom-in-showroom approach with key dealers early on, similar to Audi Sport’s approach. This means that Renault dealers will have a small Alpine section, potentially.
Renault Australia has previously flagged the potential for an experiment into online sales, following in the wheel-tracks of Subaru.
Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar recently gave us an update, building on what we reported earlier this year.
Most interestingly, he said to expect a starting price of between $75,000 and $90,000, billed as its “natural place” based on the concept car presented.
Hocevar said the big challenge was establishing the brand, which he admitted has almost no presence in Australia, given it was never sold through official channels.
“There are some enthusiasts,” he said, but conceded that “the task at hand [is] to be able to communicate what it is — lightness, agility, power-to-weight. It’s not about brute strength. Not the Germanic or Italian approach.
“That’s the challenge. We are not coming in with a broad inherent understanding of the brand [from the buying public].”
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.
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, best-known through 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.
The Alpine Vision concept above – 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, possibly increased to 1.8 litres.
As we have reported, with the assistance of a turbocharger the 1.8-litre engine will develop around 185kW of power in the base model. A possible high-performance model will likely use the same engine, but will be tuned to deliver about 225kW.
The Alpine concept, as expected, sported an automatic transmission, likely a version of the six-speed dual-clutch unit from the Clio RS or upcoming next-generation Megane RS. Whether there'll a manual option (unlike the Alfa 4C) will be unclear, though we know Renault Australia would like both.
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.
Pictured: Alpine A110.
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.