Skip advert
Advertisement

Alpine A110 – ride and handling

Alpine follows Lotus’s lead by combining supple ride with agility, with the A110 R ramping things up for the track

Evo rating
Price
from £54,490
  • Nimble, engaging, sophisticated and distinctive, it’s all the sports car we should ever need
  • Ultimate body control at and over the limit can be problematic

That classic set-up of double unequal-length wishbones at each corner and a lightweight aluminium body and frame means the A110 has all the credentials to deliver ride and handling greatness. But even so, the way in which it flows across the ground, ‘breathing’ with the road like only the best cars from Lotus did all those years ago, still comes as a very pleasant surprise.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The steering is light, delicate and accurate, but delivers genuine feel through the rim once you put load into the tyres. You can place the A110 to the nearest millimetre through most bends and have total faith in the front end because the turn-in response is so crisp, without being hyper-reactive. The lightness of the steering is initially a bit of a shock, given weighty set-ups are all the rage in performance cars right now, but the way it wriggles in your hands, gently following the contours of the road, is a refreshing characteristic. The S takes a slightly different route, adding more weight and precision to the steering, whilst reducing body roll for calmer high-speed direction changes. While not in any way worse to drive, it somehow feels a little more generic, like the A110’s unique driving appeal is diluted.

The lower, stiffer, bewinged A110 R is a different animal altogether, with a much higher level of track performance but at the expense of the standard car's playful attitude at the limit. It still makes for a thrilling, tactile and surprisingly absorbant road car, though, as Dickie Meaden found out when we drove the car for the first time. "By tightening its focus and sharpening its dynamics Alpine has elevated the A110 on-road driving experience to a new level," he said. "But if you judge it on its racetrack performance – where it was designed to excel, after all – it is less of an event".

Even so, the R rectifies the base car's lack of fine damping control that sometimes leaves it feeling uneasy at the limit. The problem is exacerbated by the perceived imbalance to the weight distribution, which feels as if the engine is set too high and too far back. Over fast flowing roads the Alpine takes on a subtle diagonal corkscrew motion as the weight of the car seems to fall over onto the outside rear wheel. It’s lovely at eight-tenths, but push on and it feels a bit flightier and less trustworthy.

Stay below this level and the A110 finds a flow down challenging roads like nothing else. Its minimal mass and soft suspension give a typically Gallic feel – you can hustle it, but it prefers to be caressed along, taking the line of least resistance. At the very limit, under heavy braking or some serious speeds, the lack of ultimate body control can get a little white-knuckled, but find a flow just below that point and the Alpine manages the unique trick of both floating just above the surface and being intimately keyed into it at the same time.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

BMW M135i 2024 review – a match for the Volkswagen Golf R?
BMW M135i review
Reviews

BMW M135i 2024 review – a match for the Volkswagen Golf R?

BMW’s hot hatch is a good car, but no longer a unique one, and misses the mark for pure fun
22 May 2024
Ford Mustang GT 2024 review – old school in all the right ways
Ford Mustang GT – front
Reviews

Ford Mustang GT 2024 review – old school in all the right ways

We loved the new Ford Mustang in track-focused Dark Horse form – how does the standard GT fare?
23 May 2024
Renault Sport Clio 172 Cup (2002 - 2003): a rally homologation special for under £10,000
Renault Sport Clio 172 Cup
Features

Renault Sport Clio 172 Cup (2002 - 2003): a rally homologation special for under £10,000

A true race-bred special, the Clio 172 Cup is one of the lightest – and purest – Renault Sport models ever
22 May 2024