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28 Oct, 2019 8:00pm Steve Sutcliffe
With more power and stiffer suspension, is the flagship Alpine A110S coupé a step too far?
In many ways this faster, more powerful, more aggressive and more expensive A110 is the incarnation of Alpine’s iconic mid-engined two-seat sports car we’ve been waiting for all along. Because if there was a criticism of the original ‘new’ A110, it was that it lacked a bit of oomph in a straight line.
But with an extra 39bhp from its 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and a chassis that’s both stiffer and more focused, this A110S should, in theory, put any such issues to bed.
True, it costs over £8k more than an A110 in entry-level Pure spec, and is more expensive than a Porsche Cayman T. But Alpine bosses say the A110S offers an even more intense – and therefore a more rewarding – driving experience than the already rather tasty base car. At the same time, Alpine says that it maintains most of its everyday usability, so it should be quite some sports car.
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To understand where your money is being spent, consider the following. In addition to that extra 39bhp (trimming the 0-62mph time to 4.4 seconds, a tenth of a second faster than the standard A110), top speed has been raised to 161mph. Of more significance are the spring rates, which are 50 per cent firmer, while the anti-roll bars are twice as stiff, too. Yet at 1,114kg the S weighs only a couple of kilos more than the regular A110, even though it comes with bigger, more powerful Brembo brakes as standard.
Outside the S is distinguished by black Alpine scripting across its tail, carbon-fibre flag details on the rear pillars, orange brake calipers and dark grey GT Race wheels. It also sits 4mm lower to the road.
So, it’s got more poke, better brakes, a much stiffer chassis and deploys its power via the same sharp-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as the regular A110. It has the same torque vectoring e-diff as the standard car, too, but comes on wider Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres front and rear, which should give it a fair bit more grip.
But can the S justify its considerable extra cost, and does it take the A110 in a direction in which the purists who so adored the original will still approve of?
Forget for a moment that the cabin features new orange-stitched upholstery on the roof lining, sun visors, centre console and door panels. And who really cares if Alpine’s clever telemetrics system is fitted as standard? What matters most is how the S drives, and the truth is it drives beautifully, even though it’s stiffer and less fluid than the regular A110.
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The vital thing is that the S still flows across the ground as if its all-round double wishbone suspension has been designed specifically for each and every inch of tarmac it encounters. Yes, it is firmer, and there’s a fraction more road noise, but the magic is there; Alpine’s chassis engineers have resisted pushing things too far.
It’s faster, without any additional turbo lag. There’s a lot less roll in the chassis, and even more precision to its steering and brakes, especially when turning into corners. Plus, when you get there, there’s a whole heap more grip. The S also sounds naughtier than the regular A110, with more pops and bangs and a louder exhaust note in all three drive modes.
Alpine certainly hasn’t ruined it. The designers, engineers and all-round boffins at the French maker have made it even better still. And remember, the A110 was already a pretty exceptional car to begin with.
4.5 If anyone was concerned Alpine might have spoiled the A110 by making this S version even stiffer and more focused, they needn’t have worried. The A110S builds on the delightful formula served up by the regular car by adding a dynamic edge that pushes it closer to a Porsche 718 Cayman than ever before. One of the very best sports cars on sale just got better.
- Model: Alpine A110S
- Price: £56,810
- Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
- Power/torque: 288bhp/320Nm
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
- Top speed: 161mph
- Economy/CO2: 42.8mpg/147g/km
- On sale: Now