Return of a legendary French sports carmaker


    French carmaker Alpine announced its return to the premium sports car market after a 22-year absence with the introduction of the Vision show car, with its production equivalent expected later this year.

    The show car, scheduled to be premiered at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, retains the design in its concept model unveiled in early last year, now in its production-ready form. It harkens back to the famed iconic A110 of the 1960s, from the headlamps and fog lamps with X-shaped lighting that evokes the A110 that raced and won in rally courses, to the C-shaped sculpted sides to the horizontal shaped tail lamps and rear window, and to the very shape of the car itself.

    The interior radiates sportiness as well as elegance, with sport bucket seats with racing harnesses backed up with quilted leather and blue stitching that rewards comfort with racing-car experience behind the wheel. Also adding to this experience is the customizable TFT display at the instrument panel, aluminium paddle shifters, and the center console with a multimedia tablet and a stopwatch that can record lap times, in which Alpine says takes cues from an aircraft cockpit.

    Little detail has been disclosed on its performance; it sprints from 0-60 mph (96 kph) in 4.5 seconds, courtesy of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine combined with an all-aluminium body. Extended use of carbon and aluminium in the interior, from the bucket seats to the center console, to the steering wheel and pedals, also aids in reducing weight befitting an Alpine.

    The famed brand was relaunched in 2012 by parent company Renault with focus on track-based concept cars like the A110-50 concept, and racing expeditions, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It then unveiled the Vision concept in early 2016, hinting its return to making lightweight sports cars.

    “Launching the next-generation Alpine, a brand originally founded by Jean Rédélé in 1955, carries with it significant emotion and responsibility. For all of the teams involved, this exciting project represents an incomparable opportunity and a real adventure. Alpine’s very name embodies performance and the purest form of driving pleasure,” Société des Automobiles Alpine Chief Executive Officer Bernard Ollivier said in a statement.

    Looking back
    Alpine was founded in 1955 by French racing car driver and Renault dealer Jean Rédélé, after winning major racing events such as the Mille Miglia in his Renault 4CV. Based in Dieppe, he continued modifying his 4CV for racing competitions until he made his own company called Société Anonyme des Automobiles Alpine, which encouraged the development of sports cars under the Alpine name. Between 1955 and 1995, Alpine produced 30,000 cars.

    The Alpine factory in Dieppe became the Renault factory that produced Renault Sport versions of the Megane, Clio and Twingo. Renault acquired Alpine in 1973 and the latter went into a hiatus until 2012.

    Its most iconic car, the A110 Berlinette, won the World Rally Championship in the 1970s, beating rivals from Lancia, Porsche and Ford. This became the inspiration for the Vision’s design and performance.

    Production of the Vision will be done at the same, modernized factory in Dieppe, Normandy, France, entrusted by parent company Renault, and backed up with technical know-how of Renault Sport. It will go on sale in the second quarter of this year.


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