Alpine A110 Legende Review - Living Up To The Legende
Alpine is a brand that has been around for more than half a century now, its most iconic A110 of the 1960s-1970s bringing the brand to fame for its rally victories. Recapturing this spirit is the new A110 whose name certainly conjures up nostalgia. With such a long hiatus, the new car has a lot to live up to.
It definitely looks the part. Having a high shoulder line gives the car a rounded, bubble-like demeanour. The roofline seems to be a seamless flow to the rear via a curved glass window, a shape that’s organic and approaching art. The double headlamps hark back to dark forested rally stages where visibility is key, but are also key to the A110’s unique front end. In the extrovertly named Légende, two-tone 18-inch wheels come standard which, love it or hate it, are statement pieces.
Alpine has really worked hard to make it a bespoke interior free of any hints of its parent company. Although the eagle-eyed will still find Renault-sourced bits, by and large, they have succeeded - it feels unique enough to stand on its own. It’s still a pared down place and light on luxuries, but it will feel like a posh hotel next to a Lotus Elise.
Specific to the Légende are slightly more comfortable six way adjustable Sabelt seats (still manual) that weigh that bit more than those in the Pure, as well as some superfluous carbon fibre trim.
Key to the car’s immense drivability is its ‘holy grail’ of sports car formulas - a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive setup. Its natural balance is so unflappable that it will take some effort to destabilise the car into understeer or oversteer. There is just so much reserve of capability that you will learn more and more with each drive, and it will be gentle even if you make mistakes. Electronics are also at play here - go in too hot into a corner and you can feel the torque vectoring doing its work to trim the car’s line, yet not intrusively so (there is no mechanical LSD). It’s obviously been tuned by people who love their driving.
Because the A110 is designed from the outset to be a compact and light sports car, it will easily outrun supercars in narrow B-roads, even with a seemingly underwhelming 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine on paper. On that note, although there is only 252 PS and 320 Nm of torque, in reality it feels like there is a lot more. A languid low end will quickly vanish in favour of an aggressive, almost manic top end with a hard-edged, gruff tone that will leave you in no doubt that this is a performance motor. It’s the sort of non-linear, aggressive power delivery with an almost deranged boost that hints of an exotic 4-cylinder plonked in the middle of the car.
It helps too that the Getrag dual-clutch gearbox is on the ball every step of the way, being quick to upshift and downshift - even the response from clicking the paddle to an actual change has been minimised. It is such a good transmission that I would even say it is on par with Porsche’s PDK - one of the best around.
It’s a terrific revelation, the A110. Sure, it may not have the brand cache locally. But it really deserves a look not just because it’s different, but because it plays with the best of the competition, and can hold its head high. It’s a romantic ideal and you may find it hard to convince your significant other why you didn’t get a Porsche instead, but isn’t life too short to be merely pragmatic? The discerning few seem to agree, as Alpine seems to be selling its A110 stock rather quickly with each low volume shipment. As they say, #IYKYK?
Credits: Text by James Wong; Photos by Clifford Chow