What can you do to improve a car as good as the Alpine A110? Because it already has a reputation as one of the most driver-focused, everyday sports cars in its segment. However, the new Alpine A110 R takes the art of carving the most sinuous roads even more seriously thanks to a more radical set-up.
Let’s tackle weight reduction first because this is a Lotus-like obsession, where keeping the mass as low as possible is part of the Alpine philosophy. The A110 S is already a “featherweight” compared to a Porsche 718 Cayman, weighing in at 1,116kg, but Alpine has been able to shave an extra 34kg off that figure. That means that the A110 R marks on the scale are 1,082 kg. A Mazda MX-5 is only 30kg lighter and has half the power at worst. A Lotus Emira is 248 kg heavier.
The secret ingredient that helps make the French two-seater so light is, as you might have guessed, carbon fiber, which is used extensively. A carbon bonnet (redesigned to add a pair of air intakes) saves 2.9kg, and the set of carbon wheels, both of which interestingly sport an open-to-the-front design to aid cooling, and Disc brakes at the rear to reduce drag are responsible for 12.5kg in total weight savings, especially in inertia.
The one-piece Sabelt bucket seats, made from carbon fiber and fitted with six-point harnesses, add 5kg of weight savings, and although Alpine doesn’t mention a weight figure for the carbon rear window (which leaves being a window as a result), it is arguably the most striking visual feature of the entire vehicle.
Some of the carbon fiber additions are designed specifically to improve high-speed downforce, including a wider diffuser in conjunction with a set of wider fins (which help reduce aerodynamic turbulence and are aided by hoods on the rear suspension arms) and side skirts that extend across the width of the floor. Meanwhile, the wing (a repositioned and suspended version of the A110 S wing) adds 29kg of downforce, and the additional air intakes another 14kg.
As we have already said at the beginning, the drive unit remains unchanged. The 300 hp, 340 Nm turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit remains intact, but with improvements applied to the bodywork and chassis, it reaches a top speed of 285 km/h compared to 275 km/h for the A110 S with which it shares engine and technical data. Reducing the weight of a car doesn’t have huge implications for its top speed, so the improvement can be attributed to a 5% reduction in drag.
And while the internals of the engine is the same, the sound it makes is very different, Alpine promises, thanks to a new exhaust system that features double-walled pipes and no blow-off valve. It should also subjectively sound louder because Alpine has reduced some of the soundproofings and replaced the glass window that separates the cabin from the engine compartment with an aluminum panel.
Much of the A110 R’s track and cross-country performance advantage over the A110 S comes not from weight and aerodynamic advantages, but from what Alpine has been able to retune in the wheel arches. It is 10mm lower than the A110 S and features 10% and 25% stiffer stabilizer bars at the front and rear, respectively. The springs are 10% stiffer at both ends, while the shocks can be manually adjusted through 20 different settings depending on conditions.
Aesthetically, the Alpine A110 R gets its color, Racing Mat Blue, which it shares with the Formula 1 single-seater, while, within the big hints about the new identity, apart from the carbon fiber wheels and the complete lack of rear visibility, we find the microfiber door handles that cover almost all areas of the interior, as well as the elimination of any superfluous element. It has to be great, right? The A110 has proven to be a focused sports car as other big-name manufacturers have been.
Alpine hasn’t given any clues as to the model’s availability, but when orders open this month, interested customers can expect to part with at least €103,000. However, as with the standard A110 and A110 S, this is another driver’s machine that sports fans will want in their garage. We do not doubt that this aspect will end up gaining value against the competition.