Report: Renault may build new Alpine A110 coupe on Alfa 4C chassis, and why you should be excited w/ video
Rumors have suggested that Renault has been working on reviving their classic Alpine brand along with a successor and modern interpretation of the classic Alpine A110 “Berlinette” sports coupe from the 1960s and 1970s. For those who are not familiar, Alpine was a small French automaker that specialized in motorsports and sports cars utilizing Renault engines that sat at the ass end. So in a sense, you could say that they were France’s Porsche. Renault later absorbed the brand in 1978, which then went defunct in 1995.
Fast forward to today and Renault has already confirmed that they were reviving the Alpine brand. But in order to do so and to substantiate its potential success, the French automaker has to reestablish some market awareness and footing in an already competitive worldly automobile industry. So their answer is to revive the A110.
Currently, Renault has been seeking partners to help them build their future Alpine models, even this specific A110 Berlinette revival. That said, AutoCarUK reports that Alfa Romeo’s recently introduced 4C sports car may be used to underpin this future Alpine. It may also used for a future Caterham sports car in hopes to perpetuate the growing sub-supercar niche, aimed specifically at us younger driving enthusiasts and traditionalists. In other words, this sounds like nothing short of a miracle…
There is something inherently intriguing about stealth and subterfuge. Especially when that intrigue takes the form of a car. When eyes slowly examine your car at the lights, trying to catch a glimpse of what is hidden underneath that unassuming shell of aluminum and steel. I am, of course, talking about the much attempted, yet rarely perfected art form of the “sleeper”. A car that, to an an unassuming eye, wouldn’t look any more out of the ordinary than sand at the beach. But upon closer inspection, would reveal something very sinister indeed.
German luxury manufacturers have quite a successful record of creating these types of cars over the past few decades, what with BMW’s M-division, Audi’s RS line and the bonkers AMG boys over at Mercedes (has anybody told them they’re basically building muscle cars?). Although, I would argue that most people have begun to expect performance from an M-badged BMW, but do they expect it from a 7-Series? A car that, from all outward appearances, looks as normal as any other luxury car. Well, I wouldn’t be so sure.
BMW has owned Rolls-Royce, the British purveyor of all things luxury, for nigh on two decades now. And as such business deals go, a crossover is only to be expected between the two marques. In all honesty, it would be a wasted investment otherwise. Before I get accused of digressing unbearably far from the main topic of this piece, there is a reason for the short history lesson. And it is a simple one: the BMW 760Li and Rolls-Royce Ghost, for all intents and purposes, share more similarities than your local Rolls Royce salesman would like to admit. But all this fluff about the two cars sharing the same chassis and engine essentially boils down to one thing: the crossover between Rolls and BMW has made the 2013 760Li one of the best luxury cars on the market today. And one of the most overlooked.
As with all luxury cars in this day and age, you come to expect a certain level of gratuitous luxury, especially when you are sat square in the driver’s seat of the most expensive car BMW makes. At just a hair over $ 140,000, taxes and delivery charges withheld, the 760Li is appointed unlike any other car in BMW’s line up. The best analogy to describe the experience is a rather simple one — no matter what you wear while driving, you will feel underdressed. For all intents and purposes, you are driving a Manhattan penthouse that can, at your bidding, get you across town at 155 mph.
“The RX-8 doesn’t just like a drink; it is the founding member of the AA institution for sports car engines”
Are you tired of my RX-8 reports yet? If you secretly nodded your head in agreement, then I have good news for you, because this will be the final one, in which I’ll try to recount the ups and downs of running Mazda’s last rotary sports car – until, hopefully, the next one comes up…
First of all, let me introduce you to the world’s first contemporary four-door coupe. The Mercedes-Benz CLS that supposedly invented the niche? It was launched a year later than the RX-8, which is a coupe and has four doors. True, the Merc and its clones are perched much higher in terms of pricing and none adopted the rear suicide doors that did without the B-pillar, but you get the point.
There’s nothing else like it on the market – period. Its powerplant shuns valves, pistons and conrods for ports and rotors and thus produces 228HP from a capacity of just 1.3 liters and a mad 9,500 rpm redline. I’ll admit, it suffers from a severe lack of low-end torque, but it revs so creamily and effortlessly that a chime has to remind you to change up before you hit the limiter.
This comes at a price. The RX-8 doesn’t just like a drink; it is the founding member of the AA institution for sports car engines. Yes, it really is that bad. No matter how gentle the right pedal is treated, a shocking 16-18 lt/km (15-13 mpg US) average in mixed use is common. Combine it with the 61–liter fuel tank and visits to gas stations are much more frequent than Lindsay Lohan’s to courts and rehab facilities.
On the bright side, it doesn’t get that much worse when it gets a good pasting. Thus, since the tank and wallet are draining at nearly the same rate regardless of speed, better to indulge in it. That’s what it was made for after all, right?
It seems that if we want to go further and improve the whole concept of the automobile, making it even more efficient, will require a radical rethink of tires, their size and look. According to Pirelli, the increasingly strict European Union regulations for tires will force them to try to find new ways of achieving the best ratings.
It’s actually quite funny to look at this from a broader perspective, and see how cars first started out with narrow tires, only for them to get excessively wide, and then thin again. Tires will be judged by their rolling resistance factor, as well as their wet braking performance, and the regulations governing them are only set to get stricter and stricter – first in 2016, then 2020.
It is also suggested that the diameter of regular tires will grow, from the average of around 16 inches today, to 21 inches in 2020, simply because of the new requirements. An example of what cars of the future will morph into is the Audi Urban Concept (or the Toyota i-Road), which looks like an ultra-modern interpretation of a very small 1920s car.
It will be interesting to observe which manufacturers adopt this trend first, in a production vehicle. Such tires would look out of place on a sports car. Will they use double pairs at the back for extra traction, like some trucks and commercial vehicles, or is the age of high-grip-in-corners cars set to end completely after 2020?
Note: Audi Urban Concept and Toyota i-Road pictured
The next MINI, dubbed F56, will be unveiled this year, either at the Geneva Motor Show next month or in September at Frankfurt Auto Show. The F56 MINI is built on a new front-wheel drive platform which will be shared between the MINI and the FWD BMW vehicles. The first FWD BMW made its debut in concept form in September at the Paris Auto Show.
Several prototypes are currently undergoing intensive testing and the latest spy photos place them in the snowy Nordic part of Europe.
Under the design direction of MINI’s new head of design, Anders Warming, the F56 will compete with offerings from Audi, the A1 and other non-premium European brands. Design wise, the proportions of the F56 are similar to its predecessor, R56. Some design elements like the headlights and taillights will go through some changes, but will not steer away from the DNA of the British brand.
Inside, the large central speedometer will be replaced by a more conventional speedometer placed behind the steering wheel. Other interior changes are bringing the classy interior design of the MINI inline with more premium products.
With rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi recently introducing their latest generation of all-wheel drive AMG and RS models, BMW has gone the other way and announced that it has no plans to ditch the M division’s rear wheel drive systems.
While speaking with Autocar last month, BMW M boss Friedrich Nitschke stated, “Our philosophy in regards to steering feel and precision is that rear-wheel drive is the best solution,” he said. “xDrive brings an 80-90kg weight penalty and the M differential is the industry’s best rear-drive set-up.”
If that wasn’t enough to get automotive enthusiast salivating, then this surely will as Nitschke then went onto reveal that as long as demand for manuals remains, BMW M will continue to produce them stating, “from a production aspect, it would be much better to only offer the dual-clutch gearbox. But as long as there is demand, we’ll offer the manual.”
When its rivals are essentially doing the exact opposite, this is certainly a brave move from BMW M and we have to commend them for it. Let’s just hope that demand for manual transmissions remains!
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