Alpine’s lightweight two-seater sports car gets some performance enhancements, but has it improved the A110’s formula?
Photos: Leow Ju-Len and Derryn Wong
One of the best automotive revelations in the past couple of years has to be the emergence of Alpine, and its brilliant A110. In an era of electric this and hybrid that, a lightweight two-seater mid-engined sports car comes as quite a breath of fresh air indeed.
For the purist, the Alpine A110’s perfectly-balanced set up is an absolute dream, and it offers the right blend of enthusiasm and comfort that makes it such a driver’s favourite. But just when you’d thought the formula can’t get better, Alpine comes along and gives it more power and some performance enhancements, supposedly in the name of ‘improvement’.
The Alpine A110 S adds 40 more horsepower to the mix, and while that seems like a significant figure, the performance gains are somewhat negligible. Top speed rises from 250km/h to 260km/h, while its 0-100km/h sprint drops from 4.5 seconds to 4.4 seconds. Not exactly a groundbreaking leap, objectively speaking.
Cosmetically, little has changed too. There’s virtually nothing to distinguish the A110 S from the regular car from the outside, other than the 4mm lower ride height and different wheels, now with wider tyres specially developed for this car. The interior gets unique leather sports bucket seats, and an orange stripe on top of the steering wheel, but that’s about it.
But if you spend a little bit of time driving the A110 S, you’ll notice the other, non-measurable changes that Alpine has made to the car. Probably the most immediate one is the active sports exhaust, which gives the car a fruitier and more robust note, which is quite nice for a car with a four-cylinder engine.
Beyond that, the major changes are to how the car is set up. The suspension springs have been stiffened up, as are the anti-roll bars. The brakes have been improved as well, while the boost pressure from the turbocharger has been increased, such that the power can kick in at a higher rev range.
In all, the modifications have been designed to make the Alpine a much more focused car. And from a pure driver’s perspective, it very much does the job well. Compared to the regular car, the A110 S is just that teeny bit sharper in its response. The steering turns in fractionally quicker, the body control is just that little bit more precise. It’s all marginal gains, but if you’re a keen driver, you’ll appreciate what all these small adjustments can do to contribute towards a more engaging experience.
You won’t even find the need to access the extra power most of the time, but if you’re up for it, the car encourages you to do so. The engine’s 320Nm of torque kicks in at just 2000rpm, but it stays with you all the way to the redline, giving you an exhilarating thrill even if you’re just driving at the speed limit. This is a car that demands your full attention, and yet it is no more difficult to drive than, say, a Volkswagen Golf.
The trade-off of all that suspension stiffening is, of course, the ride, which feels notably harsher than the standard car. If you only drive on billiard-smooth roads on a daily basis, or have regular access to a race track (i.e. not Singapore), then this is unlikely to be a problem. But the reality is not every road is as perfectly-surfaced, and so you do have to decide if the compromise of the harder ride is worth making.
If you intend to use the Alpine as an everyday car, then frankly you’ll be better served sticking to the regular A110. The S version costs an extra 10 grand, and for that you get a car that’s about 10 percent more of everything: sharper, more focused, more rev-happy, but also harder-edged. It neither adds nor detracts from the Alpine experience, but rather the A110 S serves as an interesting alternative if you fancy it served up a different way.
Alpine A110 S
|Engine||1798cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||292hp at 6400rpm|
|Torque||320Nm at 2000rpm|
|VES Banding||C1 / +S$15,000|
|Price||S$268,000 without COE|
|Verdict:||Performance enhancements to the already-brilliant Alpine gives it a shaper, more focused edge, at the expense of ride quality|