You can learn a huge amount about your car simply by watching somebody else drive it - as long as you can get over the weirdness of it all. At first it's a bit like your pride and joy is being unfaithful, but as you watch on from the driver's seat of the pursuing car you spot all sorts of things you hadn't noticed before.
I didn't realise the A110 showed quite so much rear diffuser to the car behind, for instance. It's almost graphic. You see the longitudinal strakes that run almost from the middle of the car to its rearmost point, apparently helping to direct airflow along the full length of the diffuser. I was surprised at how small the A110 looked on the road, but also how muscular it appeared across the rear. And while I don't always love those stylised sweeping indicators that have become so common thanks to LED technology, I must admit I did get a little thrill out of seeing the turn signals on my own car sweep briskly and brightly across their lamps.
This all happened a few weeks ago on a quick dash across the Cotswolds. My car was being driven enthusiastically (to say the least) and I was following in a very fast 911. Driving away from tight corners and traffic lights, though, I found I had to use far more of its 500hp than I'd expected. The A110 with its low weight, punchy turbocharged engine and very quick dual-clutch gearbox is deceptively quick off the line, although from higher speeds the twice-as-powerful Porsche did monster it.
Can I really be six months into Alpine ownership? In that time the car has covered 3,681 miles, which is roughly what I had anticipated given the vast majority of my time on the road is spent in manufacturer test cars. For obvious reasons my A110 hasn't turned a wheel for more than two weeks and the withdrawal symptoms are becoming very real. What I need is a legitimate reason to take it out for a spin, but I'm scratching around and coming up with nothing. Just as soon as the NHS reopens its coronavirus volunteer scheme I'll be putting myself forward as a medicines delivery driver. Ideally serving South Wales and the Brecon Beacons.
So much has already been written about the new A110 and what it's like to drive that I needn't bother repeating it here. Instead there are a few things to report that you're only likely to pick up on if you live with the car for a while. Like the rather pathetic heated rear screen, which doesn't seem to do anything at all for the first 10 minutes, after which point the warmth that radiates out from the engine clears any moisture anyway. The DAB radio reception can be patchy, but what's more annoying is that mine defaults to The Breeze each time I restart the car. I worry my passengers think it's my radio station of choice.
But the most irritating fault occurred a day or two before lockdown: the parking sensors would sound intermittently while driving through town, even when there was nothing anywhere near me. Beep-beep-beeeeeep. For whatever reason the Alpine doesn't have a switch to kill the parking sensors like most cars do, so I had to put up with it. Only when I was walking around the front of the car one day did I spot that the front-right sensor had been partially pressed into the bumper. I've no idea how it happened, but it explains the parking system having its wobble. I haven't managed to pull it back out, but apparently the fix is as simple as jacking the car up, removing the corresponding wheel and wheel arch liner, then repositioning the sensor from behind.
I'm due to take the car to Litchfield as soon as these restrictions are lifted to have a bit of a play with the wheel geometry, so I'll ask them to address the faulty sensor at the same time (it was Litchfield who applied the Paint Protection Spray to my car, which involved removing the bumpers entirely, so I know they'll be able to correct something trivial like a sunken parking sensor easily enough).
Before that fault occurred and before this lockdown was put in place, I snuck out for what I suspected would be my last drive for a while. It was the first time I'd gone out in my car for no other reason than to drive it - every other outing before then having had a purpose or destination. Not this one, though, and rather than keeping an eye on the time or worrying about which exit I was supposed to be taking at roundabouts, I just followed my nose and enjoyed the process of operating the car. It was joyful.
As soon as we're through this strange and worrying time I'll be sure to head out for more of those 'pointless' drives. Until then, though, my car will be staying put, looking increasingly unloved as dust and bird poo gather day after day. Perhaps it's time to dig out the sponges.
Car: Alpine A110
Run by: Dan P
On fleet since: November 2019
Mileage: 3681 miles (delivered on 25)
List price new: £46,910
Price as tested: £51,494 - Metallic Thunder Grey paint £780; 18" Fuchs forged wheels £1656; Brembo high performance brakes £936; lightweight Focal audio £552; parking sensors front and rear £660
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