Get the first car right and the French sports car brand will grow into an empire, Renault says
The first Alpine from the collaboration between Renault and Caterham will be the brand-builder model equivalent to Porsche's 911, according to Renault's head designer.
A110-inspired concept hints at direction
In a conversation that revealed the scale of the ambition Renault has for the revived French sports car brand, Laurens van den Acker told us that for the first model, "We need to create the 911 of Alpine. Then we can do the Panamera and Cayman. It needs to have all the roots of the brand on which we can build."
We still don't know the spec for the car, which is slated to launch in 2016, but Renault boss Carlos Tavares did reveal that the basics have been agreed. "The layout of platform, engine and gearbox are all decided," he told us, without telling us. The first car won't chase the 911, but instead is expected to aim for the Cayman and Alfa 4C with a mid-engined coupe powered by a version of Renault's 1.6-litre turbo and mated to a faster dual-clutch gearbox. The cost will be nearer £50,000 than £30,000 as first thought. As we previously discovered in an interview with key players, including Alpine's boss, the goal is to be light and fun.
Alfa 4C is directly in Alpine's line of fire
A vision of the car has already been revealed in concept form last May, but we're told the finished item will likely go deeper in its visual references to the pretty A110 of the 60s and 70s, recently chased by PH in the Monte Carlo Historique.
That's what the 'Khmer Bleu' (hardcore French Alpinists) are pushing for, according to van den Acker, and what they'll probably get. "It will be closer to the spirit of the A110," said concept car director Axel Breun.
The desire to emulate Porsche is understandable given its 'most profitable' status but, come on guys, isn't Porsche pretty much untouchable in this market? "No one is untouchable, but it takes a lot of time," Breun told us. "It took them a long time to develop the 911 into something great."
Can Renault really win this fight?
Alpine (pronounced Alpeen if you don't want to upset those Khmer Bleu boys) has definitely got a job on if it wants to avoid the fate of recent Porsche chaser Lotus. Let's hope Alpine's Malaysian money (via Caterham owner Tony Fernandes) is available on a longer-term basis. Alpine's task is arguably tougher than that of Lotus in that the brand has been dormant for so long. Says van den Acker, "The challenge is to somehow fill the gap of 20 years and do a product that's believable." We wish it and Caterham all the luck.
Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)
if it looks anything like the concept... I need one in my life!
ewenm05 Jun 2013
Hopefully the Caterham version will be nearer £30k than £50k. No doubt that's a vain hope though
Good luck to both Caterham and Alpine
KMB05 Jun 2013
It's a bold move, I hope Renaultsport can pull it off!
Mark Benson05 Jun 2013
"We need to create the 911 of Alpine. Then we can do the Panamera and Cayman. It needs to have all the roots of the brand on which we can build."
Porsche built the 911 brand over 40 years before they brought out the Panamera and Cayman - in the meantime they brought out the 914, 924, 944 etc. Porsche spent a long time building their brand to get where they are today - wonder if Renault will be as patient....
And £50k? No matter how good the car is, will many people pay £50k for a Renault 1.6?
The Crack Fox05 Jun 2013
I have a feeling they'll pull it off, the Alpine/Matra place in Northern France has produced some automotive classics over the years, and there is clearly a niche for decent, interesting and innovative quick French cars (I honestly don't think there are any at present that meet this criteria) to challenge the status quo of the Germans. Add Caterham into the mix and I think they'll do very well.
What will Lotus respond with ? I'm a fan, but things look bleak for them with this, and the forthcoming Alfa 4C....