French supercars are a rare breed in Britain. French premium of any kind tends to be a rare breed, really, Brits typically shunning Gallic saloons, SUVs and sports cars in favour of the brands they know better. The best proof of that in a modern context can be seen in the Alpine A110; it’s one of the best sports cars of the past decade, yet has been comprehensively outsold during its five years on sale by models like the Porsche Cayman. It hasn’t even been close. And it would have to be assumed that a lack of familiarity with the brand must have played a part.
It's encouraging, then, that Alpine is forging ahead with its plan to electrify the line-up, taking on Porsche once more with a battery-powered A110. It looks like the four-seat Alpine may return as well, the latest internet rumours predicting an electric A310 to sit above it on the same platform and rival the Porsche 911 as the next ‘110 takes on the 718 EV. Which could be cool. Remember Alpine came from nowhere (apart from the history books) to create a fantastic sports car in 2017; who says they couldn’t be the first to make compelling EV two-doors?
That’s for the future, albeit not very far off by the looks of it. For now, we have an example of the last four-seat Alpine - indeed the last model sold here before the brand’s departure from the UK in the 1990s, only returning many years later with the A110. Though the A610, which was launched in 1991, looked familiar to the GTA that preceded it - and the PRV V6 had been found in the back of an Alpine since 1976 - it was, pretty much, an all-new sports car. (Wikipedia says only windows were shared with the old car; Autocar reckons it was about 80 per cent new.) Now turbocharged only, the 3.0-litre V6 produced 250hp and 258lb ft, with drive exclusively to the rear wheels via a five-speed gearbox.
Though few A610s were built (more on that in a sec), the Alpine was very well received by the press 30 years ago. Perhaps a similar fate will befall the A110, but it feels like that car’s hero status is more secure. Whatever, there was no doubt about the ‘610 back in the day. ‘Simply brilliant fun’ read one review: ‘That the rear end doesn’t turn into a great oversteering mass is Renault’s achievement and your salvation, of course — instead, the Alpine’s responses are sharp, the steering neutral if a sizeable dollop of power is added to the recipe.’ Autocar praised it for ‘breathtaking’ traction and ‘impressive’ body control; even driving it as recently as 2021, evo reckoned Alpine ‘absolutely nailed the dynamics of the A610’. So there - even better than you might think.
Of course, none of that could stop the car being a sales flop. It lived on here until just 1995, making this Scarlet Red car one of the very last, and just 67 were right-hand-drive. So little more than 15 a year. The Alpine of 2023 announces that many limited editions in a 12-month period. The A610 was always an incredibly rare sports car; today they’re close to non-existent.
All of which makes this one even more special. Yet to pass 70,000 miles, it’s just had £3k spent on a light recommissioning (tyres, new engine mounts, fresh spark plugs, brake work) so ought to be spot on to drive. Both paint and upholstery have stood the test of time well, and it’s great just to have an A610 on the screen. Even in a world of 24/7 social media car spotters, you never see an A610.
And the best bit? It’s not even crazy expensive. While £26,995 isn’t bargain basement sports car money, it’ll be a whole lot less than a comparable six-cylinder Porsche of the period might cost. It’s very seldom in 2023 that an asking price is surprising for how low it is - and perhaps we’ve all just got used to mad values now - but the Alpine looks especially good value given its reputation, rarity and condition. If nothing else it’s something different, which always has (and always should be) a huge part of the Alpine appeal. Let’s hope that can continue into the electric era.
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