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Renault: the return of the Alpine

By raccars Published

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Renault is bringing back its specialist sports car sub-brand, Alpine, in stunning retro form.

Alpine started life as a specialist sports car manufacturer based upon Renault components. In 1973 Renault bought Alpine and used it to expand its motor racing endeavours, including a win at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1978 and success in Formula One and Formula Two. By 1995 Renault had wound up its Alpine production line but the much-loved brand is set to return in 2017.

The Alpine Vision

Last month a smart new Alpine prototype was unveiled in Monte Carlo, with supercar levels of performance and some neat retro styling touches. The new Alpine is a mid engined two seater coupe, set to cost about £50,000. It's a proper sports car, with a sub-4.5 second 0-62mph time. A brand new turbocharged four cylinder engine has been specially created by the RenaultSport team

Renault has distinctly upmarket ambitions for the brand, hoping that the new car will be able to absorb some Audi TT, BMW 4 Series Coupe, Jaguar F-Type and Porsche Cayman customers. Visitors to last week's Geneva Motor Show saw the final production version, which is due to go on sale in Europe in 2017.

The rebuilding of a brand

Renault claims that this is only the first in a series of new Alpines, which it plans to expand into a brand with serious global reach. The cars will be built at the original Alpine factory in Dieppe, Normandy, which is currently used by RenaultSport. The French brand has expressed an interest in a sports car range since 2007. At one time Renault had considered teaming up with British sports car maker Caterham to create a new range of agile, lightweight sports cars but the union never came to fruition.

Instead, the French firm decided instead to forge on alone, aiming for an upmarket feel to take advantage of a forecast of huge growth in the premium sports car sector within the next few years. A small team of Renault engineers and executives have been dedicated to developing the brand, with one of the next stages of development being to establish a dealer network.

The original Alpine brand ran from 1955-1995, building some 30,000 models for racing and commercial sales. The marque typified the glamour of Fifties and Sixties Monte Carlo which Renault is hoping to replicate with the new model. The original cars are now highly collectible and the brand is fondly remembered, so Renault's new venture will no doubt inspire a great deal of interest from fans. Goodwood's Lord March is a famous Alpine enthusiast who has already expressed his delight at the revival of the marque and there is a busy international network of Alpine owners and enthusiasts clubs who will be equally delighted at the news.

Renault seeks retro inspiration

The inspiration for the Alpine Vision was the brand's classic A110 Berlinette model. The 110 excelled in the hairpin bends and twisting Alpine passes of the Monte Carlo Rally circuit and Renault has focused upon recreating its legendary handling and sleek design. Renault utilised the southern French Alps backdrops to showcase the new Alpine Vision's link with the brand's past history and its very Gallic spirit.

From the outside Renault has created an elegant modern sports car with some well-placed retro touches, but on the inside the Alpine Vision is thoroughly contemporary. There are racy bucket seats with sports harnesses and a smart black and white colourway. Aluminium, carbon fibre, fabric and leather somehow combine harmoniously to give a premium air and the controls are very smart indeed. A customisable TFT display forms the basis of the instrument panel within a carbon fibre surround, while there's Alpine Blue backlighting around the switchgear.

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