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Alpine returns with glorious Vision. Image by Alpine.

Alpine returns with glorious Vision
Alpine Vision sees marque's revival set for 2017.
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What's all this about?

Performance car brand Alpine is making a triumphant comeback.

Alpine? Don't you mean Alpina?

No we do not! Alpine is a brand founded in 1955 by Jean Rédélé, who developed lightweight sports cars using Renault engines in order to be successful at motorsport. And his cars were certainly that - the highlight of an illustrious competition career being the 1973 World Rally Championship Manufacturers' title for the brand's most iconic car, the A110 Berlinette, which also secured a historic 1-2-3 podium lockout in that year's Monte Carlo Rally. As for its road cars, in a 40-year history stretching until 1995, when the last Alpine rolled off the production line in Dieppe, northern France, 26,666 vehicles were produced in total. The last branded car to be built was the glorious A610, but it's really the A110 that provides the inspiration for the newcomer, called the Alpine Vision.

So is the Vision just a concept that will never see the light of day?

No, this gorgeous machine is going to go into production in 2017 and Alpine assured us at the car's unveiling in Monaco (where else?) that what we see here is 'very, very close' to the production example. We don't have full technical details at the moment, as Alpine continues to play its cards close to its chest, but here's what we can tell you: despite the fact it won't match the 625kg kerb weight of the A110, Alpine says keeping the lard off its frame is the priority, so it should undercut a Porsche 718 Cayman by a good distance, although whether it could match an Alfa 4C is another matter; the rear wheels are powered by a mid-mounted turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine driving through a dual-clutch gearbox - no word on the engine's capacity, size or power, but the Alpine's unit is developed from existing tech (Renaultsport being the most likely donor) and the finished car's power-to-weight ratio will allow for a scorching 0-62mph time of 'less than 4.5 seconds'; and it has a beautiful, upmarket interior featuring loads of exposed metal and classy switchgear. Oh, and it looks utterly wonderful from outside, with enough nods to the old car (the quad round lamps at the front, the stubby tail, the sweeping profile) mixed in with some attractive and modern design cues. We love it.

Why has Renault decided to revive Alpine now?

Allow Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of the company, to explain: "What has happened with Renault in recent years has strengthened our business and allows us to focus on the sports cars that are a part of our DNA. Models like the Captur and the Kadjar - with a D-segment SUV coming soon - have grown Renault's business and we feel the time is right to test the water with the Alpine Vision in 2017. We think Alpine will allow us to reach new customers who are passionate about sports cars and performance driving."

How will Renault sell Alpine?

As a standalone marque. Ghosn went on to say that "we cannot build a brand with only one product" but did say the progression of Alpine would be "patient, gradual". At first, existing Renault dealers across Europe will be tapped up to see who are the most knowledgeable and passionate about Alpine, so we'd predict Renault showrooms with bespoke Alpine areas would be the first stage of sales. Then the support network would be developed and perhaps individual Alpine dealerships would appear. The aim is definitely to take this global.

Has Alpine got a method of reaching a wider audience?

Yes, through its favoured means of building brand image: motorsport. Two Alpines will compete in this year's World Endurance Championship, which means they will both be at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Win there, and the good it would do for the fledgling 21st century Alpine would be almost incalculable.

Can you give me any indication of price?

No, and this is the crucial point. We think about £40,000 would be ideal, although it was strongly hinted that - with the next revelations about the Alpine Vision's tech due in the coming months - extremely lightweight build materials, possible carbon fibre or aluminium, have been used and that could push the ticket close to £50,000. All Ghosn could quip was that the new model would be "less than the €80,000 required for a classic A110 nowadays", while Bernard Ollivier - former CEO of Alpine and now Deputy Managing Director - added that the benchmarks were anything from Lotus, the Porsche Cayman, the Audi TT and similar. That should give you an idea of the Alpine's ballpark.

Do you like the Alpine Vision, then, and think it will be a success?

Taking the brand to the everyman audience will probably take more than just a strong Le Mans showing and some motorsport efforts; a tie-in with parent brand Renault might be the best bet in the early days, although Alpine wants to keep itself entirely separate from its parent. But the car looks absolutely stunning in the metal, possibly even prettier than its Alfa 4C rival, and if the production version's interior quality remains as high as that on the Vision, then the key thing is how it drives and how much it will cost. So ask yourself this: do you think Renaultsport will do a good job dynamically with a mid-engined, rear-drive high-performance lightweight? Right. In which case, assuming it's as brilliant as we hope it will be, how much would you pay for a machine that is from quite a niche brand? It's a difficult tightrope to walk for Renault, but we very much look forward to seeing how it negotiates such a dilemma. Until then, we'll be desperately counting the days until we can get behind the wheel of the Alpine Vision.

Matt Robinson - 18 Feb 2016

2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.

2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.2016 Alpine Vision concept. Image by Alpine.

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