Renault has set a deadline for its Alpine (pronounced al-peen) sports car, a joint project being developed with the help of England’s Caterham that will revive one of motoring’s classic names. The Alpine could be in showrooms by 2015, and is shaping up to be a French counterpart to the Porsche Boxster and Mazda Miata.
Renault marketing director Stephen Norman told Autocar that the Alpine will be finished in three years, meaning it could be ready as early as the end of 2015. The car was previously on a four-year timetable.
Norman also started fleshing out the Alpine’s character. The A110-50 concept car was the first sign that Renault was thinking about reviving Alpine, but the production car won’t be a track-bred exotic like the concept.
“It won’t be more hardcore than a Mazda MX-5,” Norman said. “What we do will not be soft, but not hardcore like a Peugeot 106 Rallye. You can’t betray the DNA of Alpine. That’s a third of what the car will be.”
So what we’re looking at isn’t a supercar, but a small sports car that prioritizes handling and refinement. This matches previous reports, which said the Alpine would use an engine from one of the Renaultsport hot hatchbacks. That engine will produce around 250 horsepower in the Alpine.
With the MX-5 Miata, Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S/Toyota GT-86, Lotus Elise, and Porsche Boxster already on the market, it might seem like there isn’t enough room for another small, nimble sports car. However, the Alpine will have a unique character.
“It must be light and look different, and have a touch of French dash,” Norman said. “It’s not a car for dandies, though. We know who the buyer is: he’s either French or a Francophile.”
The last time the world got to see France’s take on the small sports car was when Renault unveiled the aluminum Renaultsport Spider in 1996. Before that, there were Alpine models like the A110 that inspired the recent concept car, not to mention Renault’s own Dauphine roadster of the 1960s.
It will be interesting to see where the revived Alpine fits in the 21st century sports car field. A 250 hp engine would give the Alpine a significant advantage over entry-level models like the Miata and Toyobaru, but it wouldn’t be quite enough to match the 265 hp 2013 Boxster or 315 hp Boxster S. That uniquely French character, mixed with Caterham’s British ingenuity, could make up the difference, though.