Renault Alpine concept could debut at Le Mans

Renault Alpine Vision Gran Turismo concept

The anticipated 2016 launch of Renault’s Alpine sports car is getting closer, but the French car maker has not even offered a hint at what the new sports car will look like.

That could change next month, when Renault may unveil an Alpine concept at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to Automotive News Europe.

While it won’t be an exact match with the finished product, a concept car would at least give the world a glimpse at the new Alpine’s styling, something Renault has said will be one of the car’s main selling points.

Alpine already competes at Le Mans in the LMP2 class, the category for prototype-style cars below the top LMP1H hybrid class. That makes Le Mans a pretty good venue for marketing purposes.

The production version of the sports car will reportedly have a rear-mounted engine with around 250 horsepower, and will be sized and priced to compete with the Audi TT and Porsche Boxster.

Renault is apparently positioning the Alpine brand in more upscale territory to increase profits. If all goes well, the sports car could be followed by a second model, possibly an SUV.

Alpine started out building Renault-based sports cars like the classic A110, and was eventually absorbed by the larger company. It continued as Renault’s in-house performance tuner until 1995, when Renault retired the Alpine name.

The revival of Alpine started out as a joint venture between Renault and Caterham. They were supposed to collaborate on a sports car platform that could be used with both badges, a Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S-style project with a European twist.

Caterham backed out last year, but Renault has said it’s still committed to launching the Alpine by the end of 2016. Production is expected to begin towards the end of that year, and the car may not go on sale until early 2017.

And while it will be priced like the fairly high-volume TT and Boxster, the Alpine will be a rare commodity. Initial production will be about 3,000 units per year, with a peak of 5,000.

It’s still unclear whether the Alpine will make it to the U.S. Since Renault doesn’t sell cars here, the chances are pretty slim, but there’s no accounting for the bizarre sales plans manufacturers sometimes make for their limited edition models.