Being German sells well in the automotive world, particularly for Porsche, given its implicit associations with engineering prowess and prestige. There’s also the unwritten understanding that every German car is built to cruise all day on derestricted Autobahn and be capable of lapping the Nürburgring in less than seven minutes. But considering we won’t be seeing the A110 on this side of the Atlantic, Alpine’s attempt to be the French Porsche still resonates, leveraging that Gallic identity and proving there’s more to life than hitting the 155 mph limiter.
You don’t have to make the 2,000-mile round-trip from Alpine’s Dieppe home to the Alps after which it is named and back to understand that. But it’s a handy way of learning what the brand stands for, especially in the context of a new French law reducing the speed limit on rural roads to just 50 mph.
Feel free to speculate on that, but it’s clear from driving that the A110 that it shines in how it moves between 0 to 60 mph, rather than how quickly it gets there. With a modest 248 horsepower, the Alpine looks undernourished compared with the 300 horsepower of the 718 Cayman it’s priced against in Europe. But, like the more expensive Alfa Romeo 4C it’s more accurately compared with, the 2,500 lbs A110 is about less weight, not more grunt.
The factory in Dieppe is certainly busy. There’s a backlog of orders for the 1,955 Premiere Edition cars to fulfil before production switches to the regular Pure and Légende variants. Local passion for Alpine’s return could sustain the production level, so what need is there to go beyond? “You could say why go to Japan, why go to Australia?” admits Fricotté. “But in those countries we already have a structure and we get the support of Renault. And Renault group is not in America.”
But Nissan with which it shares an alliance is. If demand were strong enough in America could favors be called in there? Another shrug. “The relations within the alliance are strong, but it’s not on the table. It’s both about the infrastructure and the product – if you want to go into a market like America it has to be there from the beginning.”
France may have shared many of its delicacies with the world. But it seems the Alpine will remain one to be enjoyed at home. Porsche can sleep a little easier as a result.