first drive

2019 Alpine A110S review: price, specs and release date

The Alpine A110S is lower, stiffer and has more power, but does a more focused A110 mean a less pure sports car?...

2019 Alpine A110S front driving shot
Author Avatar
John Howell
28 Oct 2019 20:00

Priced from £56,810 | On sale Now

By rights, any of The Apprentice candidates pleading to stay in the BBC competition with an “I promise to give you 110%, Lord Sugar” should be fired on the spot. It’s a lie; exceeding 100%, or perfection, just isn't possible.

Which begs the question: how can the new, more expensive Alpine A110S be worth the extra cash when, to all intents and purposes, on the road the regular A110 is bang on to drive? After all, the A110 beat the Porsche Cayman as our favourite sports car, and there is no higher accolade than that.

Yet as we all know, nothing in life is perfect. There's room to improve the A110, but not dynamically. Its interior feels about as robust as the lid on your takeaway coffee cup, and its infotainment system… let’s just say there are winners of Darwin Awards who had greater processing power than that. Oh yes, and while we’re used to golfers bemoaning a shortage of boot space for their clubs, if you happen to be a practising ping pong player, the A110's woeful practicality pops that sort of angst into your life, too. 

Does the A110S address any of those challenges? Nope. Instead, it focuses almost entirely on redefining the driving experience – you know, the bit we’ve just said is already brilliant.

2019 Alpine A110S rear three-quarters driving

2019 Alpine A110S on the road

What’s this car’s purpose, then? That became clearer after chatting to some of Alpine’s engineers: it isn’t an improvement, they say, but an alternative. Let’s expand on that. The standard model is, undoubtedly, an utterly beguiling sports car for the road. Rather than having ridiculously high limits, which are impossible to enjoy within the law (as is the case with the Cayman), the A110’s ultra-supple suspension and narrow-gauge tyres let you exploit its blissfully playful balance at half-sensible speeds. That's fine, but what if you're the sort who enjoys a bit more precision? Something that can cope with the odd track day, even? Then you’re back to the technically more adept but less compelling Cayman.

That’s where the A110S comes in. Compared with the regular A110, it has been lowered and bits and bobs within its suspension have been tweaked; for you techie types, that means stiffer anti-roll bars and springs. It’s also shod with slightly wider tyres.

The result is an altogether sharper machine. The S grips harder and leans less than the standard A110, so you can carry more speed through turns and get it to change direction quicker. Plus, because it leans less, there’s not as much slack in the system to absorb your initial steering inputs, making the steering feel more responsive and better connected as well.

Has its cheeky character been diminished? No, not really. Being better balanced and less prone to sliding at the rear does give it a more grown-up air, but it’s still more deliciously dexterous on the road than a Cayman. Venture on to a track, as we did, and the A110S's precision over the standard car is telling, but it's far from sanitised. And while a Cayman can possibly still carry a little more speed through most bends, will you be having more fun? Hardly.

You also get bigger Brembo brakes with the A110S. They’re designed to take more punishment on track without overheating and are certainly strong and dependable. The Cayman’s brakes have slightly better feel, but the A110S's are more predictable than the BMW M2 Competition’s and can take far more abuse.

Of course, there’s an inevitable pay-off for tightening up the suspension: a firmer ride. Is it too firm? It’s certainly more brittle over patchy surfaces and follows the contours of the road with greater intensity, but it’s not unbearable. And if you're thinking about using your A110S for longer journeys, the high-speed ride is absolutely fine.

Finally, we should mention the extra power: another 39bhp from its 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine. That takes the total to 288bhp, giving the A110S a perkier edge and, according to the manufacturer's figures, delivers a quicker 0-62mph time than the Cayman S. The main thing is that the engine’s enthusiastic, puppy-like bark is retained, so it still sounds a hundred times better than the Cayman’s depressingly dreary flat-four fizzle. The M2 Competition's silky straight six is another matter, though.

2019 Alpine A110S interior

2019 Alpine A110S interior

As with the regular A110, there’s a fine driving position and plenty of space for two tall adults, just not their luggage. The only things that have changed are that the S adds swathes of faux suede, which Alpine calls Dinamica trim, for a bit extra panache, as well as aluminium pedals and passenger foot rest, a telematics screen and parking sensors front and rear. From outsidem you can tell the A110S apart from the standard models by its black 18in alloy wheels, black badges and orange brake calipers. It also comes with a sports exhaust. There are few options, other than a rear-view camera, lighter-weight forged alloy wheels, carbonfibre bucket seats and a carbonfibre roof.

If you want more details on the interior and maybe even sensible stuff like running costs, have a look at our main Alpine A110 reviewOr, to see how much you could save on a new Alpine, check out our New Car Buying service.

Next: 2019 Alpine A110S verdict >

Page 1 of 2

Related cars