2023 Alpine A110 R review

The A110 R is the most driver-focused Alpine yet, but do a plethora of go-faster goodies make it the one to have?...

Alpine A110 R Corner Cropped

On sale Now | Price from £89,990

Weight. If there’s one thing you need to know about Alpine as a brand, it’s that it prioritises low weight above everything else. And with good reason. Making a sports car lighter improves every element of the driving experience: you can stop quicker, turn quicker and accelerate quicker. And because the car's engine has less weight to push down the road, you even benefit in terms of fuel-efficiency.  

The only problem is that making a car lighter is challenging, especially in a world currently obsessed with electrification and safety. Even Lotus appears to have conveniently forgotten it's founder's famous phrase, ‘simplify, then add lightness’, turning its efforts to building the two-tonne Lotus Eletre electric SUV. But don’t worry, because Alpine is here to restore some order by taking a leaf out of Colin Chapman's book. 

Named the Alpine A110 R, the car you see above you is the fastest and most driver-focused Alpine yet, but you won’t find a more powerful engine under its carbonfibre bonnet. Like the standard A110 S, the R makes do with 'just' 296bhp from its 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine. However, Alpine’s engineers have improved performance elsewhere. 

So, while most of the body panels follow those of the regular S in being made of aluminium, itself a rather expensive, lightweight material, the R uses even lighter carbonfibre for its bonnet, roof, front splitter, rear diffuser, spoiler and wheels. Yes, wheels. Compared with the alloy wheels on the A110 S, the carbonfibre set saves a total of 12.5kg. 

The cumulative effect of this strict diet is a car that now weighs 1,082kg, making it nearly 25% lighter than the similarly priced Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. So while the A110 R can’t quite outrun a GT4 in a straight line (both cars take 3.9 seconds to reach 62mph) something tells us that carrying the equivalent weight of a Baby Grand Piano around will hurt the German car when battling with its French foe on a tight track. 

And the changes don’t stop there. To take full advantage of the A110 R’s low mass, Alpine has also fitted a sticky set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, and introduced firmer suspension springs and anti-roll bars, and it has invested a lot of time tweaking the R’s aerodynamics in the Alpine Formula One team’s wind tunnel. All of which is great news for track day enthusiasts, but you do have to wonder if these changes will potentially erode some of the delicate, supple character that makes the standard version so beguiling. Let’s find out …

What’s it like to drive?

The A110 R easily passes ‘the 50-metre test’: how good a car feels when you first get in and drive off. As we mentioned earlier, the 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit behind the occupants remains the same and still puts out 296bhp and 251lb ft of torque. However, the removal of noise insulation from the engine bay, combined with a new 3D-printed exhaust tip, gives the engine a deeper and louder tone, adding some real theatrics to proceedings. 

But what’s even more encouraging is that despite the A110 R immediately feeling more poised and taut compared to the regular ‘S’ (10% firmer suspension and 10% stiffer anti-roll bars will do that) it still manages to retain an element of suppleness that stops it from thumping and crashing over urban abrasions. We say ‘element’ of suppleness because, compared with the standard car, it is certainly more unyielding, but we reckon you could pop to your local boulangerie in relative comfort. 

A110R Side Profile

Or better yet, you put lunch on hold and head towards your favourite stretch of road (or track) because once you introduce some speed to proceedings it's immediately obvious that Alpine has engineered any sign of slack out of the A110 experience. The steering has more weight and even more precision around the straight-ahead than the regular ‘S’, allowing you to place to nose with increased accuracy, while the lack of body roll means you can really lean on the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. 

And should you push beyond the limit of grip, you’ll be pleased to find that the A110 R is surprisingly friendly. You don’t have to worry about it snapping aggressively back in line, and because the carbonfibre bucket seats (more on these in a bit) clamp your ribs and thighs, you feel truly locked into the machine, allowing you to sense exactly what’s going on at ground level. 

A110 R Rear Side Profile

But arguably, the most impressive thing about the A110 R is its unimpeachable body control. Compared to the equally track-focused Cayman GT4 RS, that tends to get deflected and thrown off line by large undulations, the A110 R takes them in its stride. And despite riding 10mm lower than even the A110S, not once did we catch the nose on a compression – a characteristic that can make you wince in the standard car. For a machine designed to lap billiard smooth circuits as quickly as possible, it feels surprisingly at home on the road. 

Our only minor grumble is that the chassis is so good and so composed that it’s hard to understand why Alpine didn’t give the A110 R a bit more power. On the international launch earlier this year, Xavier Sommer, Alpine’s A110 programme director, explained that the reason they didn’t go searching for more grunt, was down to the fact that an increase in CO2 would have massive tax implications for French buyers. 

Fair enough. But there’s no doubt that with another 50bhp or so, the A110 R would be a proper giant-killer, both on the road and on the track. Surely that's a worthwhile investment, even if it is to the French treasury. 

A110R Interior

What’s it like inside?

You could argue that Alpine’s engineers almost did too good a job of light-weighting the standard A110, because the interior of the R is almost identical to the standard car. Yes, there is some Alcantara on the dashboard, and the doors get woven pulls instead of handles, but you still get a digital dashboard and physical climate controls, and the iPad-esque central infotainment screen gets new track telemetry apps.

You also get a rear-view camera, which is essential because there's no longer a rear windscreen; this has joined the long list of things on the R that are made from carbonfibre, to the detriment of rear visibility. 

Alpine A110 R Seats

The most significant addition to the interior is a pair of Sabelt carbonfibre bucket seats. They look rather extreme, but it’s surprising just how comfortable they are, with plenty of under-thigh support and great side support. If you’re a track day regular, these will be a godsend, but the four-point harnesses are a bit of a faff when you’re desperately trying to grab your ticket at the autoroute toll. 


Let’s answer the question we posed at the beginning. Has fitting track-focused suspension, stripping out the sound-deadening from the engine bay, and introducing more aggressive aerodynamics, taken away from the character of the standard Alpine A110? Well, having now driven the car on a plethora of battered British B-roads, we can say decisively that no, they haven’t.

Alpine’s engineers have pulled a blinder, by managing to seriously raise the on-track potential of the A110, while still retaining the base car’s innate sense of approachability and playfulness. The way it tackles a narrow, undulating country road has to be experienced to be believed. 

Being less easy to live with on a regular day-to-day basis costs it a fifth star – the lack of a rear windscreen is plain annoying, as are the racing harnesses – but we acknowledge that enthusiastic drivers will love the added sense of occasion even more.

You better move quickly if you want one, though. The 32 cars coming to the UK this year are already spoken for and the limited number of build slots available for 2024 are filling up fast. Even the £89,990 price tag looks reasonable when viewed alongside the similarly priced but far less driver-focused Audi TT RS Iconic Edition and the six-figure Porsche 718 Spyder RS (with all 'regular' Cayman GT4s spoken for, the Spyder RS is your best bet if looking to buy a new mid-engined GT division car). 

What Car? rating 4 stars out of 5

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Alpine A110 R

Price £89,990 Engine 4cyl, 1798cc, turbo, petrol Power 296bhp at 6300rpm Torque 251lb ft at 2400rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic 0-62mph 3.9sec Top speed 177mph Fuel economy 41.5mpg (combined)? CO2/tax 153g/km, 35%?

Audi TT RS Iconic Edition
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 

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