New BMW M2 Competition vs Alpine A110
These sports cars have evolved in very different ways, but both promise to be thrilling to drive. Only one can be king of the jungle, though...
BMW M2 Competition M DCT
List price £51,930
Target Price £51,181
Brawnier than ever, and tweaked in an effort to sharpen up its handling.
Alpine A110 Légende
List price £50,805
Target Price £50,805
Reborn two-seat sports car puts the emphasis on light weight and driver involvement.
Nature is full of surprises. A full-grown African elephant may have no natural predators due to its size, but a well-placed bite from an infected mosquito has the power to kill one.
Don’t worry – Sir David Attenborough hasn’t taken to writing car reviews. But the analogy is applicable to this particular test. Team Mosquito is represented by the Alpine A110, a featherweight, mid-engined sports car that makes its seemingly puny 1.8-litre turbocharged engine pack a heavyweight punch. Remember, this is the car that toppled the mighty Porsche 718 Cayman.
Our elephant is the BMW M2 Competition, a car that’s been bulking up over the summer. A new engine – the twin-turbo unit from the bigger M4 – gives it more power than the regular M2 it replaces, but it also means more weight: 55kg, to be exact. So, can the A110 find the M2’s weak spot, or will it get swatted?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Look at the power outputs and you might expect the A110 to get annihilated in a straight line; it has just 248bhp, whereas the M2’s 3.0-litre straight six pumps out 404bhp and more than a Ford Fiesta’s worth of extra torque.
But a half-tonne weight penalty means the A110 actually takes only half a second longer to accelerate from 0-60mph. If you take the car on track, the gap has increased to 1.4sec by the time you’re doing 100mph, with the M2 getting to that speed from rest in a blistering 9.9sec. The M2 also feels more flexible in normal driving; the A110 needs more revs before it really gets going.
Push it hard in Sport or Race mode and the A110 produces a fruity rasp and cracks and pops when you lift off the accelerator. However, the M2’s wailing straight six is even easier on the ears.
Both cars have seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes that shift more aggressively in the sportier driving modes. Both change gear smoothly most of the time, although they can be a little jerky during low-speed manoeuvring. However, when you decide to take control by using the shift paddles behind the steering wheel, you’ll find that the A110 responds more snappily to your commands.
The biggest differences between these cars become apparent in corners. The M2’s steering is relatively heavy but lets you to place the nose of the car with accuracy. The A110’s steering is far lighter but sharper and provides more feedback about grip through the wheel rim.
This sense of lightness permeates every facet of the A110, with the car diving into corners and changing direction like a cat. The M2 rolls less and grips the road just as tenaciously once it’s settled in a fast corner, but it’s never quite as keen to turn in to begin with.
With its extra firepower, the M2 was quicker around our 0.9-mile test track, which is designed to simulate a typical B-road, but only by a scant 0.2sec. And although the A110’s brake discs look tiny compared with the M2’s, the fact that the A110 is so much lighter actually allows it to shed speed more quickly, and it feels more stable under really hard braking.
In normal daily use, the A110 is a more peaceful companion, mainly because its narrower tyres generate far less road noise. Ride comfort is harder to call, though.
The M2 is always firmer but has excellent damping, so bumps are dealt with quickly. The A110 can bobble around a bit over broken surfaces at lower speeds, but it really smooths out as the pace rises, gliding along bumpy B-roads like few cars in any price bracket.
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