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Renault’s Alpine working on ‘perfect’ sportscar

Blue yonder: Alpine’s Celebration concept car is the star of an Alpine revival festival in the company's spiritual home, Dieppe, France.

2017 at the earliest for Alpine’s first new-gen sportscar from Renault subsidiary

Renault logo13 Sep 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in PARIS

THE Renault executive tasked with resurrecting the Alpine sportscar operation has promised the perfect sportscar when Alpine production resumes after a 20-year hiatus, but he says he cannot promise when he might be able to deliver it.

“There is a big expectation on the car, and we are obliged to make it a success,” Alpine CEO Bernard Olliver told Australian journalists at the French coastal town of Dieppe where Alpine is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the famous French marque with the biggest-ever rally of Alpine enthusiasts and their vehicles.

“We cannot make a mistake. If we have to take two or three more years for the perfect car, we will take it.” Although Renault started working on Alpine concept cars in 2012 and prototypes are already on the roads of France, Mr Olliver said the production car would not be ready for market before 2017.

He declined to go into the mechanical details of the car, other than to say it would adhere to Alpine’s “DN.”

of light weight, driving pleasure and French elegance of design.

Most pundits expect the latest concept, the Alpine Celebration that was first shown at the Le Mans 24 Hour race in June this year, to set the stage for the final production vehicle.

The mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe – known as a berlinette (small coupe) to the French – is powered by a small but powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine in a package that is said to weigh no more than 1000kg.

The styling includes signature Alpine cues such as the round driving lights in the nose taken from the well-loved A110 Berlinette of the 1960s and 1970s something that is almost certain to make it into the final product.

Asked if the first new-generation Alpine car would include both coupe and convertible versions, he answered with a smile: “Perhaps.” Similarly, he did not rule out the rumoured crossover vehicle as a follow-up for the as-yet unnamed sportscar, but said the focus of Alpine’s engineers and designers was firmly on the first vehicle.

“I have make my first car, because there will be no other car if the first car is not a success,” he said. “An SUV interests us, but not yet.” On the prospects for a right-hand drive variant for markets such as Australia, Mr Olliver stopped short of confirming one, but went out of his way to emphasise the importance of the Australian market and the need to take the Alpine product to as many customers as possible.

The fact that motoring journalists from Australia and Japan – both right-hand drive markets – have been included among the invitees to the 60th anniversary event would seem to indicate that the decision has already been made.

One thing has been confirmed: the Alpine factory at Dieppe is already undergoing an overhaul to prepare it for new-generation products.

The factory currently turns out Renault Sport hot hatches, and has done since 1995 when Alpine’s own line of vehicles went out of production.

While European motoring writers have variously compared the new Alpine model to the Alfa Romeo 4C and Porsche Cayman, Mr Olliver declined to be drawn on the perceived competitors for the Alpine car, saying: “The only point is that the car has the DNA of Alpine.” The quiet port town of Dieppe – where Alpine was founded 60 years ago by rally driver and son of a Renault dealer Jean Redele – has been transformed for the celebration event that serves not only to reminisce about Alpine cars of old, but to also promote the promise of a new era.

More than 700 Alpine cars dating back to the original 1950s A106 – built on the chassis of a Renault 4CV but with a fibreglass body – are on display by both Alpine owners and Renault’s own car museum.

The Renault Celebration concept is the star attraction at one end of a big marquee on the Dieppe foreshore, while the Signatech-Alpine LM3 Le Mans racing car is the main event at the other.

In between, Alpine cars of each generation are on show. Outside, hundreds of privately owned Alpine cars from all over Europe are lined up for car fans to fawn over.

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