10 Jun 2014

Renault Now Owns 100% Stake in Alpine

French car fans and performance motorists alike will find themselves jumping for joy over the latest news released by Renault. Early on Tuesday morning the French car manufacturer announced that a higher stake had been acquired in Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham. To be precise, a 100 per cent stake.

Now under complete ownership by the French brand, Alpine Caterham will join Renault's other stable mate, Dacia, as a subsidiary brand under the Parisian diamond. Rest assure though that Renault are planning more exciting things than budget superminis and crossovers, and they're planning to launch it during 2016.

But what shall they release? A revitalised sports Clio? A tweaked Twingo? These assumptions are far off the mark. In their own words, Renault and Alpine stated that they plan to create the "Berlinette of the 21st century". Certainly, Renault's new acquisition has quite the task on their hands.

The Berlinette, most well-known in Britain as the Alpine A-series, was a Renault powered series of performance cars which gained legendary status worldwide. Launched in 1955 by Jean Rédélé, the first A106 was based on mechanical components from the ancient Renault 4CV. Three years later, the next model arrived. The A108 was designed with components equally borrowed from the Renault Dauphine, although this time the Gordini engine was used to provide some real sporting pedigree.

Fast-forward to 1961 and the most iconic design in the series was launched. The A110 was simply beautiful and cemented its legacy as a spirited rally car. Powered by the Gordini unit from the R8, the A110 became the first World Rally Champion and the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally winner. The next model, the A310, later utilised a rear-mounted V6 power plant, Renault 5 Turbo suspension and provided all of the tail-happy handling characteristics of a Porsche 911. The Renault Alpine GTA which followed was a more modern and sleek design, which featured polyester plastics and fibreglass body panels. This design, which arrived in 1986, proved faster and lighter than the Porsche 944. Power came from 2.5-litre and 3.0-litre Renault sourced V6´s. The Alpine name died however with the 1991 A610 which followed, with the only other Renault produced at the Alpine plant being the Spider ever since.

Alas, what can we expect from this new acquisition by Renault? Well according to Renault's Laurens van den Acker, senior vice president of corporate design, the future design is "as good as finished", with a launch in 2016 reported by the brand. Also, Bernard Ollivier, Manager of the project, stated more recently that: “90% of design specifications [are] complete and an interior design to be finalised before the summer". We can also expect it to resemble the design from 2012, the A110-50 Concept, with a Caterham based variant already confirmed for simultaneous production.

The concept car from 2012 was powered by a 3.5-litre V6, producing 400bhp. Although the engine size and output has yet to be confirmed for the production model, and will probably fail to reach the aforementioned output.

The news of the corporate takeover of this legendary French sporting brand is certainly an exciting episode in the Berlinette saga, with the new model promised in two years amidst almost completion at this early stage. So eager are some customers that some orders have already been placed, despite very limited figures officially revealed. The motoring world will be keeping a close eye on these developments, for they are certain to whet our appetites further in the coming two years.

by Mike Armstrong