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Quick group test: A110 vs 718 Cayman vs Elise 220 Cup vs TT RS

Published: 09 August 2018

► Alpine A110 vs rivals
► The best driver's car?
► Our quick group test

Pure sports cars are rare these days, but their ranks have just been boosted by the arrival of the Alpine A110. How does it measure up against the Porsche 718 Cayman, Audi TT RS and Lotus Elise?

What do we have here?

Alpine A110
The A110 from reborn Alpine reached production despite management changes, collapsed development partnerships and interminable delays – and thank goodness it did. Renault Sport's modern reinterpretation of the classic A110 is amazingly good.

Porsche 718 Cayman
The mid-engined coupe benchmark. Not even swapping the charismatic six of old for a flat-sounding forced-induction four can spoil the Cayman. It handles better than ever, and remains one of the world's most talented sports cars. Two decent-sized boots, too.

Porsche 718 Cayman

Lotus Elise 220 Cup
The ageing but still ace Elise in one of its most distilled forms: the 220 Cup removes further kilos from an already scant kerbweight, then pushes the Elise back into the tarmac with a race-derived aero kit. Now available in more powerful Cup 250 and 260 variants, just in case 233bhp per tonne isn't enough for you.

Audi TT RS
The fastest, most macho TT road car yet, with five cylinders and four driven wheels to put its near-400bhp through. But it's also the heaviest car here, and doesn't have the precision brought by a bespoke sports car platform, with a tall-roof/high-bonnet silhouette that betrays its mainstream VW Group MQB underpinnings.

An affordable sports car?

Alpine A110
Not quite as affordable as we'd hoped. This one's loaded with kit and topping £50k. Entry-level Pure models will cost £45k or so, and weigh less than 1100kg.

Porsche 718 Cayman
Reassuringly expensive, more like. Base 296bhp 718 Cayman starts around £43k, 345bhp 718 Cayman S from close to £52k. That's before options, though, and Porsche knows how to charge. Tick a few boxes and you could easily top secondhand-supercar money.

Lotus Elise 220 Cup
Used to be. These days the Elise is a £40k-plus machine. Namby-pamby options like air-con and a stereo cost extra.

Lotus Elise 220 Cup

Audi TT RS
Erm, no. The RS sits around the £50k mark and this particular test car topped a scary £61k after options, including 20-inch wheels and trick dampers.

Top-fuel dragster or top fun in corners?

Alpine A110
The A110 is all about reducing weight rather than adding power. It's a real treat to drive. Like the Lotus and Cayman, ride quality is stunningly smooth, though there's a little more vertical movement and the front end can bobble over bumps. Rearward weight distribution gives an understeer bias, but weight transfer can tuck the nose in swiftly.

Porsche 718 Cayman
Sublime handling from one of the best chassis on sale. Safe yet adjustable, with huge lateral grip and a malleable feel, it's a benchmark for rivals from all tiers. Optional PASM dampers glide over potholes, even on 20-inch wheels.

Lotus Elise 220 Cup
Accelerates like it's hitched to a rocket sled, but the Elise really lives for corners. Wing, splitter and side skirts (with aircraft-style No Step markings – nice touch) contribute genuine downforce (66kg at 100mph) at speeds where most cars would be generating lift (or the driver would be jumping on the brakes to slow it down).

Audi TT RS
It's the fastest car in a straight line, and it's seriously quick around corners, too, with so much grip it feels as if you can keep adding lock where other cars would be washing out. Its limits are way higher than the Alpine's, but it's not as much fun.

Bare bones or lap of luxury?

Alpine A110
Some materials feel sub-par for a £50k car, but to concentrate on dash plastics in a car like this is to miss the point. The sense of occasion is spot-on, with supportive leather bucket seats that weigh only 16kg each.

Alpine A110 interior

Porsche 718 Cayman
Interior has that enviable hewn-from-solid feel that runs through most Porsches, and fiddly air-con controls aren't enough to spoil it. The TT has a fancier multimedia system but the 718's recently updated screen works well enough.

Lotus Elise 220 Cup
Elegantly minimal interior a study in aluminium extrusions, putting you right within the Elise's architecture, like sitting inside a Macbook. Naff-all mod cons; aftermarket-looking Alpine head unit costs extra, carpets likewise.

Audi TT RS
Very much the latter. More quilted surfaces than an Andrex roll, and spangly aluminium trim like engine-turned houndstooth. Driving position feels sky-high compared to the others and some controls are a bit of a stretch.

How does it feel to drive?

Alpine A110
Proof that performance cars don't need artificial weight or sped-up response. It's light yet full of feel, a car you drive with your fingertips, not your forearms. Contrary to its purist vibe the Alpine is paddleshift auto only, but it's effective enough that you'll rarely pine for a manual.

Porsche 718 Cayman
Unlike the Alpine and TT RS, the 718 is available with a manual gearbox – and it's a doozy. There's lovely self-centring spring weighting to the lever, and perfect pedals to help you feel like a heel-and-toe hero. It sounds like a van at low revs, but gains a bassy character at higher rpm.

Lotus Elise 220 Cup
Unassisted steering wriggles in your palms, supercharged throttle response is sharp but precise, pedals perfectly positioned for heel-and-toeing, and plenty of feel through the fade-free brakes. Ride quality uncannily comfy despite the track-focused set-up.

Audi TT RS
Fast and fairly feelsome, with nice power steering. The huge brakes are effective, but have plenty of car to slow down and the pedal can get soft. It's the best-sounding car here, the five-pot's mellow bellow like a junior R8.

Audi TT RS

There must be a catch somewhere...

Alpine A110
Two boots like the Cayman, but they're both titchy; sole volume control is mounted on the steering column and gets in the way of the paddles; interior door-pull surrounds flex like you might pull them clean out of the doors if you're not careful... But drive it and you won't mind.

Porsche 718 Cayman
There's a little lag below 2800rpm, but then it pulls like a tug o' war team; going turbo means the Cayman finally has some torque to go with its long gearing.

Lotus Elise 220 Cup
You need to limbo your way in and out, and you might want to take a cushion for long journeys. But every drive will be memorable.

Audi TT RS
It might sound like a junior supercar but it still feels more like a very hot hatch to drive. And despite electronically controlled dampers, the TT has the worst ride quality here, tremoring on back roads and bunny-hopping over speed bumps. Then there's the price...

A110 vs 718 Cayman vs Elise vs TT RS: verdict

Porsche 718 Cayman - ★★★★★
Wins by a thread from the Alpine. More practical, arguably a better ownership proposition, and its inspiring handling is a cut above. But in the Alpine, the Cayman finally has a very credible alternative. 

Alpine A110 - ★★★★★
Impressive, novel and extremely close to the Cayman. To drive one is to feel happy. 

Lotus Elise 220 Cup - ★★★★★
Our kind of ‘connected car’. A bit too hairy and pricey for its own good, but the most exciting car here. Driving doesn’t get much more involving, or more fun, than this.

Audi TT RS - ★★★★
The best-driving TT yet is also the fastest and priciest of this foursome, with the most evocative exhaust note, but it’s short of driver involvement. 

Alpine Fast Test group rerar

A110 vs 718 Cayman vs Elise vs TT RS: specs

Alpine A110 Premiere Edition
Price £51,805
As tested £51,805
Engine 1898cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 248bhp @ 6000rpm, 236lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission 7-spd dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Performance 4.5sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 46mpg, 138g/km CO2
Weight 1103kg
Example insurance quote £688.96
On sale Now

Porsche 718 Cayman
Price £42,897
As tested £51,255
Engine 1988cc 16v turbocharged flat-four, 296bhp @ 6500rpm, 280lb ft @ 1950rpm
Transmission 6-spd manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance 5.1sec 0-62mph, 170mph, 38.2mpg, 168g/km CO2
Weight 1335kg
Example insurance quote £590.62
On sale Now

Lotus Elise 220 Cup
Price £43,500
As tested £43,500
Engine 1796cc 16v supercharged 4-cyl, 217bhp @ 6800rpm, 184lb ft @ 4600rpm
Transmission 6-spd manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance 4.2sec 0-60mph, 140mph, 37.5mpg, 175g/km CO2
Weight 932kg
Example insurance quote £566.94
On sale Now, as upgraded 250 Cup

Audi TT RS
Price £50,615
As tested £61,790
Engine 2480cc 20v turbocharged 5-cyl, 395bhp @ 5850rpm, 354lb ft @ 1700rpm
Transmission 7-spd dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 3.7sec 0-62mph, 174mph, 33.6mpg, 192g/km CO2
Weight 1440kg
Example insurance quote £1285.69
On sale Now

Check out our comparison tests here

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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