► New sports car due late 2016/early ’17
► Renault-developed, Alpine-branded
► Testing under stop-gap Lotus bodywork
The long-running on-again, off-again Renault Alpine sports car saga rumbles on, and these snaps of a test mule wearing a patchwork-quilt Exige body confirm it’s still a little way from the finish line yet.
Just checking: these are definitely pictures of an Alpine, not a Lotus?
That’s right. In the absence of an existing Renault with similar dimensions to chop up and cover the Alpine’s structure, the similarly dimensioned Exige makes for a handy alternative. It’s not that familiar Elise aluminium chassis underneath though, but the Alpine sports car’s own, brand new platform.
Though there were whispers of a manufacturing partnership with Lotus way back when the Alpine project was first made public, we’re told by Renault that the upcoming car has no ties with Hethel.
This isn’t the first time the Alpine development team has borrowed from Lotus’ wardrobe; a similar Exige-bodied Alpine mule was spotted testing at the Nurburgring two years’ ago.
The car’s overhangs appear to have grown in the intervening months, as has the track under those enormous wheelarch extensions.
What’s powering the Alpine sports car?
Too early to say for sure, but indications are that it will use a turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the Renault family. The 2.0-litre unit from the Renaultsport Megane, which has been wound up to 271bhp and 266lb ft in the Tropy-R variant, hasn’t been ruled out.
Transmission is mooted to be a dual-clutch paddleshift, like that of the current turbocharged Renaultsport Clio.
In terms of power, dimensions and ethos we should think more in terms of Alfa Romeo 4C than Porsche 911.
What will it look like?
One point the Exige body underlines is the fact that the production body isn’t ready for on-road development yet.
The recent Alpine Celebration concept exhibited at Le Mans, riffing off the classic A110 Berlinette, is said to hold plenty of clues as to the final end result. No bad thing…
Alpine’s return: the background
Renault’s plans to relaunch the iconic Alpine brand originally involved a collaborative project for the car's design and engineering with sports car maker Caterham. A partnership was struck in 2012 but fizzled out in 2014, with Renault buying back the British firm’s stake.
The French manufacturer has since decided to go it alone, and has continued development of a car with its roots in the original plans laid down together with Caterham.
When will we finally see the end product?
When it’s ready. There’s no firm launch date in the diary yet. We hear Renault’s currently pencilled in an official reveal date on the borderline between 2016 and 2017.
Either way, the still-to-be-named car’s unlikely to go on sale before 2017. It’s worth taking the time to get it right, after all.
Here’s hoping it’s worth waiting for – a nimble-handling, pretty-looking Alpine sports car can only make the world a better place if it lives up to the brand’s evocative back catalogue.