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Alpine A110


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST

Summary

Alpine A110

Dieppe. A pretty seaside community on the northern French coast. Established a mere thousand years ago, it's copped a hammering in various conflicts, yet retained its beautiful 'marine promenade', a handy reputation for top-notch scallops, and for the last 50-odd years, one of the world's most respected performance carmakers.

Alpine, the brainchild of one Jean Rédélé - racing driver, motorsport innovator, and automotive entrepreneur - is still located on the southern edge of town.

Never officially imported into Australia, the brand is virtually unknown here to all but committed enthusiasts, with Alpine having an illustrious rally and sportscar racing back-story including victory in the 1973 World Rally Championship, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1978.

Rédélé was always committed to Renault, with the French giant eventually buying his company in 1973, and continuing to produce brilliant, lightweight road and racing Alpines until 1995.

After a close to 20-year hibernation, Renault reanimated the brand in 2012 with the stunning A110-50 concept racing car, and then the two-seat, mid-engine machine you see here, the A110.

It's clearly inspired by the Alpine of the same name that wiped the rallying floor clean in the early 1970s. Question is, does this 21st century version build or bury that car's iconic reputation?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.2L/100km
Seating2 seats

Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST

Picturing yourself driving a Ferrari is always a pleasant way to waste a few 'when I win Lotto' moments of your life. 

It’s fair to assume that most people would imagine themselves in a red one, on a sunny, good-hair day with an almost solar-flare smile on their faces. 

The more enthusiastic of us might throw in a race track, like Fiorano, the one pictured here, which surrounds the Ferrari factory at Maranello, and perhaps even specify a famously fabulous model - a 458, a 488, or even an F40.

Imagine the kick in the balls, then, of finally getting to pilot one of these cars and discovering that its badge bears the laziest and most childish name of all - Superfast - and that the public roads you’ll be driving along are covered in snow, ice and a desire to kill you. And it’s snowing, so you can’t see.

It’s a relative kick in the groin, obviously, like being told your Lotto win is only $10 million instead of $15m, but it’s fair to say the prospect of driving the most powerful Ferrari road car ever made (they don’t count La Ferrari, apparently, because it’s a special project) with its mental, 588kW (800hp) V12, was more exciting than the reality.

Memorable, though? Oh yes, as you’d hope a car worth $610,000 would be.

Safety rating
Engine Type6.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency15L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

Alpine A1107.9/10

Don't let the overall score fool you. The Alpine A110 is an instant classic. While practicality, safety and ownership costs don't set the world on fire, it delivers a driving experience that makes everything right with the world every time you get behind the wheel.

Would you like an Alpine A110 in your toy box?  Tell us what you think in the comments section below.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7.4/10

Clearly, this is not a car for everyone, and you’d have to question whether it’s a car for anyone, really, but people who like spending $610,000 on Ferraris, and waiting in a queue to do so, will be delighted, because it delivers the kind of exclusivity, and bragging rights, that you’d have to hope a car called Superfast would.

Personally, it’s a little too much, a little too over the top and definitely too mad, but if rockets are your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

Is the Ferrari 812 Superfast a bit of you, or a bit too much? Tell us in the comments below.

Design

Alpine A1109/10

The final example of the original Alpine A110 rolled out of the Dieppe plant in 1977, and despite more than four decades separating it from this newcomer, the 2019 A110 is effectively a new-generation version.

Much more than a tip of the hat to a special predecessor, the new A110 perfectly updates the distinctive, purposeful look of its not-so-ancient ancestor.

In fact, head of the A110 design team, Antony Villain says, "We wondered; if the A110 never went away, if this new car was the sixth or seventh generation A110, what would it look like?"

Appropriately finished in a very French shade of 'Alpine Blue', our test example was one of 60 'Australian Premiere Edition' cars, and the design is full of intriguing details.

At just under 4.2m long, 1.8m wide, and only a touch over 1.2m high the two-seat A110 is compact to say the least.

It's raked LED headlights and round fog lights are recessed into the markedly curved nose in a complete and unabashed reload, with circular LED DRLs accentuating the throwback effect.

The overall look of the carefully scalloped bonnet is also familiar, with a huge under-bumper grille and side ducts creating an air curtain along the front wheel wells to finish off the treatment with a focused, technical touch.

A steeply raked windscreen runs up to a small turret with a broad channel running down its entre, and the flanks are narrowed by a lengthy, aero-influenced indent.

A case study in tightly wrapped surfacing, the rear-end is equally taut, with elements like 'X-shaped' LED tail-lights, tightly curved rear screen, single central exhaust outlet and aggressive diffuser continuing the expressive design theme.

Aero efficiency is a major influence, and as well as the diffuser careful inspection of the rear side window reveals a neat duct at its trailing-edge funnelling air to the mid/rear-mounted engine, and the underbody is smoothed near flat. An overall drag co-efficient of 0.32 is impressive for such a small car.

The A110 also proudly wears its French heart on its sleeve, with an enamel version of Le Tricolore attached to the C-pillar (and various points around the interior).

Eighteen-inch Otto Fuchs forged alloy rims fit the car's style and proportions perfectly with body-colour matching blue brake calipers poking through the delicate split-spoke design.

The interior is all business with racy Sabelt one-piece bucket seats setting the tone. Trimmed in a combination of quilted leather and microfibre (which extends to the doors) they are separated by a floating, flying buttress-style console housing key controls above and a storage tray (including multi-media inputs) below.

Highlights include cool body-colour panels in the doors, a Ferrari-like push-button gear selection set-up, slender alloy manual shift paddles attached to the steering column (not the wheel), matt carbon-fibre accents on the console and around the circular air vents, and a 10.0-inch TFT digital instrument cluster (which morphs to suit Normal, Sport or Track modes).

The A110's chassis and body are made from aluminium, with a brushed form of that material adorning everything from the pedals and perforated passenger footrest to multiple dash trim pieces.

Quality and attention to detail is outstanding to the point that just getting in the car feels like a special occasion. Every time.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10

It’s very… big, isn’t it? And it looks even bigger in the flesh with a bonnet you could use to put a roof over your tennis court. In all, the Superfast is 4.6m long, almost 2.0m wide and weighs 1.5 tonnes, so it certainly has presence.

Making something this big look good is a challenge even for those as talented as Ferrari’s design team, but they have nailed it. The front has what appears to be a mouth, poised to swallow lesser cars whole like some whale shark Terminator. 

The bonnet appears to be flaring its nostrils, and looks fabulous from the driver’s seat, and the swooping side and taut rear complete things nicely.

Personally, it still just looks too big to be a Ferrari, but then this is not a mid-engined super car, it’s a grand touring rocket ship, and the ultimate expression of unnecessary excess, and it pulls off that aura perfectly.

Practicality

Alpine A1106/10

Practicality is the oil to a two-seat sports car's water. If you want day-to-day functionality, look elsewhere. Quite rightly, the Alpine A110 puts driver engagement at the top of the priority list.

That said, with limited real estate to work with the car's development team has made it liveable, with a surprising amount of boot space included, and modest storage options snuck in around the cabin.

The heavily-bolstered, high-sided sports seats, necessitate use of the 'one hand on the A-pillar and swing in/out' technique for entry and exit, which won't suit everyone. And once inside several things are missing.

Glove box? No. If you need to refer to the owner's manual or grab the service book, they're housed in a small satchel attached to the bulkhead behind the driver's seat.

Door pockets? Forget it. Cupholders? Well, there's one, it's tiny, and located between the seats where only a double-joined circus contortionist could reach it.

There is a long storage bin under the centre console, which is helpful, although it's hard to reach in and actually extract things placed in it. Media inputs run to two USBs, an 'aux-in' and an SD card slot, but their location at the front of that lower storage area is tricky, and there's a 12-volt outlet just in front of the unreachable cupholder.

However, if you and a passenger want to head off on a weekend road trip, amazingly, you can take some luggage with you. With the engine located between the axles there's room for a 96-litre boot at the front and a 100-litre boot at the rear.

We managed to fit the middle (68-litre) hard suitcase from our three-piece set (35, 68 and 105 litres) in the broad but relatively shallow front boot, while the wider, deeper, but shorter rear boot is best for soft bags.

Another missing item is a spare tyre, with a neatly packaged repair/inflator kit your only option in the case of a puncture.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7/10

Practicality isn’t really your concern when you buy a two-seat mega car like this, so let’s just say it’s about as practical as you would expect it to be. Not very, then.

Price and features

Alpine A1107/10

At $106,500 before on-road costs the Alpine A110 Australian Premiere Edition competes with an interesting range of similarly specified lightweight two-seaters.

The first that springs to mind is the achingly beautiful, mid-engine Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe at $89,000. For some, its exotic carbon chassis is underpinned by a too-firm suspension and the unassisted steering is difficult to deal with. For others (including me) it offers an exceptionally pure driving experience (and those that can't cop its physical nature need to harden up).

Lotus founder Colin Chapman's engineering philosophy, "Simplify, then add lightness" is alive and well in the form of the Lotus Elise Cup 250 ($107,990), and less than $10k more than the A110's MRRP delivers access to Porsche's thoroughbred 718 Cayman ($114,900).

Of course, part of the A110's substantial price tag relates to its all-alloy construction and the low-volume production techniques required to execute it. Not to mention development of an all-new design and global kick-start of a respected but dormant brand.

So, it's not all about bells and whistles, but for the record, a breakdown of this lightweight screamer's standard equipment list includes: 18-inch forged alloy rims, an 'Active-valve' sports exhaust system (with engine noise aligned to drive mode and speed), brushed aluminium pedal covers and passenger footrest, leather-trimmed Sabelt one-piece sports seats, auto LED headlights, satellite navigation, climate control air, cruise control, rear parking sensors, and electric heated, folding wing mirrors.

The 'Alpine Telemetrics' driving data system provides (and stores) real-time performance metrics including power, torque, temperatures, and turbo pressure, as well as lap times for track day warriors. And you'll also pick up a leather and microfibre-trimmed sports steering wheel (complete with 12 o'clock marker and Alpine Blue topstitching), stainless steel door sills with Alpine branding, dynamic (scrolling) indicators, auto rain-sensing wipers, and a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen including 'MySpin' mobile phone connectivity (with smartphone mirroring).

Audio comes from French specialist Focal, and although there are only four speakers, they're special. The main (165mm) speakers in the doors use a flax cone structure (flax sheet sandwiched between two glass fibre layers) and (35mm) aluminium/magnesium inverted dome tweeters sit at either end of the dashtop.

Certainly enough to be going on with, but at more than $100k we'd expect to see a reversing camera (more on that later), and the latest safety tech (more on that later, too).


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST6/10

Is it possible that any car - save one made from gold, dusted with diamonds and stuffed with truffles - would represent good value at a price of $610,000? It seems unlikely, but then people who can spend that much assay value differently, and would probably say that something as profound as the 812 Superfast is worth buying at any price.

Another way to look at it is price-per-litre, which is less than $100,000, considering you do get 6.5 litres of V12 Ferrari donk. Or you could go by kilowatt, which works out at nearly $1000 each for your 588kW.

Other than that you do get a lot of leather, a high-quality interior, superior exterior styling, badge-snob value that’s hard to put a price on and vast swathes of F1-derived technology. And a free car cover.

Engine & trans

Alpine A1109/10

The Alpine A110's (M5P) all-alloy 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine is closely related to the unit found under the bonnet of the Renault Megane R.S.

Alpine has modified the intake manifold, exhaust and overall calibration, but the big difference here is that although it's still transversely mounted, in the Alpine the engine sits in a mid/rear position and drives the rear wheels (rather than in the R.S.'s nose driving the fronts).

Featuring direct injection and a single turbo it produces 185kW at 6000rpm, and 320Nm of torque from 2000-5000rpm, compared to 205kW/390Nm in the Megane R.S. But the Alpine's 356kg weight advantage means it boasts a 169kW/tonne power-to-weight ratio, while the Megane sits at 141kW/tonne.

Drive goes to a Getrag-sourced seven-speed (wet) dual-clutch auto transmission, with Alpine-specific ratios inside.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10

I did want to give the epic, enormous 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine a perfect 10 here, but when I paused to think about it I had to admit that it is, quite possibly, a little too powerful.

Yes, it is amazing to think Ferrari can build a car that has 588kW (800 horsepower - hence the 812 nomenclature; 800 horses and 12 cylinders) and doesn’t just dig itself a hole in the road as soon as you put your foot down.

And yes, it does provide the kind of performance that makes all other cars seems a bit piss poor and pathetic, even the really good ones. 

But honestly, who could ever use it all, or need it all? They might seem like irrelevant questions, I guess, because it’s all about conspicuous over-excess, a car like this, so really the question is, would anyone want to live with 588kW and 718Nm of torque, or is it just too scary in reality?

Well, a little bit, yes, but Ferrari’s engineers have been wise enough not to actually give you all of that power, all the time. Torque is limited in the first three gears, and maximum mental power is actually only available, in theory, at 8500rpm in seventh gear, at which point you’d be approaching its top speed of 340km/h.

The fact that you can rev an engine this big, and this lusciously loud, all the way to 8500rpm is, however, a joy that would never tire.

In more practical terms, you can run 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds (although cheaper, less crazy cars can do that, too) or 200km/h in 7.9 (which is a tiny bit slower than the far lighter McLaren 720S).

What you can’t do, of course, is achieve any of those numbers on winter tyres, or roads with snow on them.

Fuel consumption

Alpine A1108/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 6.2L/100km, the 1.8-litre four emitting 137g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over close to 400km worth of often 'enthusiastic' driving, taking in city, suburban and freeway running we recorded an average of 9.6L/100km.

Definitely a miss, but not bad when you consider we hit the off switch for the standard stop-start system on a consistent basis and regularly took advantage of the accelerator pedal's ability to move towards the floor.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need just 45 litres of it to fill the tank.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST5/10

Much as you can’t have a good volcano without some serious lava, you can’t have 800 horsepower without burning a lot of dead dinosaur goo. The Superfast has a claimed fuel-economy figure of 14.9L/100km, but on our drive the screen just said "Ha!" and we burned through a whole tank of fuel in less than 300km. 
Theoretical emissions are 340g/km of CO2.

Driving

Alpine A11010/10

Weighing at just 1094kg (target weight was 1100kg), with a 44:56 front-to-rear weight distribution, the all-aluminium A110 is every millimetre the mini-supercar you'd hope it to be.

It only takes two to three rotations of the Alpine's wheels to realise it's exceptional. The Sabelt seat is superb, the chunky steering wheel perfect, and the engine instantly eager to get on with it.

The electro-mechanical power-assisted steering feels just right from the first corner. The rack is quick and road feel is intimate without the crashy feedback penalty paid by the Alfa 4C.

Engage launch control and you're blasting from 0-100km/h 4.5sec, with the engine adding a suitably raucous backing track, a full charge of air rasping through the inlet manifold just behind your ears. Spinning up to the close to 7000rpm rev ceiling is pure pleasure, with peak torque available from just 2000rpm all the way to five grand.

Pressing the wheel-mounted 'Sport' button sharpens gearshifts and holds low ratios for longer, with the already slick dual-clutch really getting its race face on. Hold in the down lever in manual mode and the transmission will instantly shift through to the lowest gear engine revs will allow, the Active-valve sports exhaust chipping in with rude pops and bangs on the over-run. 'Track' mode is even more hardcore, allowing a greater element of slip in cornering. Brilliant.

The engine's mid/rear location delivers a low roll-centre and the double wishbone suspension set-up (front and rear) manages to combine super-sharp dynamic response with a surprisingly civilised ride.

Alpine says the A110's light weight and ultra-rigid chassis mean its coil springs can be reasonably soft and anti-roll bars light so even our truly ordinary urban blacktop doesn't cause too much distress.

The A110 is beautifully balanced, amazingly agile, and satisfyingly precise. Weight transfer in quick cornering is managed to perfection, the car remaining stable, predictable and hugely entertaining.

Grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber (205/40 fr - 235/40 rr) is tenacious, and the torque vectoring system (by braking) quietly keeps things pointing in the right direction if an over-zealous pilot begins to overstep the mark.

Despite the A110's modest kerb weight braking is professional grade. Brembo provides ventilated 320mm rotors (front and rear) with four-piston alloy calipers at the front and single-piston floating calipers at the rear. They're progressive, powerful and consistent.

The only downsides are a clumsy multimedia interface, and the annoying lack of a reversing camera. But who cares, this car is amazing.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10

Insane. It’s a word that people often lift from their lexicon when describing a supercar experience, because clearly, as forms of transport, things like Ferraris and Lamborghinis are not sane options.

But the Superfast really deserves the word, because it feels not only the opposite of sane, but truly bonkers. As if someone built it for a dare, realised it was a bad and possibly dangerous idea, and then put it on sale anyway.

Picture some tiny-handed child with his greasy, post-cheeseburger fingers poised over a big red button on his desk that could wipe out humanity, and that’s basically the situation your right leg finds itself in when driving the Superfast.

There is so much power on tap here - even the limited amount of it that the engineers allow you to access in lower gears - that it truly seems possible you’ll have a Road Runner moment, and simply dig a hole in the ground, if you push the throttle too hard.

Yes, on the one hand, the noises this extreme V12 makes above 5000rpm are memorable and moving, like Satan himself singing Nessun Dorma in a shower of sparks. At one stage we found a long tunnel, perhaps the only dry road within 500km that day, and my colleague forgot all about his licence and let rip.

The numbers on my 'Passenger Screen' spun like poker-machine wheels, then turned red and then implausible. I was shoved back into my seat as if by Thor himself, and I squealed like a small pig, but my co-driver heard nothing over the Monaco tunnel during F1 sound.

Even on dry road, of course, the winter tyres we were forced (by law) to run in the foul snowy conditions could not maintain grip, and we constantly felt the rear skipping sideways. Fortunately we were in Italy, so people simply cheered us on.

The likelihood that you will lose traction in this car is so high that the boffins have included a special feature in its new 'Electronic Power Steering' system called 'Ferrari Power Oversteer'. When you inevitably start going sideways, the steering wheel will apply subtle torque to your hands, 'suggesting' the best way to get the car back in a straight line.

A proud engineer told me that this is basically like having a Ferrari test driver in the car with you, telling you what to do, and that they used their skills to calibrate the system. You can override it, of course, but it sounds scarily like an autonomous-driving precursor to me.

What’s disappointing about this car having EPS at all, rather than a traditional hydraulic system, is that it just doesn’t feel muscular enough for a hairy-handed monster of a car like this.

It is accurate and precise and pointy, of course, and makes driving the Superfast, even in stupidly slippery conditions, almost easy. Almost.

It’s actually surprising how hard you can push a car like this along a windy and wet mountain road without careering off into a muddy field.

More time, and more traction, would have been appreciated, but you can tell it’s the sort of car you’d grow into, and perhaps even feel in control of, after a decade or so together.

So it’s good, yes, and very fast, obviously, but I can’t get past the idea that it’s all a bit unnecessary, and that a 488 GTB is simply, in every single way, a better car.

But as a statement, or a collector’s item, the Ferrari 812 Superfast certainly is one for the history books.

Safety

Alpine A1107/10

In terms of active safety, the A110's sheer dynamic ability will help you avoid an unfortunate incident, and specific tech includes ABS, EBA, traction control, stability control (disconnectable), cruise control (with speed limitation) and hill-start assist.

But forget about higher order systems like AEB, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert or adaptive cruise.

And when it comes to passive safety you're protected by an airbag for the driver and one for the passenger. That's it. Weight-saving, eh? What can you do?

The Alpine A110 hasn't been assessed for safety performance by ANCAP or EuroNCAP.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7/10

It might not surprise you to hear that, unlike every other company’s press kits, the Ferrari ones don’t generally include a section on 'safety'. Perhaps because driving something this powerful is inherently unsafe, or possibly because they believe their 'E-Diff 3', 'SCM -E' (magnetorheological suspension control with dual-coil system), 'F1-Traction Control', ESC and so forth will keep you on the road no matter what. 

If you do fly off, you’ll have four airbags, and a nose as big as a house forming a crumple zone, to protect you.

Ownership

Alpine A1107/10

The Alpine A10 is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty with a twist. According to Alpine, the first two years are covered for unlimited kilometres. And if at the end of the second year total kilometres remain less than 100,000, the warranty continues into a third year (still to an overall cap of 100,000km).

So, you can sail over the 100,000km mark in the warranty's first two years, but that means you won't get a third.

Complimentary roadside-assist is provided for 12 months, continuing for up to four years if your Alpine is regularly serviced at an authorised dealer.

There are currently three dealers only – one each in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – and service is recommended every 12 months/20,000km, with the first two costing $530 each, and the third ramping up to $1280.

You'll also need to factor in a pollen filter ($89) at two years/20,000km and accessory belt replacement ($319) at four years/60,000km.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10

Once you’ve paid the vast cost of entry, it’s nice to know you will get some stuff for free, like your first seven years of servicing, including all parts and labour, carried out by trained Ferrari technicians, who even dress like pit crew. It’s called 'Genuine Maintenance', and is genuinely Kia-challenging in its scope.