After 20 years of collecting dust, it appears as though the Alpine name, Renault’s famed racing and sports car subsidiary, will get a reboot at the launch of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this Saturday. The speculation stems from a cryptic countdown that announces “a beautiful surprise” to be revealed on June 13th as part of a celebration of “Alpine’s 60th birthday.”

That surprise is most likely a near-production concept of the new mid/rear-engine, two-seat coupe Renault has in store to rival the Audi TT, Porsche Boxster, and Alfa Romeo 4C. It’s allegedly called the AS1 (Alpine Sport 1), and the final road-going car is expected to bring with it a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine churning out 250 horsepower. Curb weight should be less than 2,500 pounds. 

According to Automotive News Europe, the AS1 will most likely source a variety of technologies from Renault’s partners, Daimler and Nissan. Production is slated to begin at the end of 2016 with 3,000 units per year, bumped to 5,000 units annually if demand is high enough. Asking price would be in the 30,000 to 35,000 euro range ($33,857 to $39,499 at current exchange rates, 2015). 

This teaser should come as a relief to fans of the legendary make, as the Alpine revival has undergone a number of ups and downs thus far. The revival first got underway in 2012, when Renault and British sports-car maker Caterham teamed up to develop the new coupe. However, the collaboration ended last year, when the two manufacturers split over financial issues. Caterham is reportedly still working on its own version of the car.

The split followed the departure of Carlos Tavares, the project’s primary supporter, who left Renault as COO in 2013 to become CEO at Peugeot. However, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn approved a brand investment of 600 million euros earlier this year, reportedly enabling the Alpine preview to go forward. 

Official details should be revealed over the weekend.

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Why it matters

Renault has decided it needs to give the diamond badge a performance boost, and in order to do so, it’s unearthing the legendary Alpine name. Why Alpine? Well, if you were born in the last 20 years or so, odds are you don’t know much about the brand. Originally founded in 1955, Alpine has a proven track record of success in rally and sports-car racing that stretches back for decades. This includes the famous A110 Berlinette, the first World Rally Champion ever, which collected the title shortly after the WRC was created in 1973.

It’s looking like we’ll get a fresh taste of Alpine performance, and by all accounts, speed lovers should be excited.

The various accomplishments in competition bolstered sales, and Alpine continued to support Renault with its unique breed of go-fast vehicles right up to the mid-90s, at which time profits for the French automaker fell and the Alpine name was subsequently discontinued. 

Now, it’s looking like we’ll get a fresh taste of Alpine performance, and by all accounts, speed lovers should be excited. We first saw glimmers of the goodness to come with the Alpine A110-50 concept, which debuted at the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix to adulation and praise. 

Then earlier this year, we got the Alpine GT6 Vision GT Sports Car, another concept, this time presented in the game world of Gran Turismo 6. The Vision concept features an open cockpit design a la the prototypes usually found at Le Mans, and a body draped in the classic blue-and-orange Alpine color scheme. It weighs less than a ton and mounts a 4.5-liter V-8 behind the cockpit, good for 450 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. 

It’s a mishmash of old-school cool and the cutting edge, exactly Renault’s preferred formula when it comes to the Alpine brand. And although the Vision concept is not a direct predecessor to the new real-world AS1 concept on the docket for Saturday, it does give us a pretty good idea about what’s floating around in the brains behind the revival, at least in terms of ideals.

The French automaker isn’t going to stop with a single, gorgeous-looking two-seater.

But the French automaker isn’t going to stop with a single, gorgeous-looking two-seater. In addition to the AS1, Renault is planning an entire line of cars. Speaking to the British publication Auto Express at the Geneva Motor Show recently, Renault Executive Vice President Bruno Ancelin had this to say: “We are working on the first car, and out of the first car we are working on the lineup. So model number one, which we call the AS1 – Alpine Sport 1– we need to see further and [then we’ll] look to the complementary models we will have in the lineup,” adding, “What we are sure of is that we cannot revive a brand or create a brand with a single model. It’s not sustainable to have a single model, it’s impossible.”

So then, what else can we expect from the lineup? Ancelin dropped a few interesting tidbits: “For example, if you want to be sustainable in some markets you need a hybrid in the lineup. We’d have highly differentiated models.”

Electric power with an Alpine badge? Sounds enticing. But like so many sports-car makers before it, including Porsche, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin, Alpine too may be going the way of the tap-dancing elephant: “Which technology and which kind of engines do we need, which kind of body styles, will all of them be sporty cars or will some of them be SUV?” Ancelin said. “We must address all these questions.”

So then, Alpine might be looking to create its own high-performance hybrids and crossovers in addition to the more traditional sports cars, and it all starts this Saturday. 

At least that’s what we expect. 

Renault Alpine A110-50 Concept

2012 Renault Alpine A110-50 Concept High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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With a name that pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Alpine 110, this concept uses an exterior design that takes cues originally seen in the famed Berlinette and brings them into the modern age, including rounded lines and domed bodywork. The concept was also inspired by language found in the Renault DeZir concept, unveiled at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. The exterior panels are made entirely from carbon fiber, while Sabelt harnesses and tech from a Formula Renault 3.5 single-seater are in the cabin. The drivetrain was pulled from a Renault Megane Tophy, and includes a 3.5-liter V-6 delivering 400 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque as routed through a six-speed semi-automatic sequential gearbox.

Read our full review here.

Source: Renault

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