FOR years the Porsche Cayman has gone relatively unchallenged in the two-door mid-engined sports car battle.
Dropping two cylinders and wedging a flat-four behind the driver for the 718 Cayman did little to change that, but now there could be a serious challenger – from France of all places.
The Alpine brand has been reborn, with a retro-modern revival of the A110 being its first offering. Its recipe is simple – lightweight chassis, small four-cylinder engine, and focused dynamics. But is it enough to dethrone the Porsche?
Price remains the uncertain factor for this comparison. The base 718 Cayman with a PDK will cost you $117,160, but that could easily swell by $15-20k by ticking a few option boxes. Alpine is yet to reveal how much the A110 will sell for in Australia, with speculation ranging from a conservative $95K, to a budget-stretching $130K-plus.
Both have mid-mounted turbo four-cylinder engines: 2.0-litres in the Porsche, 1.8-litres in the Alpine. While the German sports car will pump 220kW and 380Nm to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch, the French two-seater transfers just 180kW and 320Nm, also through a seven-cog DCT.
Where the Alpine has an advantage over the Porsche is weight, tipping the scales at a scant 1103kg for a 204kW per-tonne power-to-weight ratio. The kerbweight can be further shaved to 1080kg (with fluids) for the entry-level Pure spec which has 17-inch rims, smaller brakes, no nav, and no sports exhaust. That’s over 200kg lighter than a Cayman, which is a comparatively portly 1365kg.
It’s this focus on lightness which helps give the Alpine a performance edge in a straight line, sprinting to 100km/h in 4.5-seconds, while Porsche needs an extra two-tenths of a second. Ticking the Sports Chrono option pack for the 718 makes it a much closer race.
But these cars aren’t about traffic-light drag races, they are about backroad bliss – carving through twisting bends and turns like a bat out of hell.
So, how do they fare in those conditions? For that, I’ll defer to Nathan Ponchard and Ben Barry:
At the international launch of the 718 Cayman last year, Senior Journalist Nathan Ponchard wrote: “There’s a touch of lag at low revs, but with the engine in sport mode and the exhaust button activated, even the base Cayman PDK is deliciously driveable, incredibly quick and dynamically superlative. That the turbo flat-four becomes increasingly addictive the more time you spend with it seals the deal. We’re in love.”
Driving the Alpine A110 for Wheels in Europe, Ben Barry reported: “It’s a tactile, thrilling thing to drive, a 1100kg bundle of energy that takes the best principles of Lotus and Porsche and remixes them with the RenaultSport knowhow that makes the Megane RS such a weapon.”
“When you pin your foot to the floor, but there’s a frisky energy to the 1.8-litre turbo four’s delivery, with an eager whoosh of torque low-down, punchy throttle response and very little turbo lag,” he added. “It’s certainly enough to have fun – and beat that Cayman to 100km/h.”
For a proper head-to-head comparison, stay tuned to Wheelsmag.com.au and the magazine in 2018, as you can guarantee we’ll be getting one organised as soon as the first Alpines touch down on Aussie soil.