Thursday June 15, 2017
By Richard Bosselman
FANCY a high performance mid-engined, all-aluminium coupe … from a reborn French specialist with a special sporting history?
Renault New Zealand’s performance stocks are in for a big rev up within a year, with confirmation that this market has the green light for not only the latest RS Megane recently displayed, in camouflage, during the Monaco Grand Prix and but also a comeback car from Alpine, the Renault-run performance marque.
Unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March, the lightweight 1.8 litre Alpine 110 is cited as a Porsche 718 Cayman rival and could be here as early as this time next year.
Sale of the car that marks Alpine’s resurrection after a product layoff lasting almost three decades will very likely be limited to the big centre sales centres within a Renault dealer network that will have expanded to 25 outlets by then,15 selling cars and the remainder undertaking servicing.
Price? Still a mystery, sorry, but Auckland-based Renault NZ promises it will be competitive with other, uncited genuine performance coupes.
Alpine, in fact, has yet to produce a full set of performance data for the car, which is on the cusp of entering production, save for promising a 0-100kmh time of 4.8 seconds and citing that the turbocharged engine will make 180kW and 320Nm.
Presently Renault here has 10 outlets, with Lower Hutt, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Masterton and Nelson starting up year and, on top of this, there will almost a dozen extra service-only outlets.
The national network’s expansion is required because Renault is also going big with its light commercial vehicle range, the reason why it is at the New Zealand National Fieldays near Hamilton.
That’s where product spokesman Salvatore Marti (pictured) spoke to MotoringNetwork and explained that while Alpine will kick off with one car, the ultimate plan is for this sub-brand to deliver a range. Everything it creates will be considered for New Zealand.
“We will probably start with this two-seater, but will look at everything as it becomes available. The version they are launching in Europe now is the one you have to look at.”
Alpine, which has a proud history of Renault-engined sports cars (and also an impressive motorsport heritage, including success at the world-famous Le Mans 24-Hour which is being run this weekend) is the jewel in the crown for a brand bidding to undertaking most of its resurgence with a commercial vehicle push, centred on the Trafic and Master vans – the latter of which has spawned a zany flat-decked 4wd double cab model that was taking centre stage at Fieldays.
It is also strengthening the Koleos, a model that has wasted little time establishing good penetration into the evert-growing sports utility sector. A diesel edition goes into production in September will come on sale before Christmas.
Renault NZ is also zapping up its electric vehicle offers. Zoe and Kangoo EVs with bigger battery sets and much improved ranged are here soon and, next year, there will be all-electric Master passenger van.
From electric to electrifying. Aside from the Alpine we are also going to take the new-generation Megane, including the RS that Renault Sport Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg displayed at the May 29 Monaco GP.
Marti says the NZ effort will focus on the highest-performance edition of a fourth-generation model expected to run the same powerplant as the Alpine and also offering, as a main option in NZ, the new feature of a dual-clutch (EDC) automatic transmission - a seven-speed Getrag unit that is the sole choice in the A110. RS owners will still be able to order the Megane with a six-speed manual, the only transmission offered in previous iterations.
An aggressive front bumper, Renault Sport-themed foglights, low-profile tyres and large alloy wheels are also features of a model that draws off the standard five-door Megane which will also filter in, starting with a GT that takes Recaro seats and a 1.6-litre turbo engine.
The RS Megane (and Clio) has tended to be a key car in Renault NZ’s past, mainly because its mainstream model counts have been so miniscule, but while he anticipates a continuing strong interest in the high-po fare, ultimately they might account for just 3-4 percent of brand volume here, Marti suggests.
“Certainly, we will keep it very, very special.”
The A110 comes out of the same factory in Dieppe, France, as the RS cars. Built on an aluminium platform, it tips the scales at just 1080kg and measures 4178mm long, 1798mm wide and 1252mm in height, making it lighter and more compact than a Cayman 718, but slightly larger and heavier than the Alfa Romeo 4C.
Drivers will also be able to toggle between three different driving modes – normal, sport and track – to remap engine, gearbox, steering and stability settings on the fly.
Suspension is handled by double wishbones front and rear, while all-aluminium four-pot front and single-piston rear Brembo brakes stop the 18-inch Otto Fuchs forged aluminium wheels.
And what of the Alaskan utility, Renault’s version of the Nissan Navara? At one point Renault NZ had been confident of having one to show at Mystery Creek, but Marti says that idea was kyboshed when Renault determined to focus initial production effort entirely on left-hand-drive formats. The right-hook models won’t start rolling down the line until later this year and Marti now doesn’t expect to have it on sale until early 2018.