GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

1973 Alpine-Renault A110 1600S & A310 1600 VE

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alpine-renaults.jpg
Alpine-Renault A110 followed by an A310

SPEX

Year: 1973
Type: 2-door coupe
Class: Sports Car

Country: France
Host: GT4 & GT5


Price: 51,169 (A110 1600S) 28,049 (A310 1600 VE)
   GT5: PRIZE (A110 1600S)

Construction: fiberglass bodyshell, tubular steel chassis & frame (both cars)

A110 Specs
Type: 2-seater sports car
Length: 151.6" // Width: 59.5" // Height: 44.5"
Wheelbase: 89.4"
Overhang: 5 feet 2 inches
Track: 48.0" [F] 49.2" [R]
Ground Clearance: 4.4"
Weight: 1,576 pounds
 
Steering: unassisted rack & pinion
Layout: rear engine / rear drive
Tires: 145/80-13 (I got this from a site featuring specs on a '66 model. The '73 in our game probly has wider tires).
F. Suspension: wishbones, coils, shox, anti-roll bar.
R. Suspension: swing axle w/radius arms, coils, shox, anti-roll bar
Brakes: discs (probably solid all around)

Engine: see A310 specs below


A310 Specs
Type: 2+2 coupe
Length: 164.6" // Width: 64.5" Height: 45.7"
Wheelbase: 89.4"
Overhang: 6 feet 3 inches
Track: 55.3" [F] 55.5" [R]
Ground Clearance: 5.9"
Weight: 2,050 pounds
 
Steering: unassisted rack & pinion
Turns lock 2 lock: 2.750
Layout: rear engine/rear drive
Tires: 165HR-13
Suspension: wishbones, coils, anti-roll bars front & rear
Brakes: vented discs, solid discs

Engine: 1.6 liter OHV inline 4
Construction: aluminum alloy
Aspiration: natural
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 3.07 x 3.31"
Compression: 10.25:1

The specs below are currently for the A110 of GT4 & 5, and the A310 of GT4. The GT5 car was tested at 0.0 miles, without oil change or maintenance.

``````````````````````````A110````````````````````A310``````
Tested BHP: 139 @ 6,000            124 @ 6,250 rpm
Tsd. Torque: 110 @ 5,000           109 @ 5,300 rpm
 
Credits per HP: 368.12                  226.20
Pounds per HP: 11.34                       16.53
Hp per Liter:     86.6                           77.2

A110 Idle: 550 // Redline: 6,500 // RPM Limit: 7,000
A310 Idle: 1,000 // Redline: 7,000 // RPM limit: 7,500

Transmission: 5-speed manual both cars
Differential: unknown. Probably open.

0-60 mph:
GT4 A110: 8.083 seconds
GT5 A110: 8.497
GT4 A310: 9.466        

0-100 mph:
GT4 A110: 20.216 seconds  
GT5 A110: 20.584
GT4 A310: 24.650

0-150 mph: nil

400 M
:
GT4 A110: 16.382 @ 90 mph       
GT5 A110: 16.666 @ 89 mph
GT4 A310: 17.557 @ 85 mph

1 Kilom:
GT4 A110: 29.178 @ 117 mph   
GT5 A110: 29.441 @ 116 mph  
GT4 A310: 31.168 @ 110 mph

 
Test Track Lap: GT4 cars were not tested
                         GT5 A110: 1:03.750
                       
100-zero mph: GT4 A110: 4.200 seconds /// GT4 A310: 4.43 
GT5 A110: 5.850

Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2750      3,250

Top Speed at Redline (A110 1600S)
1st: 37 mph
2nd: 58 mph
3rd: 82 mph
4th: 112 mph
5th: 146.97 mph @ 7,000 rpm (Tach/RPM limited)
       142.4 mph @ 7,000 rpm (GT5, Tach/RPM limited)

Top Speed at Redline (A310 1600 VE)
1st: 36 mph
2nd: 56 mph
3rd: 83 mph
4th: 109 mph
5th: 134.12 mph @ 7,500 rpm (Tach/RPM limited)
 

white_alpine-a110.jpg

------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY-------------

A company named Alpine made cars? Since when? Is this some Gran Turismo fantasy? No, it is not.

Alpine was (is?) a real car-maker from France. Once again, PD has introduced most of us to something totally foreign...yet another car with sporty looks and a mysterious past. But I'm proud to say I've known of Alpine since I was a kid.

Alpine has been in business since the late '50s. They started as a competition tuner for Renault, similar to the way AMG is associated with Mercedes-Benz. Alpine later became its own company, and their continuing association with Renault (Alpine used Renault engines, trannys, and other parts in their cars) led to Alpine becoming Renault's main motorsports partner.

There are two Alpines in GT4, the A110 1600S and the A310 1600 VE. Most people (like I said) proabably have never heard of either of them, especially since these cars were made in low numbers. Overall production of Alpine A110s from 1961 till 1974 was just 8,203 cars. Various websites disagree with the final year of the A110's production run: some say it was 1974, some say 1975, and some say 1977. A310s were built from 1971 till 1984. There was a total of 11,616 A310s produced, more than I expected. 1973 must have been a devil of a year for Alpine, since exactly 666 A310s were produced in this year. Yikes.

1973 was also an important year in the life of Alpine for other reasons. Renault bought Alpine in this year, solidifying its status with better production capabilities, and probably also ensuring Alpine a solid, bankrupt-free future. Also, an A310 won the Monte Carlo Rally, and Alpine took the World Rally Championship overall with both A110s and A310s.

In 1973, the WRC was a brand-new organization of racing, so it's notable that Alpine-Renault prized it first before a long list of Lancias, Audis, Subarus, and Mitsubishis.  This kingdom ruled by the French carmaker would be short-lived unfortunately. Lancia's Stratos would dominate the rest of the '70s as Alpines quickly became obsolete in comparison.   
 
But prior to 1973 (when Alpine was its own company outright), Alpine A110s had plenty of success & domination. Again, an A110 won the '71 Monte Carlo Rally took the final championship in 1970, and won  several other important races from 1970 till 1972. This was before the WRC was established. Back then, rally racing was organized thru the International Championship of Manufacturers (ICM). Alpine was cream of the crop for this era. 

...Win win win...it seems Alpines were born winners, does it not? You'd think after reviewing such a glowing resume of wins, you've just found yourself one heck of a gem, right? Another player to add to the team?

The A110 1600-S and A310 1600 VE have spiffy, sports car-ish looks. The A110 looks like a three-way cross between a Porsche 356, a Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia, and an Alfa GTA. The A310, on the other hand, graduated in its appearance from German to French, and looks as though it's trying to copy the otherworldly Citroen SM; a bizarre Grand Tourer from the early '70s.  

The A110 was first in production. Its main advantage in our game is the fact that it weighs several hundred pounds lighter than the A310. Lightweight these are. Another bonus, it would seem. At first, it appears the only bad thing about Alpines are the fact that you can't buy them from the dealership. Instead, these cars (both of them) must be won in GT4. In GT5, the A110 can be won, but the A310 seems to lurk somewhere in the used car lot. I say "seems" only because I don't think I've ever seen it, nor can it be found on official prize car lists. Wherever it is, this vehicle has now become a super-rare car; perhaps the rarest of the rare. I've spent a lot of time looking for one, only to come up with zilch. 

These only come in metallic blue, which looks stunning, but wouldn't it be nice to have a candy red or a stellar silver-grey?  Thank goodness for GT5's paint shop. I painted my first Alpine A110 in this game white. Such a simple color, but after seeing the expected metallic blue for so long, a simple white seems otherworldly and eye-catching. 
 
There's much to discuss about the Alpine-Renault, so let's get started.

alpinea310_snowdrift.jpg

---------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN----------------

Not much to brag about here. Taking a gander back at the engine bay (it's at the rear of a car, just like in many a Porsche) won't be an inspiring moment for most. No bells shall chime, no angels abound.

Both the A110 and the A310 share the same Renault 16 powerplant. Despite this, there are minor differences between each one: the A110 has a slightly lower idle speed and redline (500 rpms less than the A310). The A110 also tops at 7,000 rpms, while the A310 tops at 7,500 rpms. The A110 also has more power, oddly. At 1.6 liters, these motors are no bigger than a Civic's. They haven't got the Civic's 4-banger prowess, unfortunately. No VTEC-inspired power-spools here folks; instead, we've got a lukewarm engine at first. Really not much more than a mouse. 

Alpines from the early '70s had their pistons fed either by twin single-barrel carbs, or fuel-injection (probably mechanical fuel-injection). The fuel-injection idea came near the end of the A110's life; it was supposed to be an attempt by Alpine to make these weak cars a little faster, but these attempts were apparently in vain. 
 
Either way, these were pretty slow cars with weak engines. Another issue: below 5,000 rpms is a virtual dead-zone once you're out of first gear, which gets worse with upgrades (especially Stage 2 and 3 turbos in GT4, which display hoards of turbo-lag even though anywhere from just 220 to 250 horsepower is being produced). This 1.6 has a narrow power-band, and those revs must be kept highish for survival. 

With a lack of torque, never will these be considered speed-demons, despite their speedy looks. Alpine A310s have almost the exact power to weight ratio as a Miata, but without the Miata's cornering prowess and extra torque.

On the other hand, getting 125 or 139 horsepower from a small 4-cylinder in 1973 was an accomplishment of sorts, and this deserves a moment of mention. But in 2004 (when GT4 was released) this just isn't enough for any racing situation, unless you're doing the Sunday Cup or something, and have a bit of experience. Believe it or not, Alpines (despite their wimpy power) DEMAND experience, even early on. Do not drive them if you're not such a good driver.

Drats. Getting ahead of myself. Anyways, there are some good things to be said. Renault/Alpine were busy with racing of all sorts in the early '70s, which is probably why we have so many engine options to choose from: all three NA tunes, and three turbo systems (in GT4 or 5) can help push these engines past 250 horsepower, which is about all these cars can stand. The good news is, with just a Stage 1 turbo system or a Stage 2 NA kit (roughly 180 horsepower) both Alpines suddenly become noticably more notorious in the acceleration department, especially if the tach needle is kept in its proper place.

To try and help these engines get their message delivered we have a 5-speed transmission in either car. Gearing is evenly spaced (and taller) in the A110. The A310 has an oddity. It is evenly-spaced till we get to 5th gear, which drops just a few hundred RPMs lower as you shift from 4th to 5th. This seems more of a compliment to help this car get just a bit faster. Despite this, we can only achieve just over 130 mph (realistically close to the real-life max) in an Alpine A310, and soon the tach needle will be maxed at 7,500 rpms. The A110 gets a higher ceiling than this due to its taller 5th gear, but it also maxed out in revs before completing a Test Track lap. Most drivers may want full-custom gears to gain the perfect situation and add more top-end, but these expensive gears are not fully necessary for most racing since the meager power will rarely push this far, anyways.

nite_alpines.jpg

-----------CHASSIS / HANDLING------------

What we're in for now may surprise and shock us. Don't know about you, but I expected that since we have a rear-drive layout here, perhaps these cars might handle similarly to a DeLorean or some Porsches. Lots more understeer than oversteer. And as I said earlier, this company's stellar rally-racing reputation must be factored in. This shall be a great-handling car, since the power is so low. How else could Alpine-Renault have won so much when they were actively racing?

GT4
But it seems in the early '70s, Alpine-Renault was a manufacturer in search of its identity, and was far from finding it (as Porsche managed to do). We only have the production cars in our game to judge by...perhaps the racing versions were much better. Anyways, novices should steer clear of Alpines, and veteran drivers may find themselves scratching their heads after a drive in a stock Alpine, which feels anything but solid at first. In most cars of GT4, understeer is something to be avoided. You tune and drive to avoid as much understeer as possible, right?

In an Alpine however, you may find yourself (as I did)...wishing for just a bit of understeer, or some sort of front-end limit...anything to balance the hoards of oversteer an Alpine exhibits.

Oversteer? But what's wrong with oversteer? All you gotta do know how to countersteer out of corners, right? Some readers who haven't driven an Alpine yet may revel that here we finally have a car that doesn't seem to want to plow head-first into every wall it encounters. Yes this is true. Problem is, drivers will find themselves driving ASS-first into those walls, instead of head-first! This is not a joke. 

When we were kids, if we got hurt, mom or dad put a band-aid on the hurt, remember?  The bitch was: removing the band-aid also hurt. So whoever the adult was that removed these band-aids let us know (if they cared) that the best way to remove them was to do it quickly. Zip! Band-aid is off! Perhaps there was a moment of hurt, perhaps not.

Well, driving Alpines (especially when they're near-stock) is like removing this band-aid; scrunching our faces in anticipation of that upcoming bit of pain, over and over again. Cornering in these cars is simply painful. Cornering cannot be accomplished with any degree of smoothness in an Alpine in GT4, no matter what your skill. To corner smoothly means to slow way down. Brake as much as you can before the turn, and then delicately tip-toe thru the rest of the turn, employing small, careful amounts of steering, countersteering, and adjusting. Try NOT to use brakes mid-corner, and try not to downshift, either. Braking and downshifting at this moment is extremely dangerous

Alpines have a habit of lifting-off with oversteer immediatly and quickly, and before you know it, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. Staying on the gas (even in small amounts) while cornering carefully is much preferred to trail-braking, sliding, and other sort of maneuevers you may feel comfortable with in many other cars. To be successful in an Alpine means to realize all the rules are now different.

More tips. Countersteer as little as possible. At some points, there will be little choice, and countersteer will be needed to get this car facing the correct direction. Just keep in mind: too much countersteer can be bad, and can lead to a situation where the front-end is grabbing (in the countersteer direction) while the rear is continuing to lose traction in the direction the car was going before the countersteer! Spins can now happen easily and at a stunning rate of speed.

Tuning quickly (but not completely) removes most of these issues. A sport suspension and a 1.5 or 2-way differential can remove up to 75% of the problems these cars exhibit, especially for higher-speed curves. The 25% of issues that remain can still be tricky to deal with, and can't totally be removed. But at least with these parts installed, Alpines are suddenly alot easier to drive.

Yes, these cars aren't as prone to "bad" oversteer and spinning, but the loss of traction that the rear-end still displays easily can lead to a loss of power getting shoved to the pavement. Speed is hard to gain mid-corner, as the Alpines have a habit of constantly getting slightly sideways, even after some quality tuning time. Since the engines are of such low-torque, lost speed is slow to regain.

Once you get the hang of it, though, Alpines have a few tricks unique to their brand, and these traits can be employed here and there to advantage. For instance, the rear can be cleverly skewed this way and that with mere flicks of  steering, especially in lower-speed corners. Alpines can be positioned in this way and find themselves getting past other cars because they've got a completely different cornering philosophy. In higher speed situations, one can still use the rear for steering, but (of course) much skill and care is needed to gain advantage. There's so much info about Alpine-Renaults and how the rear-engine layout helped them off-road, too. Perhaps this is where their real-life rallying prowess lay?

A quick drive off-road in GT4, even at a tricky track like Grand Canyon or Tahiti Maze, can quickly obliterate any lingering doubts about these cars and their real-life off-road accomplishments. It'll still take some tuning to achieve best results, of course--but the odd, unexpected surprise is that Alpines feel alot more at home off-road than they do on pavement, even without a limited-slip!! Huh?
 
Off-road, these cars feel alot more stable...not as quick to spin or get sideways. Though bad driving can still cause trouble, overall it feels as though the Alpines are now working with us, rather than trying to foil our plans. We can see why (in rallying especially) they were, in fact, well deserving of their reputation. 

GT5
Okay... wow. What did PD do this time? Remember the Alpines as they appeared in GT4? Well guess what ...

Firstly, I've noticed that Alpines make several appearances in this game's Beginner and Amateur Series, in the World Classic Car Cup and Tous France Championnat. Whenever they appear, there's a good chance they'll simply destroy the rest of the competition. Yes, there are moments when either the A110 or A310 slide around and stuff, and they can both spin at Monaco, but none of this seems to happen too often, not to the point of constant suckdom anyways.  

I drove my Alpine A110S at a couple tracks in this game to start: Circuito de Madrid II, and Cote d'Azur, preparing this car for the B-spec World Classic Cup. The car was driven initially on soft "comfort" tires, which had me a bit afraid, to be honest. Let's have a refresher course on why this is, as we look at some quotes from the above GT4 text

...In an Alpine however, you may find yourself (as I did)...wishing for just a bit of understeer, or some sort of front-end limit...anything to balance the hoards of oversteer an Alpine exhibits....

...Cornering in these cars is simply painful. Cornering cannot be accomplished with any degree of smoothness in an Alpine in GT4, no matter what your skill...

...To be successful in an Alpine means to realize all the rules are now different....

So I admit I was shocked as I drove my A110 around here in GT5, calmly (and smoothly) steered into Madrid's first hairpin, let off the brakes, applied some gas. And that was it. No troubles. No drama. WHAT? What happened? As I drove more and more laps, it became very obvious to me that PD has changed .... something. Something is way-different. Gotta say, the A110 is perhaps the smoothest rear-engine car I've ever driven in this game, and this is without ABS brakes, without a limited-slip, without any sort of tuning.   

There are some things which haven't changed though. Braking must still begin super early, for instance, otherwise this one can display understeer, a bit of sway oversteer (rear-end sliding) or both. Alpines can also jack-knife and slip on occasion, under heavy throttle in 1st or 2nd gear. But otherwise, it's difficult to find fault.

The Alpine A110 feels entirely confident with cornering now (no more tiptoeing) and can even be pushed for wanton behavior (rear-end jiggling and such). I found myself testing the throttle a bit early at times, trying to get some more efficient, or more exciting, launches out of turns. THAT, right there, is something which would NEVER happen in GT4. At worst, the Alpine might get a bit wide with throttlesteer, and if I really wanted it might start to do a mini-slide. But that is all. Quick flicks of countersteer will take care of anything scary.
 
Everything mentioned about the Alpines of GT4 is truer with the A310, except their habit of spinning too easily. The A310 in this game feels a little closer to GT5, a little more slidey and not as driver-friendly as the A110.
 
Its front-end has a habit of bouncing slightly over invisible aberrations, while the rear can easily slide slightly sideways during most turns. And to minimize all of this, it is still advisable to give small amounts of fuel mid-turn, to help balance the car as it's trying its darndest to tuck-inwards.
 
I believe that the A110, which is more like an early Porsche, is easier to drive in this game because it hasn't got the A310's bulkier GT rear! There's also the cars both tires are equipped with. Notice how the rear has gotten bigger in the A310, but the tires haven't, especially those rears. Porsche began putting larger tires back there, eventually; a trick Alpine hadn't tried or thought of yet.
 
Compared to the A110, the A310... 
 
-- Can and will twist sideways with ease, if the driver is braking-while-turning, but then suddenly releases those brakes. 
 
-- Can and will slip outwards from the rear, if the gas is planted too much / too fast, while any sort of steering is going on. 
 
Both of these traits can be worked with though, just as in GT4. Once the driver gets the hang of melting braking into steering into coasting into throttle, those violent lurches this car loves to make will become mere twitches. All of this is possible without a limited-slip, too. A limited-slip might put a huge damper on all of this behavior, for those who are struggling.        

So the handling is improved, overall. My only main real complaint with cornering has nothing to do with handling; the 1.6 liter still struggles out of tighter areas at times, as 1st gear can be too short, and 2nd too tall (forcing the rpms as low as 3,000). But serious handling issues? They're mostly gone. Teeth-gritting moments? Pain and suffering? Gone. What we've got left is a car  which some drivers will delight in, while others will gladly trade up to something more stable to finish up those European Classic races. 

Off-road impressions
I did drive the A110 off road, as well, doing some practice laps and Arcade races at Toscana/Time Change. And once again, PD has thrown out the old rules. This car was described as much more confident off-road than it was on-road. Now the reverse is true!

In GT4, the Alpine survived this game's toughest dirt & snow tracks with barely any tuning. This car can still be driven sans tuning in GT5, but it's now more unstable and dangerous. The front-end understeers into low-speed hairpins, while the rear can swing about more harshly during faster curves. The Alpine can still handle such moments, but it'll take a lot more work on the driver's part to keep things pointed in the proper direction.

A limited-slip now only assists our situation, and is highly recommended. The "initial" setting can be dialed mildly (to keep some flexibility in slow & tight areas) or more harshly (to create high-speed stability during large turns, with less fear of uncontrollable sliding). The A110 still manages to impress, but needs a bit of help doing so, especially when going up against some moderns.    
   

PROS-------------------------------------

1). Unique automobiles from France. Something to aspire for if you're  knowledgeable about their real-life accomplishments or are just curious about the odder cars of GT4 & 5.

2). The A110's cute, well-balanced appearance. The A310's attempt at looking like a supercar. Both of these stand apart from any others.

3). Off-road prowess comes surprsingly easy, even in snow. A limited-slip isn't always necessary and can even limit some of their maneuverability (truer in GT4 than GT5).

4). Lots of engine upgrades. Makes sense since Alpine was a major French automotive tuner.

5). Fiberglass bodywork + a steel tube frame starts these cars as lightweights.

6). Drifter's paradise. 

7). That dual-rasp engine note. At low revs, the engine purrs. At high revs, it sounds more aggressive (even if it's not).

8). GT5: handling a true sportsman can appreciate. It's easy to forget these are rear-engined cars in this game.  


CONS---------------------------------------

1). Weak engines. Awful acceleration.

2). Difficult braking action, partially caused by the rear-engine layout, partially caused by narrow 165-width tires.

3). Alpine-Renaults (either of them) must be won in GT4, cannot be simply bought anywhere. In GT5, either model is so rare, you'd have more luck trying to earn all golds in those license tests.

4). Only come in blue....

5). GT4: One of the worst autos one can drive and race in this game. Oversteer isn't always fun. In this case, it's downright dangerous. The cars of GT5 do not follow this same formula, as we can see above in Pro #8.

6). GT4: Rear-engine traction quickly gets erased as this car gets just slightly sideways ALL THE TIME. GT5 is milder in this regard, but rear-biased sliding can still become a problem.

7). These can't be raced in any of GT4's Classic Car events. Arguably, they should be able to compete, as they are certainly considered classics in the real-world.

8). Endurance races reveal yet another issue: those rear tires wear out more than twice as fast as the fronts (GT4 only).

9). Stock 5-speed too short for some situations, too awkward for others. Full-custom gearing may be necessary.

 

10). Somewhat useless side mirrors in GT5.

11). GT4: Limited slip differential is MANDATORY, unless we're off-road (oddly). It is possible to race an Alpine on pavement without an LSD if you're highly skilled & quick reacting, but not recommended. 

12). Not a car for n00b drivers!


 
Published: May 15, 2009

GT5 A110 Info: September 4, 2013
GT5 A310 info: May 24, 2016

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