THE Alpine A110
TopGear magazine’s Performance Car of the Year 2018
I’d expected the Pista to be more steely-eyed, but instead it comes across as a brighter, sharper, more excitable 488 GTB. That it still rides with dexterity is a delight, that the brakes bite and the gearbox cracks and the engine – oh, the engine – snaps... well, it all makes the Pista feel ultra-urgent. And I love the way it looks, the plunging front and straked rear treatment drawing attention from those gaping side intakes.
Post-road debate. 5pm. Village Hall. We’ve got to clean the gîte, but before wielding mops we wield mugs of tea and tentatively lean back on the leather sofas. Everyone, everyone puts the same cars in first and last position. It’s the middle order that causes ructions, but they’re half-hearted because we’ve all got the winner we want, and that’s what really matters.
Second, third and fourth, then. Filled by the cheapest and most expensive cars. Voting places the McLaren a sniff ahead of the Fiesta, the Ferrari ahead of both. For a tenth the price, we all agree, the ST is a belter. More mature than its predecessor, but infused with the same spirit. With a win apiece between track and road, it would be easy to call it honours even between McLaren and Ferrari, but we’re giving the nod to the Ferrari. It’s a more joyous conveyance.
Last and first. You know which way this one’s going. The problem for the BMW is we’ve seen it before. This is just a tweak of the template, but otherwise follows a familiar format – don’t worry too much about reducing weight, just add power and control. This approach has underpinned performance cars for the last 20 years or more, and although we’ve occasionally muttered about it, it’s unlikely we’d be complaining if we hadn’t seen a different route.
The trouble for Alpine is that buyers are now conditioned to this, to respect power above all. But look: six people of widely varying tastes, ages and abilities all voted it top, all adored its composure, candour and communication. I’ve never driven a better advert for light-weighting. Nothing else moves like this, flows like this. The new Alpine is part French philosopher, part Zinedane Zidane (and yet emphatically not Eric Cantona). It’s a car with wonderful poise and balance, a deft touch and a loose, limber energy. It is pure driving, and it’s our Performance Car of the Year 2018.