- Alpine, the French sports car maker owned by Renault, revealed the A290 electric hot hatch this week.
- Set to enter production next year, this concept version has a three-seat layout akin to the McLaren F1, but this setup won’t stick around for the final version.
- The A290 features two electric motors powering the front wheels and employing a quick-witted torque-vectoring system.
French sports car brand Alpine is undergoing an electric revolution as it weighs entering the U.S. market, and the A290_β show car revealed this week represents the first of three models that will shape the automaker’s future.
Alpine is a subsidiary of Renault and the A290_β is based around the upcoming electric Renault 5 city car, due to hit the market in 2024. The concept’s exterior is 85 percent production-ready, but the show car sports an unorthodox interior with a central driving position à la the McLaren F1.
The squat, compact body is based on the proportions of its Renault counterpart, but the A290 hit the gym, flaunting bulging wheel arches and beefy bumpers with sizable air intakes. At 159.4 inches long, the hot hatch measures about 9.5 inches shorter than a Volkswagen GTI, although it sits a couple inches wider. Alpine says a special textured paint “makes the surface shine like freshly fallen snow,” which is juxtaposed with the stoney look of the forged carbon fiber found on the front spoiler, side skirts, and rear bumper.
The headlights and auxiliary rally lights strapped to the front end feature an X-shaped motif, recalling how vintage race cars wore tape on their headlights to prevent glass from falling on track in the event of a crash. The A290 features a blacked-out roof, while a blue line flows up the A-pillar, transitioning to magenta as it stretches back across the roof and adding some pop to the A290’s profile. Cooling vents in the rear bumper prominently display the battery fans, meant to emulate the visible fans on many high-powered gaming PCs.
The cabin of the A290_β show car is far more fantastical, sporting a three-seat setup and an unusual exposed structural element that makes up the dashboard and is meant to emulate the front wing of an F1 car. Sabelt harnesses strap the occupants into the carbon-fiber bucket seats, and the driver’s throne is coated in ultralumen, a reflective material that also appears on the dashboard and steering wheel. The dashboard and door panels are clothed in an eco-friendly leather.
Many of the controls are mounted on the roof, and the cabin is devoid of screens, although there is a head-up display. Alpine also envisions a special headset for the driver that would provide updates on the track condition and the flags being used during a race. The production car will presumably abandon the three-seat setup and install at least one infotainment screen.
The A290’s steering wheel draws from motorsports, with an octagonal shape and an “overtake” button that provides a 10-second power boost. The wheel also has buttons for the radio, pit-lane speed limiter, and ABS settings. Along with 11 degrees of adjustment for the ABS, the A290 will have three drive modes: Wet, Dry, and Full, which unlocks all of the power from the two front-mounted electric motors. Alpine says the overtake button will carry over to the production car.
Alpine only provided a few tidbits about what’s going on underneath the sheetmetal. The A290 will be front-wheel drive, with clever torque vectoring allowing for the oomph to be individually meted out to each wheel. The rear suspension features a multilink design and the A290 will share its Brembo four-piston brakes with the A110 sports car. The A290 also wears specially developed Michelin tires with flashy white lettering, which wrap around white aluminum 20-inch wheels with a unique, boxy design and blue accents.
Production of the new electric Renault 5 and the sporty Alpine A290 is due to begin in 2024, and Alpine is also plotting an electric crossover and a battery-powered replacement for the highly praised A110 coupe.
Earlier this year Alpine also revealed that it was working on two electric crossovers developed for the American market with a targeted on-sale date of 2027, and Alpine reportedly began discussions with AutoNation over a retail partnership. Sadly, the brand isn’t expected to bring the A290 hot hatch or the A110’s successor stateside.
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Associate News Editor
Caleb Miller began blogging about cars at 13 years old, and he realized his dream of writing for a car magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and joining the Car and Driver team. He loves quirky and obscure autos, aiming to one day own something bizarre like a Nissan S-Cargo, and is an avid motorsports fan.