Alpine fun to fang, but BYO spanner

Car: Alpine A110 Premiere

Drive: Scenic Rim (170km)


For much of its way, the road straddling the NSW-Queensland border between Woodenbong and Rathdowney is a blacktop scratcher’s dream. 

No more so than the section just 3km short of the border line where the Summerland Way goes on to morph into the Mt Lindesay Highway.

Therein lays 13km of sinuous, mostly smooth two-lane asphalt, the likes of which the Alpine A110 is designed and built for.

Think weight-saving aluminium chassis and body along with minimalist interior fit-out; engine mid-mounted transversely behind the driver to achieve an optimum 44:56 front/rear weight distribution; and overall modest proportions with low centre of gravity.

Result – a stylish, two-seater coupe that weighs in at just 1080kg, some 300kg lighter than acclaimed rival, the Porsche Cayman 718, making for an impressive 174.5kg power-to-weight ratio.  

Motor-vating the 18-inch Fuch rear alloys and their grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber is Renault Sport’s 1.8-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivering 185kW of power at 6000 rpm and 320Nm of torque from 2000-5250 rpm mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Our 170km Scenic Rim loop starts at the turn on to Carney’s Creek Road (aka The Falls Drive, SR21) from the Boonah-Rathdowney Road.

It’s typically country back block going, before winding through open farmland and turning right after 15km on to Falls Road. 

We’re now into unfenced farmland with cattle grazing right down to the black stuff.

The road, essentially one-car wide, crosses five flood ways in succession then struggles uphill 5km through Main Range National Park.

The openness gives way to thick growth and the narrow passage requires downhill traffic to give way. 

Then, at the top, we open on to lush grazing land with sky overhead and the horizons broaden – a different world altogether.

The road takes on a little extra width, the sight lines run for miles, and we sweep in 4th  gear past a thick copse of pine trees and on past the turn-off to White Swamp. 

Further on, a proverbial fork in the road offers a choice – Condamine Road to the right, which you do not want to take unless in a genuine four-wheel-drive with decent ground clearance; or left, the twisting climb up to Carr’s Lookout.

It’s not called ‘lookout’ for no reason – the sweeping views take in some of Queensland’s finest natural landscapes. 

But, we’re still less than halfway through the drive.

We get our motor runnin’ and head out on the byway down a 3km winding descent that leads to a T-junction and a choice of right towards Killarney (5km) or left to Legume (8km). 

It’s the latter we’ll be needing and at the general store with its weathered (still-working) petrol pumps out front, hang a left towards Woodenbong, rough initially but, as repair work rolls out, progressively becoming wider and (marginally) better surfaced.

Then, just before the border, the fun begins – a kaleidoscope of well-paved, flowing twisties, one after another.

With such little heft to move the Alpine’s response is strong and immediate throughout the rev range.

Using launch control (simple – depress the Sports mode button for 3.0 seconds and pull both paddle shifters together) and the A110 soars from stationary to 100km/h in just 4.5 seconds with metallic soundtrack to match. 

Light as it is, there’s not a hint of skittishness under cornering and the steering, at all times, feels sharp and communicative as to exactly what the front end is doing.

Pitched into a succession of tight turns, the Alpine surfs its way through incisively and sure-footedly. 

A suspension set up to produce such cornering capability can compromise ride quality, but through enabling relatively soft springs and a fixed damper rate, the four-corner double wishbone suspension helps make for surprising compliance over rough going. 

There is a trade-off, though, in practicality – no spare wheel or reversing camera, storage space is limited and the otherwise superb Sabelt sports seats can only be adjusted with a spanner. 

Given the A110’s compactness, the interior is surprisingly roomy for two.

It feels and looks special – seats finished in sporty diamond-quilt leather, carbon-fibre centre console and a numbered plaque denoting the Premiere model’s limited edition.

Crossing the border into Qld, the road dips, curves tighten and the fun continues.

Just before Palen Creek the best is over, though it still flows nicely through open grazing land past Mt Barney and on to Rathdowney.

From here, left leads towards Boonah and back to where we came in. 

With Renault’s French brand Alpine having won the inaugural World Rally Championship in 1973, champion motor sport DNA courses through the 21st century iteration of A110.

Road or track, it’s a five-star car.


2019 Alpine A110 Premiere

Basic price: $106,500

Engine: 1.8-litre turbo DOHC 16v inline 4-cyl

Power: 185kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 320Nm @ 2000-5250rpm

Transmission: 7-spd dual clutch


Drive: Rear-wheel

0-100km/h: 4.5 secs


CHECKOUT: Cortina brings back memories of late great Jim Clark

CHECKOUT: Baskerville in a brand-spanker RS3 racer

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *