The French marque Alpine started producing sports and racing cars in the 1950s and was taken over by Renault in 1973. Its last vehicle rolled off the assembly line in Dieppe, France, in 1995, but Renault has recently set about reviving the marque. Not to be confused with the Japanese electronics manufacturer of the same name – or the German BMW tuner known as Alpina – the revived Alpine marque has been fielding an LMP2 racing prototype in European endurance racing, and revealed the A110-50 concept a few years ago. And even though its initial partnership with Caterham has fallen apart, Alpine is reportedly going it alone with plans to bring a new sports car to market sometime next year. Before it does, though, it has joined in on the Vision Gran Turismo action with the design you see here.
Leaked earlier this month, we now have a fuller appreciation for the new Alpine Vision Gran Turismo concept, which is both fantastically futuristic and retro. It looks like something automotive futurist Daniel Simon might have dreamt up for Cosmic Motors, and though penned by Renault's Romanian designer Victor Sfiazof, it bears some obvious influence from Japanese design. The low-slung form packs an offset single-seat open cockpit, with a 4.5-liter V8 pushing 450 horsepower to the rear wheels through a seven-speed sequential transmission for a theoretical top speed of 199 miles per hour.
Alpine has created a full-size model of the design, which it's displaying at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris this week before moving it to the Rétromobile show at the Porte de Versailles as part of the marque's 60th anniversary celebrations. Meanwhile, gamers will be able to play with it in virtual reality in Gran Turismo 6 starting in March.
The historic Alpine brand has a bright future in the real world, but as the French brand's 60th anniversary celebrations get underway, it is in the virtual world of Gran Turismo where fans will soon get a new treat. The Alpine Vision Gran Turismo becomes the latest virtual prototype to grace the screens of Gran Turismo for gamers around the world.
But as Bernard Ollivier, CEO, Société des Automobiles Alpine, explains, the car will not just be featured in the virtual world: "The end result is so stunning that we couldn't resist producing an actual full-scale model of it!" The model is being displayed at the Festival Automobile International in Paris, which places the emphasis on automobile aesthetics.
In 2013, Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi and his team from Polyphony Digital Inc. visited Alpine's studio to discuss the project. The timing coincided with the Alpine brand's comeback in the form of its first production car that will be presented to the public in 2016. But the project also provided an enticing blank sheet of paper to explore new creative ideas without having to take certain production-related constraints into account.
An in-house competition involving around 15 designs took place and was won by the project submitted by Victor Sfiazof, the idea being a lightweight, agile, barquette-type car in keeping with the brand's A450 Le Mans racing program.
"It's a genuine sports car which combines the passion for cars with enjoyment behind the wheel," explains Sfiazof. "There are numerous references to the past, present and future. The idea of a barquette stemmed from the Alpine A450's involvement in the Le Mans 24 Hours, but the front end takes its inspiration from the A110, while the vertical fins at the rear recall the A210 and A220 and make a real contribution to the car's styling. As an aeronautic fan, I also wanted to incorporate cues from the world of aviation, too. The airbrakes add a nice high-tech touch to the rear end."
"The designers and engineers involved in this project were tasked with creating a car that expresses the spirit of our brand," adds Bernard Ollivier. "Alpine's genes are immediately visible in its styling, while its performance won't disappoint either. The Vision Gran Turismo project was seen as the ideal setting for the first 'real life' rendering of a car since the announcement of Alpine's revival broke cover."
Antony Villain, Alpine's Design Director, adds: "The design needed to contribute to the lightweight feel and convey an impression to the driver of being at one with the machine. The Alpine Vision Gran Turismo features the brand's timeless hallmark agility and elegance borne out of efficiency and ingenuity. We even took advantage of the exercise to subtly conceal several details that are directly inspired by the future Alpine that will see the light in 2016 – but I can't give any more away about that..."
The Alpine Vision Gran Turismo might be a virtual machine, but it was nonetheless duty-bound to adopt driving dynamics and handling characteristics worthy of its glorious predecessors. Terry Baillon, a simulation and chassis development engineer for the forthcoming road-going model, worked on the development and explains his enthusiasm for the collaboration with Polyphony Digital Inc. "There is genuine value in working this way," he says. "In my opinion, there is a bright future for this sort of collaboration. If we correlate the information we glean from both Gran Turismo and the real vehicle, further developments will become possible. Our objective is to offer a car whose dynamics match those that we initially defined. If everything is modeled perfectly, we can even continue to work on the car and compare it to other models, so that we can see where we stand!"
The Vision Gran Turismo project is the brainchild of Yamauchi-san. "As a child, I used to admire concept cars," explains the President of Polyphony Digital Inc. "They were like gifts that pointed to a bright future. That's still how I see them. The technology used by car manufacturers today allows them to surpass my imagination. I hope that this research will contribute to changing our lives. I am very proud to have Alpine on board with us for the Vision Gran Turismo project. It's a brand for which I have always had a great deal of affection and I have much appreciated the quality of the contact between our respective teams. This close tie was facilitated by the passion we all share. The Alpine that is now available for Gran Turismo players is the fruit of a formidable shared enthusiasm."
After the unveiling during the gala evening at the French capital's Hôtel des Invalides, the car remains on display at the Festival until 1 February. It will then be exhibited at the 2015 Rétromobile Show (February 4-8) at the Porte de Versailles, Paris, where celebrations of Alpine's 60th anniversary commence in earnest.
The Alpine Vision Gran Turismo will be available to download free of charge in Gran Turismo 6 on PlayStation®3 from March 2015.
Type: carbon monocoque
Suspension: double wishbones, pushrods, adjustable spring/damper assemblies
Cubic capacity: 4,494cc (274ci)
Maximum power: 450hp at 6,500rpm
Maximum torque: 580Nm (428lb-ft) at 2,000rpm
Maximum engine speed: 7,500rpm
Top speed: 320kph (199mph)
Seven-speed sequential gearbox
Front: 390mm x 32mm vented discs with six-pot callipers
Rear: 355mm x 32mm vented discs with four-pot callipers
WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES
Weight distribution: 47 / 53
Fuel tank: 75 litres