It may look like a Lotus Elise that’s just returned from the worst body shop in town but what you’re actually looking at is a test mule for a new sports car being developed by French automaker Renault and destined to be branded an Alpine. This is the new sports car that was originally meant to be developed together with Caterham, however, the two firms have since gone their separate ways though both still plan to launch their respective sports car models.
Renault’s Alpine Celebration concept unveiled during the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans race hints at the styling we can expect for the French firm’s car, a look that was later confirmed by some leaked patent drawings. One element from the final version that we can already see on this test mule is the center-mounted exhaust pipe.
A name is yet to be announced but most are expecting the car to be called an AS1, where the initials “AS” stand for Alpine Sports. The AS1 will be a small, sporty two-seater like the Alfa Romeo 4C and Porsche Cayman, and will likely draw its power from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine mounted behind the rear seats and spinning the rear wheels only. Peak output should lie close to 270 horsepower, enabling the car to accelerate from 0-60 mph in around 5.0 seconds.
2017 Renault Alpine AS1 test mule spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-MedienEnlarge Photo
Inside, it looks like the design team is going with a central position for the car’s main instrument cluster. However, much may still change as development progresses. Interestingly, there’s a button on the exterior with an electric symbol, though this is likely to be a battery kill switch rather than a sign that a hybrid powertrain is being developed.
Though Renault previously promised a 2016 launch, the new AS1 may not go on sale until 2017 due to delays caused by the split with Caterham. A reveal may still take place in 2016, most likely at the Paris Auto Show that year.
Production of the AS1 will take place at the former Alpine plant in Dieppe, France, and sadly there are no plans to bring the car over to the United States.
Alpine Celebration concept, 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans
Alpine Celebration concept, 2015 24 Hours of Le MansEnlarge Photo