Low Volume Retro: Future Retro

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More than just concepts to keep people interested in their brands, some heritage concepts are actually intended for production.

There is no shortage of retro cars these days. Each of the Big Three has a retro-themed muscle car in their lineup, albeit with varying levels of retro styling. The latest Volkswagen Beetle borrows heavily from the lines of the original, and Fiat's 500 strongly resembles its predecessor. But automakers aren't stopping there, more of these cars are on the way, and a couple of them also draw from some serious motorsports heritage. The most recent retro concept likely to see production is the Renault Alpine A110-50.


The name is derived from the fact that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the old Alpine A110 Berlinette, a car which had enough success in rallying that it has become legendary. The car is derived from Renault's DeZil concept of a few years ago, but has incorporated some styling cues which pay tribute to the original car. These include the half circles of LEDs in the front bumper, that particular shade of blue paint and the big stripe aft of the doors. This is, unfortunately, about it. The Alpine A110-50 is not quite as serious a heritage vehicle as some of the others found in this series.

But it is still an impressive car, and Renault doesn't have a huge sports car past to draw from. The carbon fiber-bodied car is powered by a 400 horsepower mid-mounted V6, although some changes are expected prior to it entering production. For many, the fact that Renault is building a sports car at all is impressive, but others aren't quite on board with the use of the Alpine name. It is a sort of half-assed attempt at retro, but seems this will have to be one of those matters that come down to personal taste.

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A more serious attempt at a modern take on a classic is Audi's Quattro Concept. This is a reimagining of the Sport Quattro of the Eighties, a car still spoken of in hushed tones by fans of rally racing. This all-conquering Group B racer conclusively proved the value of all-wheel-drive in sports cars. The new version is quite the copy-and-paste job that Ford's modern GT is, but the overall shape is certainly close enough, and Audi throws in quite a few additional cues to help you get there. Just like the original, the Quattro concept is powered by a turbocharged five-cylinder engine. This one is slightly bigger than the original, although not by much. It does, however, produce quite a bit more horsepower.

This one makes 408 hp, and thanks to aluminum and carbon fiber construction, it has very little weight to pull around, only 2,866lbs. The 0-60 time is just 3.7 seconds. This isn't too hard to believe, fantastic as it is, but the Quattro is also capable of a scarcely-believable 28mpg. The concept was built on the RS5 platform, but was shortened considerably and the overall height was dropped by 1.6 inches. The engine, though, came from the TT RS. The intention was to make yet another Audi sports car, which makes sense for a company with such an impressive motorsport history.

It was intended to slot in between the TT (more "sporty" than sports car, with the obvious exception of the RS model) and their R8 supercar. A few different ideas were batted around for the approach which Audi would take to the car. Initially, it would be a very limited run of 200-500 units, all just like the prototype. Then there was the idea of a lower-priced mass-market entry trim level, but now it seems that Audi has given up on the whole project. It's unclear why they abandoned the idea once it had already come so far, especially with the press raving about it every step of way.

But with as much as they've gone back and forth with the idea of this car, we're not entirely convinced that this decision was really final. At least, that's what we're going to keep telling ourselves; because the Quattro is the stuff enthusiasts' dreams are made of and we don't want to see it tossed aside. At the moment, of the two cars the Renault is the more likely to see production. This of course means that we won't see either of these cars here in the US. That is, unless there is a Nissan version of the Alpine in the works for us, although we wouldn't count on it.

What we will certainly get is a new take on the Plymouth Barracuda, a project currently in the works from Chrysler's newly-formed pure performance division, SRT. It's unclear just how retro this car will be, although it would be difficult to make a modern car more true to its original namesake than the current Dodge Challenger, which the Barracuda will join in Chrysler's lineup. In the meantime, we will be dreaming of Alpines and Quattros, both new and old.

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