Alpine V6 Turbo « GTA »: finally getting it right

Published on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
Updated on Monday, September 9, 2019.
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In 1985, Renault-Alpine stopped the career of the A310 after 15 years of loyal service. The Régie (as it is known to the French) didn’t forget however to provide an heir, the V6 GT (sometimes called unofficially the GTA) beautifully designed by Gerard Godfroy at Heuliez (who in the process created the Venturi, as well). A year later, Renault finally presented the stronger V6 Turbo version with 40 additional horsepower to finally be ready to face its fierce competition.

More than 30 years later, we still wonder what happened in the minds of Renault decision-makers: why did they introduce the V6 GT before the V6 Turbo? Despite all the interest for the atmospheric entry-level version, which is quite powerful thanks to its 0.30 CX coefficient and its relative light-weight, wouldn’t it have been better to highlight, at the launch, the cutting-edge version that the buyers desired more? Especially since Godfroy’s design was not a radical departure from the A310, remaining particularly discreet and understated. Add to this Renault’s persistence in making a low cost, austere interior with a medium quality finish, making it difficult to go up against a more exciting and better finished Porsche, for example.

The V6 PRV engine with 200 horsepower

With the V6 Turbo (and its 2.5 litre PRV producing 200 horsepower), Renault-Alpine finally gets it right however probably a little too late. At the same time, a new « national » competitor appeared on the radar screen: the Manufacture de Voiture de Sport (MVS) with its Venturi model. Also from the drawing board of Gérard Godfroy, the Venturi offered the same turbocharged PRV V6 with the same 200 horsepower under its back bonnet. Alpine could no longer claim the French monopoly of the V6 Turbo PVR to sell their cars.

Renault’s bad luck had only just begun: the “GTA » (as Alpine aficionados nicknamed it) was supposed to access the lucrative US market through the Régie’s recent investment in AMC-Jeep in the early 80s. Twenty-one Alpine GTA-US (whose design would inspire the later model A610) were produced in anticipation of the invasion of the US market. Renault hoped to sell as many as 2,500 units there in the first year. Alas, the assassination of Renault’s CEO Georges Besse, defender of their American adventure, coupled with the abysmal losses that Renault was making in their home market, pushed the new board of the French firm to divest their holding in AMC-Jeep to Chrysler. Not a single Alpine would ever set a wheel on American soil.

The Alpine V6 Turbo dedicated to the USA market would never see the light of day despite the 21 prototypes already produced.

Reasonable performance but poor quality control

In short, from the start, the adventure of the V6 GT and V6 Turbo began badly. The performance of the V6 Turbo wasn’t too bad: a top speed of 250 kph and 0 to 100 kph in 7 seconds. Road handling was healthy and stable at high speed but the car was subject to understeer, especially on wet roads. Problems also came from a poor market image, a high price and diminutive quality controls on the part of Renault, something that the Régie was suffering from across its range. Despite the dashboard design made specifically for the GTA by Gandini, the car’s style seemed out of date.

In order to attempt to boost their disappointing sales figures, Alpine began to propose a variety of « GTA » special models: in 1989, the V6 Turbo « Mille Miles » limited to 100 units equipped with a more luxurious finish. They also reintroduced the Alpine name and logo. In 1990, they came with the V6 Turbo ‘Le Mans’ with a specific body kit, which was quite well received, but oddly enough equipped with the V6 PRV wearing a catalytic converter, deflating the power to only 185 HP. All this at the time when the MVS Venturi’s power was increased to 260 horses with the catalytic converter, as well! Worst of all, and perhaps adding insult to injury, even the Renault 25 V6 Turbo had greater horsepower, 205 HP, despite also having the anti-pollution catalyser.

The beginning of the end for Alpine

Anyway, Renault and Alpine no longer had their hearts in it for the GTA as they were working collectively already on its replacement. In March 1991, the V6-powered A610, 3 litres and 250 horsepower, went on sale, pushing the V6 Turbo into retirement. While the A310 had sold 11,484 units, the « GTA » found only 6,494 customers (including 4,916 Turbo versions): thus began the total decline that would see the brand disappear completely with the A610 fiasco.

Today, as the prices for some of the Alpine models and other more prestigious sports model alternatives skyrocket, a V6 Turbo can offer a good-value alternative. Relatively affordable, it allows you to slip immediately into the spirit and feel of the 1980s while providing relatively good performance. With better performance than a V6 GT, although less rare, its rather unique style stands out.

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