The fact that there's a large enough demographic to justify simple, pure sports cars like these is heart-warming. The pared-down, four-cylinder Alpine A110S and Porsche Cayman T offer just what's necessary for a brisk canyon run, but the scale of the companies behind these cars change their respective characters considerably.
The Cayman T is predictably the better engineered machine. Of course it is, but at 2,975 pounds, it's fairly described as a middleweight—and that engine with its off-boost lethargy doesn't always feel urgent enough. Where it compensates is with more emphasis placed on ergonomics, touch points, and livability, and the Cayman T—despite its frill-free designation—is that much more versatile.
Considering how direct the Cayman T is in isolation, this says a lot about how great a sports car Porsche has built. But in comparison to the pared-down Alpine A110S, it's a hair softer and less immediate. Like Lotus' famous Elise, or Alfa's now-all-but-dead 4C, the Alpine is a car which appeals to a smaller niche, and the slightly rushed interior and questionable seating position—not to mention the awkwardly canted steering wheel—supports this. Speed and agility are paramount with a car like the Alpine.
That light-on-its-feet character comes from a significant difference in weight; the 2,456-pound Alpine is considerably pointier. For some, greater precision and rarity are enough to distract one from a lack of refinement. The Alpine is stiffer, better supported, and more inspiring at the ragged edge. Granted, it's at its best on a smooth road or a recently paved racetrack; it's perhaps too stiff for pockmarked country lanes.
Some would consider it too rough for something brushing $75,000, but it's a small-batch item and it's going to have some (endearing) blemishes. Those that buy one: hats off—that money goes toward the good cause of justifying production of niche sports cars. The world needs more people like you.
One upside to this rawer character is the way the engine interacts with the chassis. The 1.8-liter screams and feels far punchier, and what's more: it's loud. Volume is one thing that's missing in the muted, insulated Cayman's cabin.
Give the Alpine some time to mature and sand off the burrs, but until then, the Porsche is the better buy for a well-used life.