7

In simple terms this is the more spacious, slightly more chilled Touring version of the new Alpina B5 saloon.

In reality, though, given that there will be no estate model offered by the factory with the new BMW M5, this particular Alpina should provide the B5 with its USP. Or at least that’s what its makers hope will happen, even though this car costs a whopping £75,850 before you’ve added so much as a single option to its admittedly lavish standard specification.

The test car we tried was fitted with a further £11,075 of options, including £1560 worth of highly recommended limited slip diff. But the headline news is still dominated by the engine – a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that produces 500bhp and 516lb ft – an eight-speed semi-automatic gearbox, plus the fitment of a bespoke set of 20in Michelin Pilot Supersport tyres that are resolutely NOT of run flat design.

To understand the B5 Touring you need to put yourself in the mindset of someone who is a) extremely wealthy, b) likes driving fast, preferably down quiet, de-restricted autobahns in order to avoid having to fly, and c) also wants a quantifiably comfortable car to drive.

People who buy Alpinas are not people who can’t afford a factory M car. They are people who don’t want such a manic driving experience as that offered by an M machine, but who want the same kind of straight line performance.

It’s a fairly small, specialised market that Alpina is playing to; last year it sold just over 1100 cars globally, down slightly on its best year of 2007 when 1500 cars were bought. And it’s a market that’s changing rapidly in the UK in particular, as the price of petrol continues to dent the appeal of big, powerful petrol-engined cars like the B5.

Hence the reason Alpina’s engineers are working hard to produce a smaller, diesel-engined machine to replace its most popular ever model (in the UK at least), which was the excellent D3.

Yet for a specific type of customer, there is little else to touch a B5 Touring. We drove this car from Alpina’s factory in the middle of Bavaria back to the UK, which was the perfect environment in which to sample its mile-eating capabilities. It’s hard to think of many other cars that would have felt so comfortable over the same journey, or as quick, and which could have swallowed so much kit while returning just over 25mpg.

Back in the UK, on our more congested, less well surfaced, rather more fiercely speed restricted roads, the B5 Touring still makes an awful lot of sense. It’s a soothing, relaxing car to drive that just so happens to go like stink if and when you use the loud pedal.

Its eight-speed semi-automatic gearbox works a treat in all of its various dynamic modes; as does the similarly sophisticated electronic suspension, which has been tuned by Alpina to provide a broader repertoire of abilities than a factory BMW.

Having said that, the B5 Touring is not a car you’re going to enjoy as much as an M5 on a tight country road. It may mask the effects of its weight extremely well most of the time, but the bottom line is that it still weighs 1990kg; you’re always going to be fighting an uphill battle when trying to control that much weight. Best to head for the A-roads and switch on Classic FM.

Bottom line. If you have a lot of money, a couple of other sportscars to dart around in when the desire arises, plus the need for a machine that can dispatch hundreds of miles in very short order without even breaking into a sweat, then yes, buy one – because there’s nothing quite like a B5 Touring when it comes to trans-continental mile-munching.

If not, you could argue that the £76k, 500bhp Alpina B5 Touring is a day late and a dollar short when it comes to the current era of motoring. In which case, wait for what Alpina comes up with next; it could be a much more relevant kind of car.

Alpina B5 Touring

Price
 £75,850; 0-60mph
 4.8sec; Top speed
 188mph; Economy
 25.9mpg (combined); CO2 emissions
 255g/km; Kerb weight 1990kg; Engine layout
 V8, 4395cc, petrol, twin-turbo; Installation
 front, longitudinal, rear wheel-drive; Power
 500bhp/5500rpm; Torque
 516lb ft/3000rpm; Power to weight
 251bhp/tonne; Specific output
 114bhp/litre; Compression ratio 9.2:1; Gearbox eight-speed auto

Top 5 Premium hatches

  • BMW i3
    Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

    BMW i3

    1
  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

    2
  • Volvo V40
    The new Volvo V40 is the Swedish firm's sleek and sporty-looking answer to the VW Golf, A3 Sportback and BMW 1-series

    Volvo V40

    3
  • The second generation 'more grown-up' Mini Clubman

    Mini Clubman

    4
  • BMW 1 Series
    BMW 1 Series gets nip-and-tuck treatment for 2015

    BMW 1 Series

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka