Alpina's hot BMW 5-series is its most complete effort yet

Our Verdict

Alpina B5
The B5 falls short of other brilliant, and recently launched Alpinas

The Alpina B5 is very quick, but it is let down by uninvolving driving dynamics

29 June 2010

What is it?

It's the new Alpina B5 Biturbo, the latest creation from the BMW-based manufacturer and the first chance we’ve had to sample a 'performance' version of the new 5-series.

Recent Alpinas have avoided using the same engines as M division products, but the B5 will come pretty close to going head to head with the forthcoming M5. It shares the same basic 4.4-litre V8 engine (the inlet set-up is different), equipped with two retuned turbochargers.

In Alpina tune the unit produces a flat 500bhp and 516lb ft. That's enough, says the firm, to take the car from 0-62mph in 4.7sec and onto a gloriously unrestricted 191mph.

Unlike the M5, which is likely to use a dual-clutch transmission, the B5 gets an eight-speed automatic. But the unit has been developed by Alpina and ZF, and it uses a trick way of speeding up shifts when you're in one of the car's sportier modes.

Instead of merely retarding the engine timing, the B5 uses its direct injection tech to merely cut off a cylinder or two. Alpina says the system cuts gearshift times in two, to around 180ms.

What's it like?

Jaw-droppingly fast. We drove the B5 from Alpina's base in Buchloe to the UK - in time for its appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed - and with an empty stretch of autobahn in front of it, it's supercar quick.

Alpina's claim of 0-62mph in 4.7sec feels conservative - and as for the top speed, well, we saw an indicated 190mph with three and their luggage aboard, and it was still pulling strongly.

Truth is, though, that making a 5-series with this engine feel strong on a motorway was never going to be the biggest challenge faced by Alpina's engineers. More testing is the task of making it handle on poor surfaces and twisty roads, and here the firm's modifications - lower suspension, non-runflat tyres and comprehensive reprogramming of BMW's adjustable dampers - pays off.

We wouldn't say the B5 has precisely the same level of agility and subtlety as Jaguar's XFR - but it's not far off it at all, and that means it's very good indeed. Revised steering programming makes the wheel feel lighter at low speeds than a 5-series, and weightier when you're pushing on, and it's a more satisfying set-up than BMW's.

With the car in Sport or Sport+ set-up the ride is firm but still compliant (no runflats, remember, just Michelin Pilot Sport 2s, or Pilot Super Sports on the final cars) and body control is excellent.

That trick transmission works well, too; we can't think of many dual-clutch units that beat it on speed and smoothness. The engine has massive urge from beneath 2000rpm, and if you push on it makes a great Nascar-esque soundtrack. It's perfectly docile for everyday use, though; cruise along at 80mph (barely 1900rpm) and it's silent.

Should I buy one?

At around £70k, the B5 will sit above the Jaguar XFR on price, but beat it hands down on exclusivity. Even our car - production prototype number one - was beautifully finished, the spec is relatively generous by BMW standards and Alpina can also offer a personal service matched by no mass manufacturer.

Of course, you could be tempted to wait for the M5, which will offer a more hardcore experience but, almost inevitably, more compromises on ride quality to boot. But if you're more sold on a 5-series than an XF, we'd be sorely tempted to put down a deposit now. Even by Alpina's relatively high standards, this is the firm's most complete package ever.

John McIlroy

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Comments
25

2 July 2010

[quote Autocar]

..We wouldn't say the B5 has precisely the same level of agility and subtlety as Jaguar's XFR ...

[/quote]

Heaven forbid, of course not! If Autocar did that, it'd be the day hell froze over.

2 July 2010

[quote John McIlroy]The XFR is our benchmark for agility in big super-saloons[/quote]

I;ve always thought the E60 M5 is more agile on the track than the XFR but more rounded because of its superior ride. anyway both are lovely cars but am doubly impressed by this review. Must be a really good car and shows how BMW should get out onto Real roads and hone supesnion settings rather than simulating them on their laptops. Am really upset by the new 5 series dybamics. (at least from what i've read as i have not driven one).

2 July 2010

I also thought that run flats will not be standard on new BM models are they all u can get on this car?

2 July 2010

[quote John McIlroy]

Lupe,

Runflats are standard on the 5-series. But Alpina has never used them. That's why, for example, a D3 rides better on 19in wheels than many a regular 3-series on 18s...

John

[/quote]

Its a shame, i really do wonder why BMw insist on using them and they clearly have no single advantage.

2 July 2010

[quote John McIlroy]

Heaven forbid, of course not! If someone didn't comment on a comparison like this, it'd be the day hell froze over.

The XFR is our benchmark for agility in big super-saloons. Part of the aim of a review is tolo put a car in context. Hence the comparison - and I stick by it. Sorry it's not what you wanted to read...

Actually, as a whole package, the Alpina is terrific. Could quite understand why people will find the modest amount of extra cash over some mainstream rivals to buy it.

John

[/quote] Sorry some comments might not automatically concur with you fellows' views, John. Of course you (like everyone else) are perfectly entitled to express yours as you see them. <-p>

But here's a case of two sport saloons, both with high capabilities (and presumably close to each other) and you've already decided that, in a critical area to such cars, one is better than the other, without first bothering to test them back to back! So, l feel I'm titled to my cynicism here.

2 July 2010

Jag XFR should be your benchmark for the lowest agility out of all sports sedans as many American reviews or comparisons show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5r2_EAoNR8

I can post multiple sources if you insist.

2 July 2010

E[quote John McIlroy] Would you rather I'd singularly failed to put the car in context at all?[/quote] Not at all, but I WOULD expect to see "back to back" and "direct" comarison on the same roads and under the exact same conditions between two cars, which according to yourself, are close in ability, before passing definitive judgment and taking exception to anyone questioning that judgment. [quote John McIlroy] You can make your own judgment on the matter on the forum, though, presumably without having 'bothered' to have driven both cars, though, or perhaps even either of them. Lucky chap! Must be a tough one! :-)

John

[/quote] Oh very good, John, so the line of argument is "I've driven these cars and you haven't, so just shut the hell up", is that it? Well, first I didn't make any judgement as to which is the better car. I merely questioned the basis on which you did. Second, of course we mere peasants don't have the luxury and the opportunities of driving great cars like these and that's why we spend are hard earned pennies on publications such as yours Would you rather if we didn't?

2 July 2010

"I WOULD expect to see "back to back" and "direct" comarison on the same roads and under the exact same conditions between two cars,"

- I would certainly agree.

It is highly difficult to believe that any person can register, store, recall and compare the experience of driving vehicles (or any experience for that matter) with precision and neutrality, when there are days/weeks between the instances. Especially not when/if these two vehicles are as close to each other as you suggest.

It would help the (percepted) quality of your magazine, if you tried to understand that some readers get upset about Autocar's recurring "It is good but not as emotional as the Holy Jaguar/Focus/Fiesta/etc" comments.

2 July 2010

Just a few last words, before everyone gets fed up with this discussion. First, you have every right to defend your views here and I never stated otherwise. In fact, it's to your credit to take time to engage with people who comment here. <-p>

Now I never used the dreaded "b" word as I know how sensitive some of you good people have become towards it. But you're right, it was at the back of my mind. As a Brit, it's great for me to see British brands doing well. But at the same time, as a long time reader of various mags over the years reading how superior home brands were to others when reality proved otherwise, one can't help but become cynical towards to objectivity of testers. <-p>

Similarly when Autocar decides the XFR is the sports saloon, the XJ the best luxury saloon, the Range Rover the best 4x4, the Evora the best handling sports cars, the Vantage v8 the second best handling sports car, the Phantom the best.....well, you know....

2 July 2010

On a different note, it was surprising to read that you regard what you write online and in print seperately from each other. I don't know about other readers here, but for me it is the same medium/same source, I just consume it diffently.

So, the more often I read your biased-seeming online comments, the less I am inclined to buy Autocar in print. Especially not, when here in Germany your and other magazines cost twice as much as in UK (and no, I am not German, so there is no bruised national pride at this end).

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