What is it?
It has been almost two years since the Alpina B4 Biturbo – Alpina’s alternative to the BMW M4 – arrived. But although we have driven, and liked a great deal, the coupe variant, a convertible version of Alpina’s take on the 4 Series has never crossed anybody’s path. Until today.
Alpina is a curious, fascinating car company. It’s completely independent of BMW, whose models it modifies and rebadges for public consumption, yet BMW not only tolerates it but also encourages it. Alpina has access to prototypes and sometimes - as with the 2.0-litre diesel D3 a few years ago - BMW even allows Alpina variants to roll down its own production lines.
In terms of vital statistics, the current B4 Biturbo is remarkably similar to BMW’s own M car but its character is quite, quite different. An M4 is a relatively hardcore coupé and convertible that is as happy on a track as it is on the road. Alpina largely forgets the track part of that description and concentrates on making a softer, more rounded sports car.
The base model for the B4 Biturbo, then, is BMW’s 435i, upon which Alpina’s 70 engineers get to work. The single, twin-scroll turbocharger is removed from its 3.0-litre engine and Alpina puts in two turbochargers – a small one to get things going and a larger one for once they are. The resultant power and torque peaks are an M4-troubling 404bhp and 443lb ft. And whereas the M4 uses a dual-clutch transmission, the B4 Biturbo retains the 435i’s ZF eight-speed automatic, with its software tuned for the B4; and instead of flappy steering wheel paddles, there are nipple-sized buttons behind the steering wheel spokes. The steering wheel itself is thinner-rimmed than BMWs own, part of an interior and exterior makeover that also includes a distinctive front grille and standard 20in alloy wheels with bespoke – non-run-flat – Michelin tyres. The suspension gets Alpina’s own tuning, too.