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In the Spotlight – Alpina B5 BiTurbo {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

27 Apr 2018

The BMW M5 rightly holds its head high as one of the best super saloons of all time, from the e28 right to present day every 5-Series has had an M/// variant and they have always been near, if not at the top of their game. The current M5 is a 600hp AWD monster with aggressive styling and a snarling twin turbo V8. But what do you do if you want a 600hp AWD super saloon that is a little more subtle, able to slip under the radar, be a little more, shall we say, gentlemanly? You search out Alpina, that’s what…

Based in Buchloe, Germany, Alpina Automobiles has been tuning BMWs since 1965 and has been regarded as a manufacturer in their own right since 1983. This is significant as they move from being a tuner, to a car maker – yes they may still wear a BMW roundel on the bonnet but the VIN says Alpina. In order to not tread on BMWs toes they need to offer something a bit different to the offerings from M/// GmbH, and with their latest cars they really do.

The car I’m focusing my attention on today is the B5 BTurbo, the M5 rival and a car that starts its life as a BMW M550i xDrive (a car we don’t get in the UK). Alpina then strip it completely and set to work making it their own. When you order your B5 you can spec any of the standard BMW range of colours or for an extra £2200 you can have Alpina Blue or the wonderful Alpina Green that the test car I drove wears. It also wears the optional Alpina decal set which gives gold stripes and lettering to the sides and front spoiler. Some think this is a little garish, but for me they are all part of the Alpina look so are essential. The classically styled Alpina Classic 20” alloys help fill the arches, while the front end gets a lower front spoiler with chunky ALPINA lettering. At the rear there’s a new diffuser housing the exhaust tips and a subtle lip spoiler.

If you didn’t spec the decals and painted it grey, this would be the subtlest 600hp car on the planet – most wouldn’t give it a second glance. Of course some like to shout and show off, and for them there’s the M5.

Inside its mostly standard 5-Series, but you can opt for Alpina to retrim in a colour of leather of your choosing and the steering wheel gets blue and green stitching. This has to be the softest leather I’ve ever touched, this side of a Rolls Royce, it’s just incredibly soft and luxurious and well worth the £5000 or £9000 depending on how much of the interior you want covered. Then the LCD dials are reprogrammed to be blue and have bespoke graphics. All in, it’s a lovely place to be, especially this press car which had a staggering £19,000 in options.

The first thing you notice when you start the 4.4 litre twin turbo V8 is how quiet it is – this B5 is definitely a car that whispers rather than shouts – but you certainly know there’s a V8 under there, it’s just a subtler burble rather than the snarling, barking sounds that say an E63S makes. Pull away with everything in Comfort mode and you’re amazed by how smooth the ride is – even on 20” wheels it’s fantastically comfy even over our terrible roads – we can thank the adaptive dampers for that. The 8-speed automatic gearbox helps this too, a much more refined option than the dual clutch gearboxes in fashion.

But put it into Sport Plus mode and mash the accelerator into the carpet and you feel like you’re on the bridge of the USS Enterprise just after Kirk has shouted “Warp speed Mr Sulu!”. Despite being a huge car the rate at which the B5 gathers speed is utterly staggering – the stat of 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds is very believable, but the top speed is the one that you believe but I didn’t get a chance to test. This family saloon car will top out at an incredible 205mph. That’s as fast as a McLaren 570S. The B5 can be thrown around at a decent lick too, you know it’s a big car but the AWD system just lets you grip mid corner and catapult through and towards the horizon.

For me the B5 (specifically the Touring version as I love estates) is the most complete all-round car on sale today – it would fit perfectly into my life and I’d never want it to go. There’s just the small matter of the £100,000 needed…

Unless of course you get tickets for it in this week’s competition! They’re just £4.05 each and only available until midnight on Sunday.

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