The thinking personâ€™s alternative to a BMW M5
Not everyone has heard of Alpina, but those in the know certainly have. They are understated but extremely well-honed performance variants of regular BMWs, targeting high levels of real-world usability without the theatrics of a fully-blown BMW M car.
The new B5 BiTurbo is thus a comfier alternative to a new BMW M5, although it didnâ€™t actually start life as an M5. Instead, itâ€™s derived from the 456bhp M550i, a car not available in the UK, whose engine is breathed upon by Alpina to give it M5-equalling power. 600bhp comes in at 5750rpm and a huge 590lb ft of toque is delivered from 3000rpm.
Alpina B5 BiTurbo
On saleÂ Now
Engine: 4.4-litre, V8, twin-turbo, petrol
Power; 600bhp @ 5750-6520rpm
Torque: 590lb ft @ 3000-5000rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd auto
Kerb weight: 1950kg
Top speed: 205mph
Fuel economy: 26.9mpg
This, as with the M5 itself, makes it supercar-fast: 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and a 205mph top speed. All served up through a tweaked eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is punchier and faster-responding than the standard unit.
Donâ€™t be fooled by the headline figures though. This engine is herculean, but never raucous or ragged. Backed by a sweet, muted thrum, itâ€™s extraordinarily powerful yet doesnâ€™t descend into uncouthness, instead delivering a wonderfully warming type of power thatâ€™s very addictive.
Alpina has gone to huge effort in overhauling the suspension to give the B5 B-Turbo a smoother ride than an M car. To good effect. Itâ€™s exceptionally comfortable by super-saloon standards over even the roughest of roads, proving undemanding and more than able to deal with anything the worst of British roads throws at it.
This, along with the engineâ€™s considerable power, soon has you driving at extraordinary speeds without thinking about it. The natural gait of this car is way in excess of anything we mere mortals usually encounter, and itâ€™s only when you start pressing on beyond eight-tenths that it begins to float and flap a bit more than the sportier M5. By then, youâ€™ll be well into three figures.
One option we would advise ticking is the Â£1400 high-performance brake option. Theyâ€™re a bit noisier than the standard anchors, but so fast is this car, youâ€™ll probably be grateful for them sooner rather than later.
The slower you go, the more admirers will be able to soak up the beautifully demure presence afforded by the Â£2200 Alpina Green paint with gold decals. It makes an M5 look ordinary, and the interior is similarly satisfying with soft leather, blue and green Alpina details and a numbered plaque behind the iDrive controller. Again, it trades the firmer sportiness of an M5 for something very comfortable over long-distance drives.
What we have here is an immense super-saloon. You could still choose a Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic, or BMWâ€™s own M5. But the B5 has a richer, more exclusive, more cultured nature thatâ€™s hard to resist. It will be extremely rare, and is so totally at ease with what it is (without trying to be something else), weâ€™ll deeply envy the 100 or so people lucky enough to own one. Theyâ€™ll be getting something quite exceptional.