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Old Codger

Alpina B5 Bi Turbo, I really wanted one.

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Common sense and parsimony went out the widow, the nagging don’t do it voice in the back of my head got ignored, my friends “what for?” my wife’s “why?” my own doubts and wavering’s ignored.


I went and made a Faustian pact with the dealership.


Yep, 50 years up and the bucket list is one item less. The wallet is literally penniless but “hey” the devil may care; perhaps.


Sure, it could have been a dolly bird, it could have been a facelift with hair transplant in Turkey, it could have been a rag top, gym classes and personality transplant.  But no, what have I done? I bought a bloody estate car instead!


Sophisto grey with white leather interior, 8600 miles on the clock and looks to die for, a B5 Biturbo Touring number 336.


In fairness I’m a practical sort of chap, so the need to transport oversized, odd shaped heavy items occurs on a fairly regular basis. Not frequently enough to warrant a van but often enough to be problematic.  Answer? An estate car. Drives better than an SUV, looks better than most SUV’s, and arguably, more environmentally responsible than an SUV.

The commute mobile is a G31 530D Xdrive Touring.  A superbly competent, comfortable, barge of a car. I love it unrequitedly, it does everything I ask of it smoothly, economically with unfussed haste and tenacious road holding abilities if pressed.


Now, whilst unfussed haste is a great attribute, it doesn’t necessarily equate to pin sharp handling, rip snorting acceleration and the subsequent miles of smiles lots of galloping horses can bring. To achieve those attributes, one usually requires a “sports car”.


Audi, VW, BMW and many more makes besides, loads of choice. RS, R, ST, Nismo, M cars etc, etc. All offer the dream of high performance, sporting cool augmented by humungous alloys, bolt on aerofoils, edgy styling, sport seats and filling loosening suspension. To the older eye they can look a bit, dare I say it, “blingy”. I’m not suggesting they’re not great drives or good cars, it’s just they tend to shout, “Look at me!” I have always preferred automotive understatement in the form of a sleeper or Q car.

Alpina seem to have become a bit of an under the radar manufacturer with a “take a good car and make it better” type philosophy. Cruisers not bruisers that don’t tread on the M brands toes. That was the appeal of the B5. The 530d is great, it really is, I just wanted something that bit quicker. I could not see myself living with an M5 or M3 day in day out. Too much of a dog constantly pulling at it’s lead or skitty mare that want’s to gallop everywhere and alas not in estate form.


So? You ask, what do I think to my acquisition? Time will tell but 2 days in 300 miles and a tank of V power later I’m impressed.  The car is wonderfully put together, I commented in a previous post Alpina used the skin from virgins thighs instead of leather. It is sumptuous, the seats adjust in every possible plane, they heat, they cool, they massage. The number of toys is ridiculous, the tyre pressure monitor even gives the temperatures, the list just goes on.  The idrive system is what I’m used to but there’s a lot more in the menus. Comfort Eco and Sport settings with adaptive and comfort plus additions. The adaptive setting is wicked, the car senses driver inputs, knows the road from the GPS and seamlessly tweaks the suspension and I think the throttle response and steering to suit. Whatever it does, it works magically.

Compared to the 530 there is far less body roll, the pot holed road seems quite remote, but you feel planted, the steering is more direct and responsive and the brakes sharper. Headlights are like antiaircraft search lights and something I really like is the HUD tells me up and coming speed limits displaying the digits in red if I exceed them. Seems all the extra BMW packs came as standard.

From a cold start the fuel consumption is horrendous. The digits drop like stones. Seems to need about 2 miles to warm up before the rate of decent stabilises. It is a pussy cat to drive, once seated and buckled up you put it in D and off you go, your grandmother could cope.  The throttle travel is so well worked out and weighted, normal pressure required and quite long travel, car slowly picks up speed and at around 1200 rpm goes up an imperceptible gear. So easy in traffic.


If you want to be Mr Angry, nailing the pedal down is not the best way, there is a bit of lag before much happens, it happens for sure but the car seems to want to use torque as it’s first option.  The trick is to use the paddles, drop to a suitable gear at 3500 rpm and then press. Oh my God! The nose gently lifts, the engine note drops a couple of octaves, your face feels like it’s being torn off, your eyeballs push against the sockets while the horizon comes tearing towards you at an ever increasing and unremitting rate. Lift your foot, touch the brake and the 2.2 tonne missile slows effortlessly.

You could hooli it if you felt so inclined, you could make an M5 competition work for a living, you could probably see off an RS6, AMG63 or GTR from the quiet comfort and serenity that is the B5 cockpit but that’s not the point of this car.  It is world of calm refinement and effortless propulsion. It actually makes you aspire to be a better driver, anticipate more, leave bigger gaps, read the bends, watch the signboards, be more aware, there’s no need to “chance” anything. As you chill in that cockpit, isolated and unfussed by frantic surroundings you reflect that to drive a machine of such capability is both a responsibility and immense pleasure.

Maybe it’s the knowledge you have colossal reserves of power that does it, or maybe that the road holding is other worldly, whatever it’s secret, it is the most phenomenal blend of craftsmanship and engineering I’ve ever had the privilege to own.

Perhaps I should debadge the boot and remove those stripes after all.

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Hi OC,


A fantastic writeup and great to read!


We used to have a Techno Violet E46 B3S in the family fleet some years back and whilst it was nice, I was a bit underwhelmed by it. For me, it shared that similar to an M3 characteristic of needing to rev up the range to get to the performance. That felt 'screamy' and 'shouty' which wasn't what I'd have wanted in a 3 series variant.  A mate also some years back used to have an E39 V8S Touring and that was lovely and more of what I'd prefer in terms of the feel of a car, much more restrained yet fantastic propulsion without the 'screamy' characteristic! 

I think with the later Turbo charged engines, Alpina's have now got that performance level into the ultra fast and yet wonderfully refined characteristic and which, seemingly is what you've encapsulated in your initial review ! 


I do like/appreciate M cars too, so a perfect combination for me would be an Alpina and an M of the 5 series derivation ! 


I also can't resist modifying and tweaking, so if I was to pick up the same example as you have, it'd have to be a custom set of forged 3 piece wheels and in a very Alpina'esque design. So it's going to be bit of a wrestle for you it seems to de-badge & de-stripe it.. or not !  


Look forward to your updates and reviews over time 


Cheers, Dennis!

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Great write up, great car.


The bigger Alpina estates have always been rare on the roads in the UK but arguably the best all round car of the Alpina range.


Enjoy just how special it is.

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Good on you - looks stunning, love the colour. Sounds like you're enjoying it so far - long may that continue :)

I would love to indulge to scratch my 'pina itch. Closest I got was a set of Softlines on my old E39. One day...

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