Gourmet Traveller

Who is BMW ALPINA? ALPINA was founded in 1965 and they are a family-owned company headed by Burkard, Andreas and Florian Bovensiepen. The team of approximately 270 employees engineer and produce high-end automobiles based on BMW models. They build a small number of cars (between 1,200-1,700 per year) for automotive gourmets the world over. The BMW ALPINA B5 Bi-Turbo is one four BMW ALPINA models that are currently imported into Australia and sold exclusively through a small number of BMW Dealers.

You could think of ALPINA like a fine wine merchant, they take something great and make it even better.  It is fitting then that the other arm of the ALPINA company sells high-end wines. In honour of the BMW ALPINA B5 I recently spent a week with, we took the family on a tour of the Hunter Valley wine region, which is located just north of Sydney via one of the best driving roads in NSW.

The ALPINA B5 has a 4.4 litre bi-turbo V8 with the turbos located within the V of the engine in what is known as a Hot V configuration. This special engine produces 447kW and a massive 800Nm of torque and this combined with the ALPINA-tuned BMW xDrive AWD system can propel you from 0-100km/h in just 3.5 seconds! Only 0.1 second slower than the Ferrari GTC4Lusso I drove not long ago. Official combined fuel consumption is 10.5L/100km and I achieved 12.1L/100km and considering that I drove for the majority of my time in Sport mode chasing those crazy acceleration figures that is not a bad number at all.

There are four drive modes to choose from as part of the adaptive ALPINA Sports Suspension fitted to the B5; Comfort, Eco, Sport and Adaptive that changes according to your driving style. But in reality Sport mode is so comfortable that you can just spend all of your time driving around in that selection. The suspension is not too harsh going over bumps and then it hunkers down when you are pushing hard through the corners and there is essentially no oversteer at all. When you do switch to comfort mode even the seats soften up and then when you transfer back to Sport mode the seats grab hold of you again, which is a weird sensation.

The engine power is transferred via an 8-speed Sports Automatic ALPINA SWITCH-TRONIC gearbox. You can change gears ‘manually’ in the B5 using the steering wheel mounted ‘buttons’ behind the steering wheel, but these can be hard to locate when you thinking about other things like turning and braking. The ALPINA is too classy for elements like steering wheel mounted levers for shifting gear, this is a refined car after all and so should be driven with this is mind.

One thing the B5 does not do is make a lot of noise, the ALPINA exhaust system made by Akrapvic in stainless steel with double-ended tailpipes is the literal definition of “speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far.” And there is no ‘noisy-exhaust’ button to press to change this and for some this may be a little disappointing.

But as a driver you will certainly not be disappointed the beautiful Nappa leather seats with piped contrasting and ALPINA embossing because they are adjustable in every way imaginable. Even the headrest can go forward and back as well as up and down and the seats have two-way adjustable back rests. By which I mean the top half of the seat back can be adjusted independently of the bottom half and once you have found that perfect position you can either hit save one of the two seat memory buttons. Or when you adjust your seat an image of the seat comes up on the screen so you can see what element of the seat you are changing, something I thought was a very good feature as sometimes you may not be sure what button you are actually pressing when blindly fiddling with the seat controls!

Both the front and rear seats are heated and the front seats have cooling also, but I didn’t think the cooling worked as well as that in the Lusso. The lovely soft leather steering wheel is also heated for those cold winter mornings.

The interior of the ALPINA B5 is a very special place to have the privilege to be and you are reminded of this by the individual production plaque fitted near the gear lever with an ALPINA specific VIN and vehicle number. The gloss black surrounds are elegant, but do attract dust and finger marks so be sure to carry a microfibre cloth in the car to keep them clean. The driver also gets a full digital dash that is configurable to suit your individual preference as is the head up display.

The main screen gives you access to the sat nav, media and phone options, but the B5 does not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and only comes with in-built vehicle apps like weather, news and Wiki local. My B5 was fitted with the optional TV function and even though this is not visible while the vehicle is in motion it is still good to have if you are waiting around in the car and you need something to occupy the childen.

The reversing camera system fitted on the B5 is one of the most advanced that I have ever seen. Like the BMWs I drove earlier this year the front and rear cameras ‘look down’ when they approach an obstacle so you can see what is directly in front or behind the car, but on the B5 the cameras also flicked between views as I was manoeuvring into a parking space and one view is like looking down the side of the car, it’s hard to explain but really cool and something that you should check out when you are test driving the B5.

The rear seats are just as comfortable as the fronts for adults and children. Rear passengers have individual climate control, with central air vents and B-pillar vents, and two 12V outlets. The B5 has two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points and my B5 had the optional roller blinds fitted on both the back window and side windows and if you had a small child in the car you would appreciate these very much. There is a fold down centre arm rest and it has a beautifully engineered drink holder mechanism that folds out of the end.

The boot of the ALPINA B5 is huge and if you were taking the family away for a weekend, maybe to somewhere like the Hunter Valley, then you would have no problem fitting in all of those extra items required for children like blankies and multiple toy options to keep them occupied while you are trying to enjoy a relaxing meal.

While in the Hunter Valley we enjoyed lunch at the Oishii Japanese restaurant and then gelato for dessert from the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese shop which is next door in the Roche Estate complex (not a sponsored plug, these are just really great places that we visit every time we go to the Hunter Valley). There was no time for any wine tasting on this trip, but there are plenty of cellar doors you can sample while you are visiting the Hunter Valley, but remember never drink and drive.

There are many active safety features fitted to ALPINA B5 and like other BMWs these can be configured. These features include Pedestrian Alert, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Warning both with or without steering intervention, and Side Collision Warning. The system also has Speed Sign recognition as well and this works very well and even knows the times that schools zones are in operation and adapts accordingly.

The ALPINA B5 is differentiated from the BMW M5 through a number of styling cues including ALPINA door sills, 20” ALPINA classic forged alloy wheels, pin striping down the side of the car, rear valance and front spoiler, which really is quite low to the ground. All of this really makes the B5 look menacing, particularly when they are paired with the Black Sapphire metallic paint on my B5. As tested the BMW ALPINA B5 Bi-turbo cost $240,349 including on-road costs, expensive yes but the gourmet delights that we enjoy consuming usually are.

I really appreciate quality food, quality wine and quality cars and so the BMW ALPINA B5 is a near perfect car for a Petrol Mum like me; it’s fast, luxurious and safe. The styling is understated, but from car connoisseurs in the know you will receive an acknowledging smile or nod if they see you getting out of this chef-d’oeuvre. Don’t believe me as to how good a four door family sedan can actually get? Well I suggest you visit your nearest BMW ALPINA dealer and find out for yourself.

Pros Cons
Powerful V8 engine Lack of exhaust noise
Excellent suspension No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
High quality interior Low front spoiler

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.