The B-5 Touring ‘Stratowagon’

To the untrained eye the BMW ALPINA B5 BITURBO Touring is simply a good looking wagon with a BMW badge. But what lies beneath are layers of detail that make this one of the most dynamic vehicles currently on the market in Australia today.

The B5 Touring is a stealthy vehicle that doesn’t shout about its performance capabilities. The ‘hot V’ bi-turbocharged V8 engine has potent acceleration that’s just a small shove of your right foot away whenever the mood takes you, but for the rest of time the B5 will happily mooch along doing the suburban crawl.

The engine produces a massive 447kW (608hp) at 5,750-6,250rpm and a torque figure matched by few other cars currently on sale in Australia today of 800Nm between 3,000-5,000rpm. Thanks to all-wheel drive all of this power is transferred to the road in the real-world and will blast you to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 332km/h (206mph) – no speed limiting here thank you very much! That’s a family station wagon as quick as an Aston Martin DB11 AMR with near identical top speeds, crazy stuff.

But it’s probably best to curve your enthusiasm on the loud pedal unless you want to be filling up every 450km or so. The official combined fuel consumption is 10.8L/100km and for my week I used 14.9L/100km. This is 2.8L/100km more than the B5 Sedan I drove last year and to be honest the figure surprised me as I did a lot more spirited driving in the Sedan compared to the Touring.

In reality though you are not going to be blasting this supercar-killing family wagon around a race track, instead it will spend most of its time doing what its name suggests, Touring. This B5 will effortlessly consume miles like few others and with an interior that cossets the driver from the harsh realities of the outside world. On smooth roads the cabin is quiet, but you do get some road noise on our rough Australian roads and some exhaust noise when you put your foot down to overtake slower vehicles.

There are four drive modes to choose from Eco-pro, Comfort (in Standard or Plus for extra comfort), Sport comes in Standard, Plus for an extra Dynamic setting or Individual (you can configure Damping and Steering between Comfort and Sport and Steering and Engine between Sport Plus, Sport and Comfort). Or you can opt for Adaptive and the car will select the best mode for your current driving style. But regardless of the mode chosen the damping on the B5 keeps the ride very comfortable and not harsh at all.

The standard Nappa leather seats and optional leather dash ($2,243) make the cabin smell sumptuous. The smell of the interior of a car is one of the most important things I notice when I first get in and the B5 is up there as one of the best I have experienced. The front seats are soft and comfortable with electronic adjustment in every direction possible. There are two memory positions for driver and passenger seats, which allows you and your other half to both set your ideal seating position. Unlike the B5 sedan I previously drove the front seats were only heated and not cooled.

The leather steering wheel is lovely to hold, the right thickness, heated ($449 option) and has easy to use controls. The B5 Touring is too mature to have ‘flappy paddles’ instead you get buttons behind the steering wheel if you want to manually change gears through the 8-Speed Sport-Automatic ZF SWITCH-TRONIC transmission. The digital driver’s dash changes colour according to the drive mode you are in and in Sport mode the highlights are green to match the blue and green stitching on the steering wheel.

The gloss black trim across the dash and on the centre console looks good, but it attracts dust and finger prints. So you will need to keep a microfibre cloth for dusting in the storage cubby under the broad leather arm rest. Here you will find one 12V outlet and one USB port. At the front of the centre console under the sliding cover are two cup holders, another 12V outlet and USB port and wireless phone charging for compatible devices.

The BMW ALPINAs use the previous generation BMW infotainment system, but B5 Touring had a couple of features I have not seen on any car before. The Apple CarPlay connected to the B5 without a cord via the Bluetooth connection. Also you can have a primary and secondary phone connected to the system and you are able to still make and receive calls on the secondary phone. One of the built in apps includes Amazon Alexa and the weather forecast changes as you travel through different locations.

Voice control works well for making phone calls, changing media and setting a destination on the sat nav. Your media options include DAB/DMB, AM/FM, Onboard storage, CD/DVD, Bluetooth and USB that can be enjoyed on a Harmon Kardon stereo which has a Logic 7 surround sound and provides excellent listening quality.

The rear seats are comfortable and will easily accommodate two adults with ample head and leg room. Rear passengers get heated seats, two 12V outlets and individual temperature and air speed control and there are three-way vents under the front seats, centre console and B-pillar with mode control. There are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but you are not going to fit three car seats across the back. The centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two drink holders at the front and there is additional drink bottle storage in the door cubbies. Also great are the blinds and blacked out rear windows to hide your munchkins and the mess they can make away from the outside world.

The boot in the B5 Touring is larger than many mid-sized SUVs. It has gesture open and close so you can shut the boot when you have your hands full of shopping bags or the children can close it even when they can’t reach the button. Another very clever feature is the boot cover is powered, so when you open the boot it lifts up out of the way and when you close the boot it goes down automatically. I like this because I have been caught before not putting the boot cover down and when I headed off and looked out the rear view mirror and I couldn’t see out.

Also there is a cargo net neatly stored like a rollaway blind just behind the rear seats and it can be pulled up and secured if needed. The net can also be removed and secured behind the front seats if you have the rear seats lowered down for carrying large items. The rear seats are folded down using a button in the boot or on the shoulder of the rear seats and are manually lifted up and locked into place.

There is no spare tyre only a run flat kit, but when you lift the boot floor to access this there is a gas strut to hold the cover up and there is space here to store flat items and another storage area under the floor in front of this. Word of warning though, if you are going to throw the B5 Touring through the corners you need to consider how you pack things in the boot or they will be spread everywhere when you reach your destination.

Safety features on the B5 Touring include the excellent 360o camera with the clever BMW ‘look down’ features. The B5 also has pedestrian alert, collision warning, lane departure warning with or without steering intervention, lane change warning with or without steering intervention and side collision warning. The adaptive cruise control with an active steering system is on among the best I have used on any vehicle. When you change lanes the system automatically re-engages for you and it keeps the car centred in the lane. The B5 Touring has front, side and head airbags, for driver and passenger.

All BMW ALPINA Automobiles have a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The B5 Touring also comes with a complimentary three year/100,000km Basic Service Inclusive program. Then if the customer wishes to continue with the BSI program, they then pay $1,850 at the end of the three years to get a further five year/80,000km package. Other packages are also available, depending on what the customer wishes to do. Servicing is condition based so there is no fixed interval and the on-board system within the B5 advises on the digital display that a service is due in X kilometres.

My B5 Touring was bathed in Black Sapphire Metallic paint, a no cost option, and this colour makes the wagon look even more stunning, but at the same time it needs to be regularly washed to keep it looking its best. The 20” ALPINA wheels are really nice to look at and frame the ALPINA brakes perfectly, but they are fiddly to clean as you can’t get your hand in to do a good job.

The BMW ALPINA B5 BITURBO Touring is a classy executive wagon and its impressive layers are many; you get the practicality of an SUV with the performance driving experience of a powerful sedan. Prices start at $217,000 plus on-road costs and as tested my B5 Touring was $220,842 plus on-roads. Visit your nearest BMW ALPINA dealer to test drive this multi-faceted wagon for yourself.

Pros Cons
Large and practical boot Gloss black dash/centre console attracts dust and finger marks
Powerful V8 engine and all-wheel drive The wheels are hard to clean
It’s a ‘sleeper’ Limited dealer network

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.