m i d d l e
e a s t
e d i t i o n
exquisite luxury, Awesome speed
BMW B MW ALPINA ALPINA
BITURBO BITURBO CO COUP CO COUPÉ OUPÉ UPÉ UPÉ UP
Mark of distinction
CAR Middle East Registered at Dubai Media City ITP Consumer Publishing, PO Box 500024, Dubai, UAE Tel: +971 4 210 8000 Fax: +971 4 210 8080 Email us at: CAR@itp.com Subscribe: +971 4 286 8559 www.itp.net/subscription ITP CONSUMER PUBLISHING CEO Walid Akawi Managing director Neil Davies Deputy managing director Ali Akawi editorial Editor Shahzad Sheikh firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant editor Tom Bird email@example.com Contributing editors Noel Ebdon, Fraser Martin ART Group art editor Christine Burrows Senior designer Paul Brandist Designer Kate Scott Photography head Sevag Davidian Chief photographer Nemanja Seslija PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION Group production manager Kyle Smith Deputy production manager Tianna Rounds Production co-ordinator Tyron Webster +971 4 210 8352 firstname.lastname@example.org Picture desk manager Patrick Littlejohn General manager - regional distribution Shaded Ali Shaded email@example.com Distribution manager Karima Ghamlouch firstname.lastname@example.org Distribution executive Nada Al Alami email@example.com
WAS TEN-YEARS OLD WHEN ALPINA went beyond the realms of a tuner and became a manufacturer. Of its three pioneering in-house developments released that year in 1978, the B6 2.8, B7 Turbo and B7 Turbo Coupe, it was the last one that captivated me. The shark-nose shape of the BMW 6-series had already captured my imagination, not least because most youngsters at the time were gripped in Jaws-mania (thanks for the nightmares Spielberg!), so what could be cooler than a man-eater motor that could snap at other road users too slow to get out of its way? Then came the Alpina with its jutting front spoiler and those sensational Alpina stripes down the side. Say what you like, at the time the graphics were the epitome of cool, and labelled the blue shark as the ultimate example of the 6-series as far as I was concerned. Looking at archive pictures of it today, I have to confess, I still want one.
ADVERTISIng Advertising director Francis Morgan +971 4 210 8216 firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising manager Sheryl Claridge +971 4 210 8103 email@example.com MARKETING & CIRCULATION Marketing director Sue Holt +971 4 210 8256 firstname.lastname@example.org Brand manager Kate Chapman +971 4 210 8351 email@example.com Retail manager James Rawlins +971 4 210 8116 firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation manager Vanessa D’Souza +971 4 210 8136 email@example.com ITP DIGITAL Director Peter Conmy Sales manager Richard O’Sullivan +971 4 210 8548 ITP Group Chairman Andrew Neil Managing director Robert Serafin Finance director Toby Jay Spencer-Davies Board of directors K M Jamieson, Mike Bayman, Walid Akawi, Neil Davies, Rob Corder, Mary Serafin Published by ITP Consumer Publishing, a division of ITP Publishing Group Ltd. Registered in the BVI Company Number 1402846 © 2008 BAUER Automotive Ltd. CAR INTERNATIONAL CAR Magazine is published in the UK, Greece, India, Mexico, Middle East, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. The publishers regret that they cannot accept liability for error or omissions contained in this publication, however caused. The opinions and views contained in this publication are not necessarily those of the publishers. Readers are advised to seek specialist advice before acting on information contained in this publication which is provided for general use and may not be appropriate for the readers particular circumstances. The ownership of trademarks is acknowledged. No part of this publication or any part of the contents thereof may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without the permission of the publishers in writing. An exemption is hereby granted for extracts used for the purpose of fair review. Printing Emirates Printing Press Dubai L.L.C.
02 THE FAMILY WAY We speak with the man who has lead Alpina for over forty years 06
TO BE OR NOT TO BE We pitch the 355bhp B3 Bi-Turbo against the 523bhp B5 in an exclusive Middle East twin test
TO THE POWER OF SIX The B6S is a cruiser and a bruiser
BUSINESS AT 300KPH The limo for the executive in a serious hurry
MAKING IT DIFFERENT We cherry-pick the best Alpinas from the past forty years
HAND CRAFTED Behind the scenes of the factory
But from its humble beginnings in which founder Bovensiepen simply bolted on Weber carbs to wimpy engines, to its current 1500 performance and luxury cars a year production run, Alpina has evolved into a brand that still represents the ultimate BMW. Owning an Alpina immediately marks its driver out as a person of distinction, taste and maverick choices. Stylish sophistication and sensational speed are part of the Alpina package, but not without painstaking attention to detail. This small firm roadtests cars at speeds of up to 300kph, and then fires a cannon of air into the side to ensure high speed stability – and you thought test drivers had the best job in the world! At the other end of the scale they can line even the button that adjusts the mirrors with a layer of some of the finest leather you’ll ever find in an automobile – if you want them to. The self-proclaimed manufacturer of exclusive automobiles, claims it makes BMWs ‘different’, I say it makes BMWs of distinction. Shahzad Sheikh, editor
Photography Cliff Serna
INTERVIEW BURKARD BOVENSIEPEN
The Family Way
Burkard Bovensiepen founded Alpina over forty years ago, but is still very much involved in the company. Tom Bird meets him
IN AN INDUSTRY WHERE CEOS AND BOARD MEMBERS change their brand allegiances more often than they buy a new suit, Alpina’s Burkard Bovensiepen is a maverick. Not only did he start up Alpina in 1965, but he still runs the company today. Tellingly, he doesn’t have a job title on his business card. Bovensiepen is Alpina. Now 71, Bovensiepen has yet to take retirement, and although his sons Andy and Florian have taken over the day-to-day running of the company, Bovensiepen senior is still involved in the technical and design sides of the business, and has a successful sideline dealing in fine wines. FATHER OF ALPINA He’s a characterful softly spoken man, with excellent The young Bovensiepen English, who cracks into laughter as he recounts his studied Mechanical Engineering and Business years at the helm of the self-acclaimed manufacturer Administration – both of of ‘fine automobiles for the connoisseur’. But how which have put him in good stead at the helm of did he get into the car business? Alpina. His two sons, ‘I’ve been interested in cars from my childhood, Andreas and Florian are both heavily involved in reading everything I could about cars, by the age of the business about 23 I knew a lot about cars. My father had a typewriter company, which I wasn’t interested in at all. I was interested in cars. Around this time there was a lot of tuning companies – some were worse than others, with some you got a lot of power, but you got more or less nothing for your money – other than problems!’
In 1959, Herbert Quandt saved BMW from bankruptcy and a near-merger with DaimlerBenz by increasing his share in the company to 50 percent, giving the company the cash injection to launch the 1500 – the first of the New Class of BMWs which were designed to be sold in large volumes. ‘This was what BMW needed, a modern car with a modern four-cylinder engine. There was lots of space around the engine, and just one small carburettor for all four cylinders. But I thought if you were to fit this car with dual Weber carburettors you should have a lot more power, and a better revving engine. So I did. And it worked.’ The result impressed BMW so much that the company gave Alpina its full backing, and offered a guarantee on the system when fitted to any 1500: ‘This was the beginning of Alpina.’ This dovetailed guarantee between Alpina cars and BMW remains strong today. But the unique relationship that Alpina has with BMW hasn’t always been rosy. ‘Back in the early ’70s, Bob Lutz – now Vice President of GM – was the sales director at BMW. We didn’t have a good relationship with him, I don’t know why, maybe he thought that BMW didn’t need Alpina, so the relationship was not very good.’ During his time at BMW, Lutz was the man responsible for starting BMW Motorsport – now BMW’s M Division. ‘The Director of M said to me “either you do what BMW wants to be done, or you won’t be with BMW for much longer”. This lasted for two or three years, but then he left, and we’re still here today!’ Outsiders may see that M and Alpina are in direct competition with each other, not least because their cars target the same buyers. Bovensiepen disagrees: ‘Our relationship with BMW is very good, the M3 for example is more on the sporty side – we have a product (B3 Bi-Turbo) more on the luxury side, there are no problems.’ ‘We are a very small automobile manufacturer, but we have a number of people who understand a lot about cars. Making a car is always a matter of packaging – the package is the most important element of an Alpina.’
APRIL 2008 03
INTERVIEW BURKARD BOVENSIEPEN
IN THE BLOOD Before taking charge of Alpina in 2002, Andreas Bovensiepen spent seven years at BMW. During his time there, he worked on the Z8 and current 3-series. He’s also an endurance racer, winning the 24hrs of the Nurburgring in a BMW 320d in 1998
‘We try to always have the feeling of driving a light car, whether it’s big or small. It should always feel very light, very familiar, very easy to handle. But an Alpina is also the most economical, I’ve been a freak for forty years for saving fuel, so that is a very important aspect of Alpina.’ Indeed, if you compare the Alpina B6 S against the BMW M6 you’ll find that the Alpina is massively more economical, using 12.3litres per 100km against the M6’s 14.9litres, even though it’s got an extra 23bhp and a higher top speed.
‘We ONLY WONDER wHY OTHERS ARE Not BETTER’ ‘It’s not difficult to create good products. But we don’t have the feeling that we are the best, we only sometime wonder why other companies are not better!’ With over sixty different models wearing the Alpina badge having left the gates of the small factory based in the sleepy Bavarian town of Buchloe, choosing a favourite isn’t easy. ‘A car which nowadays still feels very modern and drives very well is the B10 Bi-Turbo, which we finished producing in 1995. The late Paul Frère said “this is the best four-door saloon in the world”, that was okay.’ Bovensiepen chuckles: ‘it was based on the 5-series with 360bhp – we have the last one, and it still feels absolutely up to date, makes a drive a lot of fun.’ ‘For me, a car must give a lot of fun, when you get into the car everything must be in the right position, the handling must be good and the car must be intelligent.’ But there must be some regrets or missed opportunities in the past forty years? ‘No regrets, perhaps it was a mistake to only
produce 550 Alpina Roadster V8s instead of 555. But when we make limited editions we always produce not enough of them, but that’s the charm of limited editions.’ Last year, Alpina sold just under 1500 cars worldwide – a drop in the ocean compared to BMW which sold over 1.2million in the same period, but Alpina likes to play on the exclusivity card. Only a handful of cars have been sold in the Middle East – even less than Rolls-Royce. ‘I think that for the next five years, 1500 cars a year will be the limit, then we shall see. We have space to expand if it is necessary, but we don’t have the intention to grow a lot. Being a niche brand is important to us.’ Being small allows Alpina to build strong relationships with its customers – many of whom are repeat buyers. ‘I like Alpina to produce some of the best cars in the world, that is our target. We are not producing just any car, we are producing very special cars. We know that, and we want this to continue.’
04 APRIL 2008
YOUNG BUCK The youngest of Bovensiepen’s sons, Florian, is purchasing manager. Away from the family, Alpina employs over 180 people at its small factory in German Bavaria
BMW B MW ALPINA ALPINA
B5S SA SALO SA SALOON ALOON ALO LO LOON LO OO ON ON
PERFORMANCE TEST GREATEST CARS OF 2007
Photography Jorge Ferrari
TO BE OR NOT TO BE B5 S or B3 Bi-Turbo? Shahzad Sheikh examines which Alpina makes for the best daily driver on Middle East roads
06 APRIL 2008
GREATEST B5 SCARS vs B3 BI-TURBO OF 2007 PERFORMANCE TWIN TEST ALPINA
APRIL 2008 07
TWIN TEST ALPINA B5 S vs B3 BI-TURBO
DIrectly in front, the driver of the silver 5-series plants the throttle. The big V8 barks and angrily gargles on something that must be very bitter but extremely potent. The silence is duly shattered by the intimidating hollow-metallic roar resonating off the rock-faces flanking the road, accompanied by a top note shriek from the blower high enough to put dogs into heat. Overcoming slippage, the rear boots dig in and the luxury saloon leaps lithely off its launch pad. Moments later it’s as if our two cars are attached by a bungee rope as my white 3-series coupe reels in its bigger brother. The smaller Alpina is aurally less meaty, smoother but more frenetic. Appropriately its advance is frenzied, instant and unwavering. The B3 Bi-Turbo Coupe conveys quickness and alacrity despite being two-tenths slower to 100kph, and down 32kph STRIPED LINES on top speed compared to the B5 S. Shunning Alpina’s Earlier in the day when it pulled up at our rendezvous point for traditional blue and green, our two Dubaithis exclusive Middle East meeting of perhaps two of the most registered test cars, real-world offerings in Alpina’s line-up, it soaked up the limelight from AGMC, were resplendent in white The 335i-based B3 is better still in everyway. We’ve marvelled with confidence. Already a cool-looking coupe, the quad rear tailpipes and silver. Discreet at the aesthetics already, but of course there is more to it. poking meaningfully through its rear skirt, slim boot lid spoiler, Alpina body-tattoos deeper chin with honey-comb mesh, and ever so subtle silver-grey were suitably subtle It produces 355bhp from 5500rpm and 369lb ft of torque between 3800-5000rpm, with 294lb ft from just 1300rpm. This compares Alpina pin-striping just seals the deal. It’s new and perceived by many to be the biggest threat yet to the mighty BMW M3 – a close with 306bhp and 295lb ft peak torque for the 335i. The M3 has relation obviously. The B5 S would have to wait, my first sampling of Alpina a similar torque figure, but its V8 has 414bhp at a stratospheric 8300rpm. after too many years would be the B3. All this translates to a 0-100 time for the B3 of 4.8 (which we verified) that Meandering through the traffic of Dubai and Sharjah out towards the easily sees off the 5.5 of the 335i and equals the M3’s time. And the Alpina East Coast, there is time to take in the unusual opulence and quality of the is not limited to 250kph, so you could see 285kph on the traditional redBi-Turbo, a welcome relief after the mostly insipid business-like interior needled dials. If it wasn’t for the $8k price premium over the M, the choice trims of most blue-and-white propeller-badged Threes. Rich Lavalina leather would be a no-brainer. Alpina spent a year refining the engine-mapping to make best use of the and burled elm dominate the cabin, giving it newfound warmth. The steering wheel is unique, comes with traditional blue and green Alpina modern direct injection system and inserted tough Mahle pistons to bring stitching, and a much better solution to the BeeEm standard issue awkward- maximum boost up to 1.1 bar. The Switch-Tronic sequential has been looking plasticky paddle shifters, moulded around the spokes. Instead it electronically configured to respond quicker every time you squeeze either has raised rubberised nodules on the back that act as buttons. An Alpina of the mammillae behind the steering spokes and the suspension set-up logo in the middle is copied around the cabin, replicated on the seat backs, from the 335i Sport has been retained. in the carpet and even sunk into the wood lacquer. But none of the technical alchemy is apparent as you trundle along – quite The 335i Coupe is one of our favourite cars. For around $68,000 it’s so frankly you could be cruising in a very well-specced 320i. It really is that good it makes you question why you’d pay an extra $17k for the showy M3. docile and easy to drive. The firm but surprisingly supple ride has none of the crashiness of something overtly sporty thanks in part to the ditching of run-flat tyres. Uninformed passengers will never guess that you go 911-baiting on Friday nights. As the traffic cleared that first tentative prod of the accelerator pedal THINK TWICE elicited a verbal response that began with ‘holy’ and ended in profanity, BMW 335i Coupe with an audible crick from the neck and beads of sweat just below the upon which the B3 is based, is already a hairline. To say that it’s take-your-breath-away quick is not overstatement. firm CAR Middle East But what truly leaves you aghast is the way it delivers the goods. It’s like favourite. Alpina version raises the flicking a switch, the ensuing torque unrelenting right up to 7000rpm. performance and Press and hold the DTC for lurid tail-out antics, but only if you really luxury bar. So, still want that M3? provoke it. Even with the aids off the car is precise and predictable with great grip and poise and a fantastically responsive, appropriately weighty and remarkably feelsome helm. Throwing it hard over an undulating corner saw the rear lift and wander just a little but it’s testimony to the car’s inherent ability that you’d push it that hard with faith in the first place. Besides stiffening it any further would spoil the comfy daily driver ride.4
08 APRIL 2008
PERFORMANCE TEST GREATEST CARS OF 2007
A close relation, The B3 is Perceived to be the biggest threat to the M3 yet
1 NOT A 335i Most 3-series interiors are business-like, but Alpina adds warmth, appeal and character with its own selection of quality wood and leather trimmings, bespoke steering wheel and not-so-discreet badging everywhere 2 NAME CALLING Current generation of Alpina models use the number designation to indicate which BMW model range the car is based on. So a B5 S is based on the 5-series and so on. Previously it wasn’t so obvious...
3 BADGE ENVY You’ll fine BMW badges on the bonnet and boot lid, but Alpina makes up for that with it’s own roundel placed everywhere else. It’s not the family shield though, it depicts a
crankshaft and two intake trumpets 4 BLOWER It may say ‘super charged’ on the B5 S model’s engine cover, but Alpina has created its own blower, which combines the best of both turbo and supercharging
5 GO-FASTER Rather than stripey decals, these traditional Alpina add-ons might be better termed as stick-on coach lines 6 NO WOOD? B5 S normally comes with myrte wood trim, but our test car had brushed alloy. Alpina’s are taken from BMW assembly lines nearly finished, and the final work is done by hand at Buchloe, so your Alpina can be individualised to your personal taste
PERFORMANCE TEST GREATEST CARS OF 2007
UITABLY ENAMOURED, IT’S TIME TO SWAP CARS AND immediately refinement and comfort ascends a couple of levels. The B5 S (the ‘S’ denoting the newer, more powerful evolution of the B5 with power up 30bhp and an extra 18lb ft of torque) is quicker than the B3 despite its extra heft. But the sense of speed isn’t as intense or thrilling. Our car was doing 0-100s in five seconds and not the 4.6 claimed, but that could be due to the slightly protracted first to second shift under full bore in this particular example. It is fast, make no mistake, but it’s the style and character of the more mature motor that appeals. The B5 S reminds you that you’ve earned success in your life and deserve to reap the benefits. So the nicer interior trim, bespoke steering wheel complete with the sequential teats and the two-tone stitching, Alpina plaque, kickplate, splattering of logos, and the 20-inch multi-spoke alloys are all present. You’d also BELIEVE IT normally get myrte panelling though this car had On paper, the bigger brush alloy trim. There’s even a more pleasingly heavier B5 S, with 530bhp, is quicker to symmetrical version of the drive-by-wire joystick 100kph (4.6 sec vs 4.8) shifter from the standard Five. than the Bi-Turbo, and boasts a top Talking of which, the closest ‘standard’ equivalent speed of 317kph. in terms of cylinders would be the 4.8-litre 550i, Those figures even beat the BMW M5 producing 362bhp and 361lb ft with acceleration to 100kph in 5.2 and of course vmax limited to 250. The B5 S simply trounces that with 523bhp and 535lb ft – the torque curve is peakier than in the Bi-Turbo but you still get 295lb ft from just 1500rpm. But the 550i is $58k cheaper. So to find an equal in terms of performance, like the white car, you inevitably end up comparing it with an M product, and like the B3, the B5 S instantly loses the cylinder-count – eight versus ten. It counters with 16 more horsepower and a staggering 151lb ft of extra turning force over the M5. On paper, it also betters it on motive stats: 4.6sec versus 4.7 and an unlimited speed of 317kph. Bet you weren’t expecting that!
Alpina wanted to ensure a smooth but sensational power delivery and make sure it all fitted discreetly into the engine bay, so it opted for a supercharger. Typically though, it then went one step further and created its own unique take on the blower. In fact Alpina prefer to call it a ‘radial compressor’ describing it as a combination of a turbo and a supercharger. With the turbine spinning at up to 105,000rpm it generates huge air pressure and is incredibly efficient. From behind the wheel it’s an elegant if forceful drive, delivering immense linear velocity with astonishingly calmness. So well cocooned are you from the physics-defying theatre that you need to keep an eye on the terrific head-up display and not just to marvel at the rapidly rising digits, but to remind yourself to back off. After all, the progressive brakes are monstrous but they can’t perform miracles.4
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TIWN TEST ALPINA B5 S vs B3 BI-TURBO Some goes for the handling: the electronically-controlled adjustable damping (EDC) has been refined and serves up a superb ride, whilst it feels taught, body-roll will remind you that this is a weighty beast of a thing that you are hustling along. It’s a breeze to powerslide out of a junction with the traction off thanks to the optional LSD, but its supremacy is really evident in its natural environment, the motorway. Good enough to dismiss the M5? Well it’s very different. With the M5 you get the soul of a racing car trapped inside an executive saloon’s body. It’s a sharper, meaner, more frenetic experience and it requires a committed driver, a pilot that likes to fine tune the many gearbox and suspension settings before setting off to buy some apples which he doesn’t really need from a souk in the next Emirate, just for the heck of it. The B5 is a much softer, more relaxing, if shockingly swift, experience. With the suspension you have either sport or normal modes which is just fine as that’s all you’ll every really need. As for the transmission you can leave it to self-shift regularly, slide it across for increased vigour in S mode or snap up and down the quick-reacting box yourself. Whatever, torrential torque is always available at the behest of the right hoof. So while the M5 driver is fizzing with adrenalin and anticipation, calculating temperature, altitude, windspeed and surface friction, and fiddling with the car’s multiple settings on the start line, you’ve already arrived, disembarked and are partaking in a nice cup of chai whilst scanning the business section of the national broadsheet. But as with the B3 you will pay for the privilege of feeling superior. At $137,000 it’s nearly $25k more expensive. Admittedly though, the dour M cockpit is no match for the Alpina’s plush cabin.
NEED TO KNOW
NEED TO KNOW
ALPINA B3 BI-TURBO
ALPINA B5 S
Price: $99,500 Engine: 2979cc inline six, 355bhp @ 55006000rpm, 369lb ft @ 3800-5000rpm Transmission: Sixspeed automatic, rear-wheel drive Performance: 4.8sec 0-100kph, 285kph, 9.7L/100km
An Alpina comes
t the end of the SHOOT I plumped for the comfort of the bigger car, switched on the derriere massager and arrived home in alarmingly little time. This sort of sublime service combined with the exclusivity and panache that comes with owning a rare Alpina, as opposed to ‘just another Beemer,’ will for many justify the extra dollars. And for those buying the M on stats and reputation alone, a test run in the B5 S first might save the angst of realising a month into M ownership that it’s too demanding a drive. The big Alpina could easily be the perfect car for me: fast, comfortable, practical and exclusionary. But if I did find myself at an Alpina dealer with a massive bag full of cash – assuming I get an absolutely ginormous pay rise this year – I’d blurt out ‘B3 Bi-Turbo coupe please’ at the last minute, and go down the ‘boy racer with taste’ route, saving myself $38k in the process. It’s the more thrilling drive with sharper, meatier steering, uncanny surefootedness, and enough ready performance to spook supercars. And then I’d spend hours at traffic lights waiting for an M3 to turn up, just to find out which is the baddest Beemer of all.
12 APRIL 2008
Price: $137,600 Engine: 4398cc 32v V8 supercharged, 523bhp @ 5500rpm 535lb ft @ 4750rpm Transmission: Sixspeed automatic, rear-wheel drive Performance: 4.6sec 0-100kph, 317kph, 12.3L/100km
PERFORMANCE TEST GREATEST CARS OF 2007
with exclusivity and panache
APRIL 2008 13
Photography Cliff Serna 14 APRIL 2008
DRIVEN ALPINA b6 S
power of six Tom Bird finds the Alpina B6 S combines the best cruising abilities of the regular 6-series with the animal instinct of the M6
THE WORLD IS A VERY DIFFERENT PLACE WHEN YOU’RE travelling at speeds above 250kph. It’s a world where cars built by BMW and Mercedes can’t go – not without warranty-void ECU hacking that is. But there are cars that thrive above this gentlemen’s agreed limit – Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugattis naturally, plus Astons, Porsches and the R8. And, of course, Alpinas. The company never electronically limits the performance of its cars, the only limitations are pure physics. Take the B6 S for example, it’s only just getting into its stride at 250kph. After that, it’s still got another 68kph before the supercharged V8, working hard under the bonnet, finally stops being able to overcome the huge aerodynamic drag forces acting on the coupe’s body. I found getting to speeds in excess of 200kph in the B6 S relatively easy, it’s just a matter of planting the throttle and holding on. Given space, it’ll hit 300kph in a single minute. But, though the car does it without blinking, I had to try and reprogram my brain to keep up. Hazards are pretty easy to spot at 120kph, but at twice that speed you have to look much further ahead as otherwise what you’re focusing on streams by in a blur before you’ve taken it in. Traffic is the biggest concern, as the speed difference 4
APRIL 2008 15
1 1 IN YOUR FACE Alpina’s intakes and crankshaft coat of arms sits proudly in the centre of the luxuriously covered steering wheel. Stitching is in signature Alpina blue and green
2 EASY SHIFTING Unlike the M6 whose SMG gearbox causes many a headache, the ZF six-speed auto chosen by Alpina keeps things simple. You can choose to keep it in Drive, knock across into Sport, or shift manually by flicking the shifter back and forth or using the buttons on the back of the steering wheel
3 BREATHE EASY Two deep-cut vents help the supercharged V8 get some air. The frontal area of the B6 S isn’t big enough to provide adequate cooling in high temperatures
4 SUPREME HIDE The Lavalina leather Alpina uses in all its interiors is deemed too good to use in car interiors by many other manufacturers. The hides are naturally tanned in minerals and vegetable extracts with the colour running through the material. Experts hand cut and stitch each panel
5 KITTED UP Unlike the rest of the Alpina range, the B6 S is fitted with Dynamic design alloy wheels. The rear spoiler may not look like much, but ensures that the car stays aerodynamically stable all the way up to 318kph. Unlike BMW, Alpina doesn’t limit the top speed of its cars, and therefore the aerodynamics of the car must be able to cope with the extra speed
DRIVEN ALPINA B6 s
between me charging along in the outside lane and the trucks chugging away on the inside and what would happen should one pull out without warning doesn’t bear thinking about. The torque delivery of the supercharged engine, coupled with the ohso-smooth shifting ZF six-speed automatic, makes you wonder whether there’s not some huge electric motor powering the rear wheels. But, there’s no mistaking that V8 rumble, even if it is muted by the car’s excellent sound-deadening. On wet or dusty roads, the stability control system does go into overdrive to try and keep that colossal 535lb ft chunk of torque in control. A limited slip differential is standard fit, which stops the inside wheel from turning into a cyclic smoke SIGNATURE HUE machine should you go into a corner under power. The metallic blue is a It also makes tail-out antics pretty easy. traditional colour for Alpina, along with Steering is via a chunky three-spoke affair, complete metallic green. If with Alpina-spec blue and green stitching. It’s well those don’t take your fancy, you can choose weighted around town, although feels a little artificial any BMW colour or when cornering. At high speeds, however the B6 S from the extended Individual range feels on edge, twitchy even, requiring constant adjustment of your steering line. And when you can easily pound on the kilometres at double the speed limit without the engine feeling like it’s making any effort at all, the last thing you need is a steering wheel that’s twitchy. It’s not something that affects other big engined, two-door coupes with spectacular acceleration qualities and the ability to cruise for huge distances whilst cosseting their occupants in plush interiors. It’s a market that’s surprisingly vast, ranging from the $122,100 Audi R8 to the $180,000 Mercedes CL600 with everything from the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the Maserati Granturismo sitting inbetween.
The main problem with the B6 S is its looks – when you’re spending over $150,000 on a car, you don’t want it to look ‘aftermarket’. The added-on front bumper splitter and rear spoiler may help to keep the B6 S stick to the road at ridiculous speeds, but they detract from the otherwise smooth looks of the base 6-series. And yes, whilst I know that the vents in the B6 S’s carbon composite bonnet are there to help cool the supercharged V8 because the frontal area of the car isn’t big enough, but others may think it looks tacky. The rest of the Alpina range’s styling is very restrained, with just the signature decals and multi-spoke alloys adding a touch of glamour. But the B6 S ditches the classic wheel for the ‘dynamic’ version, which again looks like it came from a catalogue that would normally appeal to Chevrolet Lumina owners.4
APRIL 2008 17
DRIVEN ALPINA B6 S Admittedly, these concerns aren’t top of your mind when you’re out hunting down Ferraris, surrounded by the most supple leather this side of a Gucci handbag. And though I’m not usually a fan of wood in cars, the particular strain of Elm that Alpina uses puts the otherwise business-like cabin of the B6 S on a higher level. It’s much more inviting than the black plastic and aluminium flashes that exist in the M6. Some may consider the B6 S and M6 to be direct rivals, but they are very different animals. The M6 may trump in the displacement and cylinder counts with its 4999cc V10, but Alpina saves face with its more potent supercharged V8. The peak 523bhp is available at 5500rpm, where as the M6’s 500bhp doesn’t fully come into play until a ridiculously high 7750rpm meaning you have to rev that V10 more than you’d think. The B6 S’s humungous 535lb ft chunk of torque maxes out at 4750rpm against the lowly 384lb ft offered by the M6 at 6100rpm. What these figures translate to on the road is a much more rounded driving experience from the B6 S – plant the throttle in any gear and it just surges forward, the M6 needs more forward planning to get decent headway. Not least because the overly-complex gearbox’s 11 different shift patterns and three shifting modes gives you a headache after five minutes. Once you’ve got your head around those, you’ve then got three power delivery settings, three suspension settings and three stability control settings to master.
In the B6 S, things are a lot more straightforward. The ZF gearbox offers Drive, Sport and Manual – which gives you the option of shifting via the stubby joystick controller, or the perfectly formed nipple-like shift buttons on the back of the steering wheel. The Sachs-developed suspension gives choices of Normal or Sport, and the traction control is on or off – and that’s it. The full complement of 523bhp is available all the time. Though the cost of fuel won’t really bother anybody splashing out over $150,000 on a car, what may be of more concern is range. There’s no point having a comfortable Grand Tourer if you spend all your time in petrol stations refuelling it. This is where the B6 S really shines. The 70 litre tank will allow it to travel for nearly 600km, an extra 100kms over the M6, due to the better 12.3l/100km economy figure compared to the M6’s 14.9l/100km. However, for real long-legged trips, the 90 litre tank in the R8 makes it the ultimate long-distance cruiser, with a theoretical range close to 700km. Perhaps what’s most impressive about the B6 S is how it can fulfill both cruiser and bruiser roles without feeling out of depth in either role. Some fire-breathing cars that snort their power through the rear-wheels can be absolutely epic ten percent of the time, but a nightmare to live with in stopstart traffic around town. But the B6 S manages to keep control of itself, whilst still blowing the competition into the scenery at whim. Which is nice.
It CAN BE BOTH A CRUISER AND A BRUISER AND NOT FEEL OUT OF DEPTH 18 APRIL 2008
DECAL DELIGHT If you prefer, you can specify your Alpina without the decals – the UK has special black decals, and Japan has ultraglossy gold as an option – very Dubai!
Business at 300kph It may be the biggest Alpina on the block, but the B7 is still a serious road-pounding monster. By Tom Bird
NEED TO KNOW ALPINA B6 S
Price: $156,700 Engine: 4398cc 32v V8 supercharged, 523bhp @ 5500rpm, 535lb ft @ 4750rpm Transmission: Six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive Performance: 4.5sec 0-100kph, 318kph, 12.3L/100km
AN ARROW-STRAIGHT TWO-LANE stretch of German Autobahn lies before me, and even though it’s just after 10am on a Monday morning, it’s delightfully light of traffic. The conditions aren’t exactly ideal, a cold wind is whipping some squally showers around and the temperature is dropping close to freezing. However, behind the wheel of the B7 I’m not concerned. Like any 7-series, the B7 cocoons its occupants from the vagaries of the outside elements extremely well – at a steady 130kph cruise, you can’t even hear the supercharged V8 spinning. But, floor the throttle and the B7 starts to show some serious teeth as the speedometer begins a fast ascent towards its 300kph extremity. The engine becomes more vocal, although never strained, and the first 260kph comes up reasonably quickly – it’s the final few kms that are a real struggle as the aerodynamic qualities of the brick-like B7 fight against the wall of air smacking into the nearvertical windscreen. In the distance, a smoky Peugeot hatchback is stuck to the rear bumper of a slow-moving truck. I’m approaching at a rate of 80 metres every second and the gap is closing fast. With the B7’s Xenon lights cutting through the drizzle, there’s no reason to suspect that the driver of the Peugeot hasn’t seen me, but with a couple of hundred metres to go, he pulls out without indicating and I catch a glimpse of the speedo before mashing the brakes hard to cancel out the speed deficit between us. It read 285kph – just 15kph shy of the top speed. What’s most astounding about the B7 is that shedding 175kph in a matter of seconds didn’t ruffle its feathers in the slightest, it just hauled itself in without drama, my passenger didn’t even flinch.
Monstrously fast motorway jaunts are what the B7 lives for, kilometre after kilometre can be eaten up with the only encroachment into the plush cabin being a little wind noise around the windscreen pillars. The 88-litre petrol tank gives a theorectical range of around 700kms. Regular 7-series will struggle against the urge of the B7’s supercharged V8 which endows the big Alpina with a 0-100kph time of just 4.9secs. The Switch-Tronic buttons on the underside of the steering wheel add an element of fun, but the B7 is equally happy charging along in Drive. For the executive in a hurry, nothing, not even the Mercedes S65 AMG, comes close.
NEED TO KNOW ALPINA B7
Price: $173,000 Engine: 4398cc 32v V8 supercharged, 493bhp @ 5500rpm, 516lb ft @ 4250rpm Transmission: Six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive Performance: 4.9sec 0-100kph, 300kph, 12.8L/100km
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CLUB CLASS Alpina signature touches spread across the cabin with acres of wood and soft leather. the 21inch multispoke alloy wheels fill the large arches
INSIDE STORY ALPINA FACTORY
COOL COMPLEX The complex cooling array at the front of the V8 houses not only the intercooler but all ancillary radiators required by the engine. It is married to the car on the Dingolfing BMW production line
20 APRIL 2008
Crafted by hand The gestation period of any Alpina isn’t a very straightforward process, as Tom Bird finds out BUILDING A CAR IN TODAY’S JUST-IN-TIME production ethos is not easy, especially when you’re trying to build just 1500 cars a year within a corporate behemoth that churns out 800 cars for each car you build. But that’s exactly what Alpina has to deal with. Its small factory in Buchloe, Germany, is not a car factory with automated production lines, welding robots, and infra-red heated paint booths. No, it’s a small collection of warehouses built around a factory that used to make nappies. Yet, it still manages to create around five exclusive cars every working day. Alpina achieves this by working closely with the BMW Individual arm of BMW M – it’s those guys that have the headache of feeding a handful of cars into the production process without causing the whole line to grind to a halt. Alpina hand makes the V8 engines that do service in the B5 S, B6 S and B7, before sending them to BMW’s Dingolfing factory where they are married up to the painted bodies. The engine’s parts are sent to Buchloe from a number of third party suppliers POWER HOUSE (BMW being one of them), where they Every supercharged V8 is built up by are stored in Alpina’s large parts hand by one of confectionary which has the capacity for Alpina’s six engine workers. Each over a hundred cars’ worth of parts. engine is then tested Here, technicians build up boxes of these without knowing who built it, to third party parts, plus parts which Alpina prevent any fueds makes itself in its CAD-controlled machine between friends shop, before they are taken through to the engine room next door. Alpina also makes up the parts boxes for the B3 BiTurbo engines, but sends them to either BMW’s Regensburg factory (Coupe and Cabrio models) or to Munich (Saloon) where BMW build the engines.
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At the BMW factory, the engine (minus the supercharger on V8 models) is fitted to the body as is the glass, seats, wiring loom, airbag and entertainment/navigation systems – all supplied by BMW. Alpina (or its suppliers) sends the gearbox, wheels and tyres, suspension, dashboard (with Alpina-spec wood), steering wheel and dials to the factory which are then duly fitted. Before rolling off the BMW factory line, the ECU is flashed with Alpina’s software and the engines are fired up for the first time in situ. The cars are then sent back to Buchloe for hand finishing and technical sign off. Here, Alpina fits its bumpers and spoilers (aerodynamically tested at each car’s unrestricted top speed), the supercharger on V8 models, plus the signature decals. Also, depending on spec, Alpina trims the interior in its higher quality Lavalina leather – in whatever colour takes the customer’s fancy. Alpina uses the highest quality leather, and each piece is hand cut and fitted by expert trimmers. The saddlery can cover every conceivable surface in leather, even down to the electric mirror switches in leather just 0.05mm thin. One buyer even requested the wood to be trimmed in leather, though Alpina soon changed his mind. Once the VIN plate is hammered into place and the unique Alpina numbered plaque applied to the car’s headlining, the car is given a final road test on the streets around the factory before being signed off and sent to the customer. Customers can even choose to collect the car directly from the factory. The result is a car built to – or exceeding – BMW’s strict quality control processes, but with a finish on par with the world’s best coachbuilders.
Making it different Shahzad Sheikh looks back at nearly half a century of Alpina and cherry-picks the firmâ€™s finest hours
22 APRIL 2008
T’S ALL DOWN TO THE BLUE smoke. That’s where it all started. When a young Burkard Bovensiepen bought himself a Fiat 1500, he found it a tad gutless. So he tuned it up, added a Weber carburettor, more aggressive camshaft and a better breathing muffler. Power was up 8bhp. Not a lot you might think, but clearly more than enough for the poor Fiat as it started leaving a trail of blue smoke everywhere. By this time, Bovensiepen had made himself a bit of money dabbling in stocks and exporting VW Beetles to the States. Like the ‘young and upwardly mobile’ of today, his attention turned to the cars with the blue and white propeller on the bonnet. In 1961 BMW introduced the 1500, the car that potentially saved the company and introduced the now trademark Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar. This produced 80bhp but would be followed shortly by a 90bhp 1800 version, understandably vexing those that had already bought a 1500. Bovensiepen grabbed the opportunity. He found the 1500’s four-cylinder engine boasted four well-designed intake ports but a single small carb, so developed a dual down-draft carburettor at his father’s Alpina mechanical goods factory in Neugablonz. Power was up to 1800 standards and he was in business. Then something quite unique happened. BMW tested the Alpina kit itself and proclaimed it rather good actually. The company endorsed it by honouring warranty claims on Alpinatuned cars, and then went further. When it introduced the 1800TI in 1963, it featured components developed by Alpina. With dual Solex PHH side-draft carburettors and highercompression pistons, power was up to 110bhp. By 1965, Bovensiepen’s new company had eight employees and two years later a distinctive logo which featured, not the family shield as you might think, but simply a crankshaft and two intake ports. With 70 employees in 1970, the company had to move from Kaufbeuren to Buchloe, its home today. Success continued with Alpina versions of the 1600 and 165bhp 2002tii which was as quick but more thrifty than the legendary BMW 2002 Turbo of 1973. The oil crisis was kicking in around this time, bringing the end for many tuners. But Alpinas were always as efficient as the BMWs they were based on. So it continued to grow and became the largest tuning company in Europe ahead of Abarth of Italy. By 1975 it opened branches outside of Germany in Switzerland and Great Britain. Collaborative efforts between BMW and Alpina continued, not least of which was the 180bhp 3.0 CSL of 1971 featuring Alpina-developed components. Alpina actually persuaded BMW to create the CSL for saloon car racing, and was promptly made project leader. There’s no Alpina badging on the car, but the link is evident from the 20-spoke wheels – an Alpina tradition. Bonvensiepen’s firm must have held something back because a host of further modifications including three Weber doublecarburettors, saw Alpina’s own 3.0 CSL boosted to 250bhp and proving faster than the twice as expensive Ferrari 365 GT. Today Alpinas are generally one part BMW, one part independent components and the final third is all Alpina. The mechanical hardware is sent directly to BMW assembly lines to be fitted into the shells of the 1500 or so cars the small 4
APRIL 2008 23
to the M’s 195bhp. Acceleration figures were 6.6sec to 100kph (7.5 for the M3) and 251kph (235kph). Strangely, it was given a dog-leg first gear and only 62 were ever made. One of the most iconic – and quickest – Alpinas ever was 1989’s B10 Bi-Turbo. Based on the 535i it reputedly took two years to develop with an investment of over $3million. Over 500 examples were made each with a twin-turbo six-cylinder unit with full boost bhp of 360 available. Alpina had to fit a Fichtel & Sachs clutch and a specially developed 5-speed Getrag gearbox and a limited-slip differential to handle the torque. A 0-100kph time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of over 290kph was claimed. There was even an Alpina version of the oddball Z1 roadster in 1990. Only 66 were made with half going to Japan, and the 2.5-litre six was THE BIG BLUE replaced with a 2.7 producing 200bhp. The same year saw the the Alpina blue never B12 5.0 Coupe. Based on the slinky 850i it had a V12 modified to looked better than when on the Z8produced 350bhp and was fitted with shorter and stiffer springs. based Roadster V8, firm ‘makes’ each year, and the unfinished vehicles are sent back its official entrant to It hit 100kph in 6.8secs with a top speed of 280kph. the US market, and to Buchloe to be completed. In 1983 Alpina was registered as a And well over a decade before the current V8-powered M3, Alpina the classic B7 Coupe manufacturer and these days fans of the marque will not take put a V8 into 3-series with 1995’s B8 4.6. Alpina required 42 of the early 1980’s – an Alpina icon modifications to each body shell in order to fit the 4.6-litre unit, kindly to it being referred to as a ‘BMW tuner’. This current era of Alpina producing its own cars began in which came from the 540i with new blocks cast for the larger 1978 with the launch of a three-model range. The B6 2.8 was based on the capacity. It produced 333bhp to give 280kph and a 5.6sec 0-100 time. 3-series flagship 323i, but the engine was ditched for a larger BMW 2.8-litre The sexiest of all Alpinas is the Z8-based Roadster V8 of 2002 marking straight-six modified to produce an extra 32bhp taking power up to 200bhp. the company’s official entry into Alpina replaced the gearbox with a Getrag five-speed manual and the suspension the US market. Instead of the was fettled with Bilstein units, whilst Recaro seats and a Momo wheel were standard car’s 400bhp V8 from fitted inside and a front and rear bespoilered bodykit bolted on to the exterior. the M5, Alpina opted for the 540iOver 530 of these were produced up to 1983. based B10 V8 boosted to 381bhp. Alpina also unveiled the world’s fastest four-door saloon at the time – the This was actually down on the B7 Turbo. Based on the 530, it had a KKK 27 Turbocharger providing up to standard car, but with more mid300bhp. Like the B6, the suspension, gearbox and interior were given due range and peak torque, and attention and just 149 owners ended up with a car that would arrive at 100kph Switch-Tronic transmission, it in 6.1 seconds and continue to 250kph. But the most desirable of the three suited the car – as proven by the new cars was Alpina’s take on the shark-nose 6-series. Mechanically reworked Stateside success. During the last 30 years Alpina along the lines of the B7 saloon, the B7 Turbo Coupe was gorgeous, and the pinstripes never looked better than on an Alpina-blue Coupe. has built over 6000 cars, and In 1986 BMW introduced the first generation M3 which immediately sent today the firm continues its petrolheads into a frenzy of excitement. In 1987 Alpina introduced M3-based philosophy not of making BMWs B6 3.5 S featuring a 3.5-litre six to the M’s 2.3, giving it 254bhp compared better, but ‘different’.
Alpina’s motorsports success was established during nearly a decade of competition between 1968 and 1977 with drivers such Derek Bell, James Hunt, Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda and Hans Stuck doing stints behind the wheels of Alpina race cars. In 1973 BMW and Alpina took the touring car European Cup and Lauda set a saloon car record in an Alpina Lightweight Coupe at the six-hour Nürburgring race. In 1977 Dieter Quester took his Alpina 3.5 CSL to victory in the European touring car championship. But 1970 remains a banner year when Alpina-developed cars won the European touring car title, the German hill-climb, rally and track racing championships along with the SpaFrancorchamps 24-hour enduro.
LEGENDS 1989’s B10 BiTurbo (right) one of the quickest Alpinas ever and last example made remains at Buchloe. B12 Coupe (left) had V12 and 350bhp
24 APRIL 2008
BMW B MW ALPINA ALPINA
B6 S C O UP COUP CO COUPÉ UPÉ UPÉ