Alpina B5 GT 2023 first drive

alpina b5 gt touring review 2023 01 tracking front

Buchloe bids auf wiedersehen to G30 5 Series with its most powerful creation yet

Between now and 2026, when BMW takes the reins, Alpina will make fewer than 6000 cars. But after that, who knows what will happen?

There’s a fair chance that Munich will leverage Buchloe’s reputation for lavish interiors and general bespokery to create a neat stepping stone between M and Rolls-Royce, but whether the cars will continue to be so assiduously honed in mechanical terms is less certain. I wouldn’t bet on it, because with the Bovensiepen family out of the picture, profit will probably take precedence. 

Of those 6000 cars to come, only a tiny portion will be a B5 super-saloon. This model is based on the existing and outgoing M550i but is taken to serious heights in performance and breadth by Alpina’s 100 or so engineers. The B5 (historically called the B10) tends to be the flag-bearer for Alpina because it best encapsulates the brand’s approach: crushing quick and delightful to live with but not one to shout about it. 

Alpina B5 GT

The current model is no different. Supercar-fast in a straight line but limousine-slick in its ride quality, it doesn’t change direction like BMW’s M5 does but has more than good enough body control, adjustability and steering precision that you would happily take the more interesting way home every time. 

Which brings us to the new B5 GT. In many ways, this car is not only a sign-off for Alpina’s fine involvement with the G30 5 Series but a £125k valedictory firework for the company’s six-decade history of building cars based on new BMWs. 

Only 250 will be made, mostly in Touring estate form, and all are already sold. Deliveries will start later this year, but if you’re one of the 80 or so who have optioned the full Lavalina leather interior, you may well be waiting until the end of 2024, as Buchloe’s ‘saddlery’ can’t rush things.

Mechanically, the B5 GT is mostly unchanged from the usual B5 (now no longer offered), but a new intake and an electronic tickle have lifted the output of the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre petrol V8 from 612bhp to 625bhp, making this the most powerful car in Alpina’s history. Official top speed is 205mph, but unofficially the car hits a true 220mph.

However, what gives this car such outrageous mid-range, real-world performance – outrageous enough for it to feel not at all impotent even on the expanse of an FIA Grade 1 circuit like Zandvoort, where we have it – is the torque. From 3500rpm, this car makes 13% more than the M5 CS, at 627lb ft. That’s about as much as Aston’s recent DBS 770 Ultimate.

The chassis has also been honed to give the B5 GT a little more edge, but with care taken, says Alpina, to preserve its absorptive qualities. To this end, the spring and damper rates are unchanged (likewise the calibration of the active anti-roll bars and the rear-steering), but the GT gets new bumpstops that improve body control but only in demanding circumstances.

Alpina B5 GT

Ride height has been dropped a touch at the back and the torque-split is more rear-biased. In theory, the result is a car subtly more willing to rotate through bends, and while you would be hard pressed to feel the difference even with back-to-back testing, at Zandvoort the B5 GT is playful but without ever being a handful. Amusingly for what you might call a highly cultured machine, you can unstick the tail at will, catching it then being an intuitive act, as the steering is perfectly sped (the B5 GT also gets new struts between the front suspension domes and the bulkhead, for added stiffness and precision).

Helping you along in matters of traction and, if you like, oversteer is the B5 GT’s limited-slip differential. As with the regular B5, it’s a purely mechanical, plated affair from motorsport experts Drexler, and is arguably more transparent than the electronically controlled differential found in the an M5, at least during breakaway. 

Equally, carry too much speed and this 1980kg saloon bleeds gently into understeer more readily than an equivalent M car would, so with the B5 GT’s monstrous speed also comes a fundamental benignness and stability. On the road, it will be easy to drive fast. A run down a less-than-beautifully surfaced access track also gave us no concerns about plushness. 

Alpina B5 GT

As for how you identify a B5 GT, the gold-bronze wheels are the big giveaway. A little incongruous are the dive planes you will also find at the front, while inside there’s the option of having M5-spec front seats trimmed in Alcantara and the aluminium shift-paddles are finished in Marron Volciano. 

The overall effect is subtle, and the B5 GT is no M5 CS-style extravaganza. However, it’s a fitting end for what will go down as one of the great super-saloons. 

Source: Autocar

Leave a Reply