Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: March 4, 2016
Alpina, the automotive manufacturer you’ve probably never heard of. Don’t worry, most Canadians haven’t. This German automotive manufacturer has a large reputation amongst BMW enthusiasts, but more so overseas.
Simply put, Alpina takes a stock BMW and modifies it with a variety of hand finished tweaks and upgrades, similar to what BMW’s in-house M Division does to their M cars. Alpinas however have a heavier emphasis on torque, automatic transmissions, and coveted luxury interiors.
So what exactly is an Alpina B6? Well, a stock BMW 650i is pulled right off the production line at the BMW factory in Dingolfing, Germany, where it is then shipped off to the Alpina factory in Buchloe, Germany.
There, Alpina engineers re-tune the engine, fit a new exhaust system, rework the suspension, beef up the brakes, upgrade the interior with different materials, attach a new exterior body kit, and fit on a set of signature 20-inch 20-spoke Alpina wheels. When all is said and done, two weeks have gone by, and the finished B6 is then shipped back to BMW for final delivery.
The result is an ultra-exclusive and ultra-rare four-door coupe that trumps BMW’s own M6 not only in terms of rarity, but in price and power as well. Under the hood, Alpina has enhanced the already potent 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 from the 650i to produce a whopping 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Those are earth-shattering numbers.
For reference, the B6 has 155 hp and 110 lb-ft more than the 650i, 40 hp and 90 lb-ft more than the M6 (without the Competition Package), and 60 hp and 50 lb-ft more than last year’s B6 model.
This divine upgrade was achieved by using special Mahle pistons that can deal with higher temperatures and pressures, larger Garrett turbochargers that provide more boost, NGK spark plugs, and bigger intercoolers. Alpina has also reworked the air intake ducting, air filter housing, and the fuel supply system.
The 8-speed ZF transmission has also been modified and though it’s not as quick as the M6’s dual-clutch transmission, it is enough to propel the B6 from 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds (0.1 seconds faster than the 2015 B6), making it the most powerful Alpina vehicle to date.
But enough about numbers. Pie charts and graphs can only tell you so much about a car’s behaviour. What is it like to drive an Alpina B6? Imagine a regular 650i but with a dozen Saturn V rockets strapped on the roof. The B6 is smooth and understated at low speeds but once you put your foot down, the B6 thrusts forward so quickly that the visceral g-forces make you dizzy and start to lose a sense of speed. This Alpina is the automotive equivalent of the bullet train: classy, comfortable, and incredibly potent.
Not only is the B6 faster and better looking than the M6, but I feel like it is the more focused BMW. The M6 tries to be an athlete with a chubby 2,000 kg frame, but the B6 accepts its size and focuses on channeling its weight to provide the most comfortable ride possible. With that being said, the B6 provides the more holistic driving experience with better composure on the road.
One word of note: the Alpina B6s that come to North America are different than the ones found in Europe. Alpina is not officially recognized as an individual automaker here, so that’s why the official vehicle name is BMW Alpina B6, and it receives a standard 6-series VIN number instead of a unique VIN from Alpina themselves.
Due to engineering standards and rising costs, we don’t get the fancy embroidered seats and specially cured leather as they do overseas. The biggest disappointment is that we don’t receive the Akrapovic titanium exhaust either.
Rather, North American B6s are equipped with a stainless steel exhaust with twin elliptical tailpipes. It is a shame because Akrapovic makes some of the best sounding aftermarket exhausts in the world – have a listen. Their titanium exhausts are also 45% lighter than the steel ones.
Hence, our B6 releases a subdued exhaust noise even in Sport mode when the valves stay open. In fact, it didn’t sound much better than the 650i that we just recently tested. Even the M6 made a throatier and more muscular noise, and that vehicle also comes with an optional titanium exhaust as part of the Competition Package.
Be that as it may, I assume scintillating vocal cords weren’t a part of the Alpina memo, or maybe the cabin is just too well insulated. But it harks back to my point about the automaker’s holistic approach in producing the smoothest and most serene ride possible, and not necessarily the loudest.
The B6 comes equipped with a more aggressive front splitter with ALPINA lettering, a subtle lip spoiler, quad pipes out back, and B6 badging on the back and B-pillar (how fitting). For 2016, the B6 also comes with a tweaked front fascia, a new front hood, and a modified kidney grille with nine slats instead of the normal ten. Oh, and you can only have your Canadian B6 in four-door guise.
The most distinguishable feature of the B6 are those signature 20-spoke Alpina wheels, yes a whopping twenty (we counted to make sure). Why so many? Well, back then the Alpina engineers called for a solution to maximize the strength of the wheel while minimizing weight, hence the unique design.
Notice any valve stems? Here’s a fun fact: the wheel has a removable and lockable center cap. The valve is concealed behind it. Damage them and a full replacement set of these fancy shoes will set you back around $8,000.
Other exterior cues include two Alpina-exclusive colours – Alpina Blue and Alpina Green – none of which are plastered on our tester. Our B6 was doused in a more discreet Mediterranean Blue paint, which is frankly the same shade of blue that we had on our $50,000 X1 that we tested last week. So much for exclusivity.
On a brighter note, once you hop inside the B6 you will be swimming in luxury. Every nook and cranny is meticulous, with special attention given to make the cabin buttoned-down and hush-hush, even when going at insane triple digit speeds. Those suspend-my-license figures can be read off the beautiful Alpina gauges glamoured up in purple and are definitely one of the best looking instrument clusters in the business.
Notice any “sporty” carbon fibre trim pieces lying around? We didn’t either. Alpina keeps their cabins classy and mature, only soft leather and veneer makes the cut. The centerpiece is a hand stitched Lavalina leather steering wheel that sits front and center of the driver. Lavalina leather is made from (happy) cows from the mountain range that runs between Switzerland and France. Happy is a subjective opinion, but their cows thrive in grass-rich areas and are not confined to barbed wires.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that the wheel is softer than the traditional leather used, but it’s more textured and a nice change with blue and green contrast stitching. That carburetor-and-crankshaft Alpina logo is also refreshing to look at, replacing the BMW roundel on the center of the steering wheel.
There are also two little buttons mounted behind the wheel that are used to change gears, signified by the + and – on each side. Don’t think of them as paddle shifters, they are more like nipple shifters: small and hard to locate during spirited driving.
Here’s the golden question. Do you choose an M6 Gran Coupe ($130,000) or a B6 Gran Coupe ($135,000)? If you can afford either one, you’re already winning in my books. At any rate, one could argue that the B6 doesn’t have the same racing pedigree, the lightning-quick dual-clutch transmission, or the emphatic titanium exhaust found in the M6. However the Alpina is the more focused and holistic vehicle with more power, a better suspension, and superior ride.
Both vehicles are sure to be a rare sight on Canadian roads, and I can guarantee that you will be content with whichever choice you make. But if you want to infiltrate the upper echelon of BMW ownership and want to bathe in exclusivity and happy cow leather, then Alpina has your answer with the B6.
型号 Model: 2016 BMW Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe
顏色 Paint Type: Mediterranean Blue
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $135,000
試車售價 Price as Tested: $155,000
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,968
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,007 / 1,894 / 1,398
車重 Curb weight (kg): 2,168
引擎 Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
最大馬力 Horsepower: 600 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 3,500 - 4,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed ZF sport automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 14.3 / 8.2
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 16.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D; Front 255/35ZR20; Rear 295/30ZR20