Burkhard Bovenseipen rebuilt his first Bimmer in 1961, adding Italian-sourced dual Webers onto his BMW 1500 Coupe and recording a then-remarkable 100 hp out of the little screamer. Soon, everyone wanted one. By 1965, he was cranking out enough of them to officially incorporate Alpina as a legal entity. Alpina has been legally classified as a manufacturer since 1983, applying its own VIN to all the cars it makes.
Now, more than 50 years after those dual Webers, the Bovenseipen family still owns Alpina, and the cars make over 500 hp, not 100. Though it's an entirely separate entity, Alpina has full access to BMW future models, CAD drawings and all specs at least two years before the models go on sale to the public. The Alpina B7 has been on sale at BMW dealers in the U.S. for several years, and right about now, Alpina is introducing this car, the B6 Gran Coupe, in our market.
The B6 is Alpina's version of the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe. The elegant four-door gets everything you would like in a fancier, faster 6, but mostly it gets torque. Modifications to the 4.4-liter BMW V8 include new Garrett turbochargers, Mahle pistons, NGK plugs, more robust intercoolers, a new engine computer and reinforcements to the entire AWD drivetrain, including the eight-speed automatic transmission. The M cars from BMW are more powerful and probably better at the track but the Alpina might be more comfortable to live with while offerering more performance than the regular 6-Series Gran Coupe.
What's It Like To Drive?
Step on the gas, and you'll feel 540 lb-ft of it rarin' to go. The same 540 figure applies to horsepower; Alpina claims 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. We got a 3.8 with a passenger, some altitude and a whole bunch of luggage. Top speed with performance tires is said to be a thrilling 198 mph, of which we saw 180 and still climbing before running out of room on the Autobahn.
Alpina also refurbishes the interior, with everything from Myrtlewood dash appliqué to hand-stitched whatever-leather-you-want from Alpina or from BMW Individual personalization services.
We don't know if you've ever gone 198 mph, but we're here to tell you that 180 was a remarkably serene experience in this car. At that speed, the Alpina B6 tracked steady and true. Sure, there was wind noise around the A-pillars, but come on, man. You've gotta expect that at these speeds. Slower speeds like, say, 150 mph, were like a stroll in the park. At anything less than triple digits, this car feels downright underused.
Acceleration from a standstill is amazing, too, especially considering that the whole thing weighs a hefty 4,780 pounds. All four wheels grab the tarmac and whoosh, off you go. How many non-Top Fuel, production cars in the world launch this quickly? Mighty few. And this one has comfortable seating for four or five full-sized adults.
“With our variable damping, our comfort mode is very comfortable,” said Andreas Bovenseipen, second-generation CEO of Alpina. “It's almost like a Rolls-Royce/Bentley feel.”
The Rolls part of that quote isn't far off, considering the history of parts sharing between Rolls and BMW.
Over twisting mountain roads, the Alpina B6 maintains the same sense of composure it has at near-terminal velocity. Set it in sport or sport plus and it really goes to town. Alpina says with its computer controlling the xDrive that there is “significantly more” rear-wheel bias in the system. On the skinny roads on which we traversed the Austrian Alps, we didn't really hang the tail out, but neither did we ever feel any understeer. At speeds above 90 mph, all torque goes to the rear wheels. The front suspension also has more negative camber for neutral handling.
Do I Want It?
Exclusivity is a nebulous thing; with only about 300 of these coming into U.S. BMW showrooms, you will certainly get exclusivity in an Alpina. Performance is another matter. A BMW M model will offer more pure performance. Alpina prides itself on matching performance with comfort, and it has certainly done that here. You could look at an AMG Mercedes or an Audi RS of a similar size. Perhaps those are more performance-oriented, too, but for a daily driver that you occasionally want to shake out at 198 mph, this might be your best bet.
Sticker prices start at $118,225, including destination charge, and the B6 is available at your BMW dealer right now.
2015 BMW Alpina B6 Gran Coupe specifications
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $118,225
Drivetrain: 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, 540 hp, 540 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic, awd
Curb Weight: 4,780 pounds (mfg.)
0-60: 3.7 seconds (mfg.) 3.8 (AW)
Top Speed: 198 mph (mfg.)
Fuel economy, mpg (city/highway/combined): 16/24/19
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