ROAD TEST EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This whole Alpina setup is gorgeous. The hunter green metallic paint sets off the 15-spoke Alpina wheels, and the GC version looks long and low sitting in a driveway. The nose of the 6-series GC is a little too rounded for my liking, but the profile is just great.
Inside, Alpina pushed an already good interior into the stratosphere, as long as you like semi-loud colors. All of the wood is cherry-colored; I can’t say for sure if it’s cherry wood, but it’s the color of cherry wood. It dazzles the eyes when the sun gets in. The dark brown leather seats are inviting and comfortable and I love the panoramic roof, but I wished it slid back instead of just tilted. Also, in an M car, you get red-and-blue stitching; this Alpina has green and blue, which might even look a little cooler. Someone did stop me on Woodward to tell me how gorgeous it was, he was in a Camaro Z/28 -- might have been another journalist.
So I took it through a car wash, threw it in neutral as you’re supposed to, and the thing sounded like mission control before a launch with all of the buzzers and beeps going off. The automatic windshield wipers were flying all over the place. Thankfully it didn’t hit the automatic brakes, as there were several cars behind me. I appreciated that BMW put all of the safety sensor stuff in one place to the left of the steering wheel. A tap-tap-tap seemed to disengage all of the active safety stuff, just not the beeps.
So this Gran Coupe has the Driving Dynamics Control and Adaptive Drive with Alpina software and active roll stabilization. I learned that from the monroney. That means it has the settings for sport, comfort and eco, and I swear I could feel the difference in this car more than any other. Sport mode is tight; everything feels buttoned down, including the side-to-side lean. In comfort and comfort-plus though, it feels like a Buick. It’s seriously floaty. I don’t like it. It feels sort of weird, too; you can’t feel the bumps in the seat or the chassis, but you can through the steering wheel for some reason. It was a strange feeling.
As opposed to some other big coupes, this car feels heavy on the takeoff and light on the brakes; normally it’s the other way around.
About those takeoffs, I think it’s the g-forces that enthusiasts are drawn to. That feeling of your chest being pushed back into the seat as you accelerate, the only thing better is feeling your guts moving sideways in a turn. There’s something very visceral and enjoyable about it. You put your foot down and after a split second this car blasts off like a rocket. Shifts from the eight-speed are super smooth in normal driving, but when you’re really getting on it, they get noticeably harsher. And that’s fine; they give a better sense of speed. It stays arrow straight on the highway.
So, the BMW 650i xDrive starts at $94,050. Add few options and you’re easily over 100K. For that extra 25 large or so with the Alpina, you get 95 more horsepower and 60 more lb-ft of torque, along with the exterior and interior upgrades. The 6-series is already supremely luxurious, and relatively quick, so is it worth it? I’ll say yes. You pay a little more, but have car that stands out on the street, even among other 6-series. As long you’re into that sort of thing.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I liked this B6 a lot. This comes as a bit of a surprise to me, because the stock 6-series Gran Coupe seems like one of those answers-to-questions-nobody-asked cars. But BMW’s model proliferation insanity is another rant for another day. This thing is worth examining in isolation.
Smooth and understated, the B6 offered quite a contrast to our long-term BMW M3, which I recently took on a lengthy road trip. Its beautiful green paint job (really, it’s a superb color) and elegant turbine-blade wheels, plus the fact that the BMW roundels have been replaced with Alpina emblems, should make it immediately obvious to even a casual observer that the B6 is something different -- perhaps even special.
What, exactly, the B6 (special or not) is supposed to be is somewhat less clear.
That’s true of Alpina as a whole. Alpina is not a package -- it's technically a separate make. Yet its cars are built on the same lines as BMW’s and they can be serviced at your friendly local BMW dealership. Interior layout and the user-side software experience are identical to the equivalent BMW’s. So what’s the point?
According to the “Philosophy” section of its website, Alpina has been toiling for “over 50 years now to build special automobiles for connoisseurs, people with exceptional taste, people who enjoy the feeling of exclusiveness and who also have a passion for state-of-the-art technology.”
In reality that seems to come down to admittedly nice paint, nicer interior finishes and those turbine wheels and badges.
Oh, and smoothly delivered torque -- that's an Alpina trademark as well. That explains the 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 and eight-speed automatic combo. Though the M-car dual-clutch may be absent, the B6’s motor is actually torquier than the 4.4-liter in the M6 Gran Coupe -- 540 lb-ft to the M6’s 500 lb-ft. It’s noticeable. After a bit of lag on takeoff, the car launches forward effortlessly yet floats along gently, even in the “sport” suspension modes.
I’m glad Alpina has a half-century of heritage to stand on; because I’m not sure you could start a company doing what it does today. That’s not a knock on the B6, because it seems like a really well-executed product rather than a fancy tuner special.
Even at over $126,000, the price isn’t that ridiculous when you consider that a customized BMW from the automaker’s BMW Individual program isn’t going to be cheap -- and then there’s the matter of the boosted output.
For me, some of the trouble comes from BMW’s growth into every imaginable market segment. It makes sports cars, luxury cars and sports-luxury cars, each with adjustable suspension settings to fill every conceivable gap in between. Then there’s that Individual program, which offers you a custom car straight from the factory.
Fortunately for Alpina, BMW’s M cars are just a tad on the harsh and clunky side, and offerings like the B6 really do manage to set themselves apart visually. I might not be able to explain Alpina’s ongoing existence, but I can’t say it makes me mad.
The standard equipment level has been extended to include attractive features such as full LED adaptive headlights with high beam assistance.PHOTO BY BMW
Options: Executive package including heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, power rear and side sunshades, front ventilated seats, heated rear seats, ceramic controls, adaptive full LED lights, automatic high beams and head-up display ($5,400); Driver assistance plus including active blind spot detection, active driving assistant, side and top view cameras ($1,900)
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