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BMW Alpina B4


Lamborghini Aventador

Summary

BMW Alpina B4

If you're looking for a sleek, two-door coupe with a sparkling chassis, rear-wheel drive and a charismatic turbo straight-six, BMW has you covered with about eight choices. That should be that, then. But wait. There's more. 

Since 1965, Alpina - the name of a resurrected a typewriter company - has collaborated closely with BMW to produce distinct, high performance Alpina-badged cars. It actually started with a Weber dual-carburettor unofficial conversion for the BMW 1500 in 1962 and over the years built into a racing operation winning championships and races like the Spa 24 Hours.

Alpina returned to Australian shores in 2017 after a long hiatus with a new range including the BMW 4 Series based B4. Not long after, BMW updated the 4 in what it calls LCI (Lifecycle Impulse), so Alpina followed suit with a price drop, new gear and called it the B4 S.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating4 seats

Lamborghini Aventador

Too fast, too loud, too crazy, too dangerous, too big. All of these are phrases a supercar lover would never think to utter when considering the sanity-defying existence of the new Lamborghini Aventador S, and yet exactly the kind of things any reasonable person might say after driving one, or even witnessing it in motion.

Too much, clearly, is never enough in La La Lambo world, and it's certainly true that if you desire a car that will puncture your eardrums while rupturing your spleen and bruising your heart, this is the perfect vehicle for you.

Five years after its launch, the Aventador has been updated and upgraded - with new rear-wheel steering, an allegedly improved gearbox, tweaked styling and a button that says EGO - and uprated, with even more power that it clearly wasn't crying out for.

We went to Phillip Island to drive it around a high-speed track covered in rain, mist and suicidal geese.

Safety rating
Engine Type6.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency16.91L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

BMW Alpina B47.4/10

You could almost call the B4 S the anti-M4. It's still fast and practical but from a completely different perspective. It's much more a grand tourer than the M4 and even with the Akrapovic exhaust (usually a byword for joyous, anti-social racket), subtle.

For some, the price won't matter because the Alpina delivers what they want - M4-like straight line performance without the histrionics or the uncompromising chassis. And there's also a bit of that perverse exclusivity of the styling that you won't get anywhere else.

Is Peter right? Is it the anti-M4? Or just a tarted up 4 with a bit of extra grunt?


Lamborghini Aventador6/10

The Lamborghini Aventador S is a hugely unnecessary car that probably wouldn't exist at all in any sane universe. Fortunately it's from Italy instead.

While it definitely has its flaws - it's simply too big, and too fast, to drive on public roads, and it's too heavy, and mental, to be a purist's track car - there is still something strangely charming about it.

It's the ridiculous design, those super-cool doors, the outrageous and deafening noises it makes, and what it does to your internal organs when you accelerate in it.

There are better, sharper and more affordable supercars than the Aventador S, but there are none that are anything like it.

Is the Aventador S your dream supercar, or would you prefer an F12 Berlinetta? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Design

BMW Alpina B47/10

Alpina has always had a particular aesthetic that could uncharitably be termed as mid-'80s West German - all set square angles and body graphics. Think David Hasselhoff's Berlin Wall look. The company has never really deviated from adding squared-off body bits to the various BMWs it has rebadged under its long-running agreement.

For the B4S, Alpina adds the signature billion-spoke alloy wheels (only a slight exaggeration), a new front splitter complete with Alpina lettering, a weirdly proportioned boot lid lip spoiler and - not even joking - pinstripes. Like I said, mid-'80s West German. You can still recognise the sleek 4 Series Coupe but perhaps the worst of it is the super-sized, wonky-looking ALPINA B4S on the boot.

Inside is rather more restrained apart from the ill-fitting Alpina plaque under the climate control. Again, it's all 4 Series in here, with the lovely Merino leather liberally applied across the cabin. Less lovely is the wood on the door pulls and console but the door cards have an oddly appealing woven leather which looks and feels good.

Sadly the standard 4 Series steering wheel is along for the ride. There's nothing wrong with it - although the Alpina logo does look out of place - but if I were a product planner, I'd beg for the lovelier M wheel.


Lamborghini Aventador9/10

The lovely and loquacious Italians from Lamborghini showed us a revealing little sketch at the car's launch, which looked a little bit like a bad tattoo but said a lot about their design ethos. It featured mean-looking sharks and menacing cobras morphing with an outline of the Aventador, and was meant to represent the approach to further man-ing up the looks of this S version.

The shark fins are clearly evident in the new and even bigger front splitter, the cobra must be hiding under the engine cover somewhere, while the new rear exhaust shape is apparently modelled on the Space Shuttle.

There are a few touches of the classic Countach, apparently, and plenty of "aerospace" design, which means they've tried to make it look like a fighter jet.

The overall effect is about as over the top as Lady Gaga marrying Ivanka Trump, and yet because its a Lamborghini, you find yourself loving it anyway. Absurdity is their reality. And how could you not fall for any car with those doors?

The interior is not as classy feeling as a Ferrari, but it has a certain brash, flash-cash opulence to it that makes you smile as well.

Practicality

BMW Alpina B46/10

If you're in the front, you're in luck - it's a comfortable place to be, with plenty of leg and headroom. Down back isn't terrible despite the coupe roofline. The two seats are nicely shaped for maximum comfort and separated by an odd plastic tray. The fold-down armrest has two cupholders.

Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders (bring the total to four for the car) and the long doors will hold a bottle each.

The boot swallows a reasonable 445 litres, which isn't at all bad.


Lamborghini Aventador2/10

Yes, the Aventador S is a car, and it will take you from Point A to Point B, although you might leave some of your life expectancy behind on every trip, but other than that, practicality is not a selling point.

It is 4.8m long, just over 2m wide and a mere 1.14m high, the giant Lambo is as thick across the hips as a Toyota LandCruiser, and as pleasant to climb in and out of as an iron lung.

It also burns slightly more fuel than a Space Shuttle launch and is virtually impossible to see out of, but owners won't care because every other car will be behind them somewhere, and they'll only be looking out for plate-glass windows to admire themselves in anyway.

There are no cupholders (although apparently you can option them) and there's virtually no room to store anything at all. None of this matters, of course, because if the people who buy an Aventador S want practicality they'll simply choose one of the other 20 cars in their personal fleet.

Price and features

BMW Alpina B47/10

If you thought BMW don't mess about when pricing up its cars, you best strap yourself in. The 440i-based B4S starts at a solid $149,900. That's $48,000 more than the 440i and significantly more than an M4 Pure. But there's plenty of gear on offer and some genuine, bespoke Alpina additions.

Standard are 20-inch signature Alpina alloys, 16-speaker harmon kardon-branded stereo with DAB, super-soft Merino leather everywhere, dual-zone climate control, around-view cameras, reversing camera, sat nav, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, heated and electric front seats, head-up display, auto headlights and active LED headlights, LED taillights and electric sunroof.

The stereo and sat nav are run by BMW's iDrive. It's a cracker of a system and almost gets away without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The absence of such simple pleasures at this price point is a bit lame, but here we are.


Lamborghini Aventador7/10

On the one hand, the $788,914 price for this new S version of the Aventador (the S stands for "Something that is better" according to the Italians) is problematic, and slightly ridiculous, because it seems a lot to pay for a car that would have you shot on sight on suspicion of speeding by the Victorian Police and is about as well suited to Australian conditions as an igloo.

On the other hand, which is covered in thick gold rings with a fat Rolex attached to its wrist, it makes perfect sense, because its vast and silly size perfectly complements the very nature of the car, which is perhaps the biggest 'look at me, I'm rich' statement short of sky writing your bank balance.

The sort of person who buys a car like this, rather than the cheaper, far more sensible and, frankly, enjoyable Lamborghini Huracan, actually wants to pay a lot of money, because it's part of the fun.

Sure, that price only gets you two seats but they're very sexy ones, and truly grippy to sit in, which they need to be in a g-force monster like this.

There's only one spec for an S buyer, and it includes little treats like Apple CarPlay, but if you want the telemetry system, to record your lap times, it's an optional extra, at $3400.

The one feature every owner will want to show off, though - aside from the obvious ones like the scissor doors and 'Bombs-away!' starter - is the EGO button. This is basically a fourth setting to add to the car's existing Strada (Street in Italian), Sport and Corsa (Race) options, but confusingly, because it is entirely personalisable, it actually offers another 24 settings when you press it.

Sure, it's slightly pointless, but at least it's honest, because EGO is what this car is all about.

Each of those settings also changes the Aventador S's lush and wondrous Kombi dash screens (the Lamborghini-styled version of owner Audi's Virtual Cockpit), offering race-car like giant tachometers and even a graphic that shows you which way your wheels are pointing. Not that you'll have time to look at it when exploring your car's 350km/h top speed.

Engine & trans

BMW Alpina B49/10

A lot of your extra money turns up under the bonnet. These days the 440i packs BMW's slick B58 turbo straight six and the B4S does likewise. The boys from Buchloe in Bavaria (there are certain to be women there, too, I just liked the alliteration) added a pair of Alpina-spec turbos to generate a whopping 324kW and, more importantly, 660Nm. Alpina says 600Nm (the max torque figure of the brilliant M4 CS) is available from 2000-5000rpm, while the full 660Nm is available from 3000 to 4500rpm.

The M4 Pure has 317kW and 550Nm from the S55 straight-six. Just so you know.

Like the 440i but unlike the M4, the B4S employs the dependably brilliant eight-speed ZF automatic found throughout the BMW range.


Lamborghini Aventador7/10

Let's start with the bad news, which is that the all-new seven-speed ISR (Independent Shifting Rods) gearbox that was supposed to fix the old-tech lurchiness of the Aventador's driveline is still so far off the pace of modern, dual-clutch transmissions that it's mildly embarrassing.

Change gear at speed in this vicious V12 and you're in for a kind of stop-motion, Wallace and Gromit experience. There's no doubt you can feel the aggression of the shifts, but they do remind you of a long-past time when upshifts meant a short break between rushes of acceleration, rather than the seamless shove you now get from a Ferrari (or even a Golf GTI).

Your gear changes can be so violent that they knock the breath out of you, but it could be argued that this merely suits the personality of the car, which in turn reflects the absurdity of its manic engine.

Power has, somehow, been raised by 30kW to an astronomical 544kW at a deafening and ballistic 8400rpm. Lamborghini says the new tune gives even more torque at higher revs, but its maximum figure of 690Nm is actually less than Ferrari's V8-powered 488, which has 760Nm.

The difference is turbochargers, of course, a limp-wristed affectation of a technology that Lamborghini still eschews.

They will tell you it's all about the way the car performs and accelerates, and with a 0-100km/h time of 2.9 seconds (not even a whisker faster than the standard Aventador, which shows you how difficult those times are to improve on), a 0-200km/h dash of just 8.8 seconds, and 0-300 in 24.2, it does do these things well.

What it's really about, though, is the operatic purity and visceral violence of the way the engine sounds, and with its all-new muffler and exhaust system, the S really does take big, shouty showiness to new levels.

Indeed, I would venture this is the loudest road car my ears have ever been assaulted by (a Porsche 918 is louder, but it's really a race car with a rego sticker). Under acceleration it is as eyebrow-liltingly loud as the front row of an AC/DC concert back in the 1990s, but it is the series of explosions you get on the overrun when fear pushes your foot off the throttle that are truly astounding. It sounds like someone throwing steel rubbish bins full of grenades into a cement mixer.

Crazy? Yes. Unnecessary? Yes, but it is wonderful.

It's possible that, as some of my colleagues claimed they could notice, the S is more instantly ballistic when you press the accelerator than the normal Aventador, but frankly that's like comparing being shot with different guns. Let's just say it's a hugely violent, chest-beating engine. And I love it.

Fuel consumption

BMW Alpina B47/10

Alpina quotes 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle and we went through the premium unleaded at the rate of 11.7L/100km. I enjoyed myself, so that's not a terrible result.


Lamborghini Aventador3/10

Yes, it sure does consume fuel. Quite a lot, with claimed figures of 26.2L/100km on the urban cycle, and a combined urban/highway figure of 16.9L/100km. Frankly, you'd be lucky if you kept it under 30.0L/100km. It's thirsty work to drive.

Driving

BMW Alpina B49/10

One of the key differences between the B4 and M4 is the ride. While the M4 can crash over bumps and generally be a little hard to live with, the crew in Buchloe have gone after a much more plush ride. And in that they have succeeded because the B4 S is a mighty fine cruiser. Bumps are dismissed with a haughty disdain, even Sport + silliness doesn't completely write-off ride quality.

Very impressive too, is the steering. While still not at Lotus Elise levels of feel (few cars are), the Alpina tweaks connect the your palms to the road with more clarity than what you'll find in the 440i or M4. Where the M4 particularly adds too much weight, the 440i is a bit more circumspect in that regard.

And then we come to the engine. The B58 six is a belter, better even than the N55 that preceded it. It's still a 3.0-litre straight six but is part of BMW's modular engine family that starts with a 1.5-litre triple in the Mini and 1 Series. The Alpina-spec turbos are noisier, the Akrapovic exhaust lighter and also noisier. It doesn't have the all-out crackle and pop of an Audi or Merc (perish the thought), but when you're on it, the B4 means business. The 660Nm of torque, available over a wide rev range, delivers a steel fist wrapped in a velvet glove and bubble wrap - the speed builds rapidly but smoothly. 

The approach to the chassis tune seems to be based on the driving talents of mere mortals on normal roads, which is kind of like the 440i. It's terrific fun to drive hard but it's very forgiving and patient. The great thing about it is that you wouldn't think twice about jumping in it for the long haul, so comfortable and quiet is the cabin. The M4 will leave it for dead on a winding road, but that's perfectly fine.

One irritant is the replacement of the admittedly cheap BMW gearshift paddles with weirdly non-tactile buttons. They're not particularly easy to use and, probably worse for a sporty car, unsatisfying. It's an odd detail with which to go off the reservation. Cheeringly, the eight-speed ZF is its usual perfect self, so you don't have to worry too much about manual mode or go old school and use the shifter.


Lamborghini Aventador8/10

Piloting an Aventador around city streets is a challenge, partly because it's like trying to hold a four-metre high, 400kg Rottweiler on a leash, but mainly because it's stupidly wide and you can't see anything from the driver's seat.

Lamborghini has tried to improve the experience of driving it at low speeds with a new rear-wheel steering system, that turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds, effectively shortening the wheelbase and making it almost liveable in car parks, but then turns them in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds, for better turn-in and handling.

This was the first time I've ever been fortunate, or perhaps mad, enough to drive an Aventador on a race track, and a fast one at that in Phillip Island, which was covered in a fairly typical Arctic storm front, with enough standing water to attract large, suicidal geese to several corner apexes, including the one at the top of the straight, where the big Lambo was hitting 230km/h before we'd even passed the pits (it had dried out a bit, briefly, for that lap).

With open spaces in front of you, this car delivers the kind of acceleration that forces all the air out of your body, or perhaps you just forget to breathe because your brain is too busy freaking out. It's an invigorating sensation, but not without fear, a bit like jumping out of a plane, and equally addictive.

All that rocket thrust really is its party trick, though, because as mentioned the gear shifts are a bit of a shambles, and the sheer size, and 1575kg weight, of the thing makes it feel like a handful around tight corners.

It's very good around a track for what it is, but what it is is too heavy and too big for circuit driving. Again, you'd have to think a Huracan would be more fun, and would scare you less.

But then it did strike me, on my last lap, as I attempted to find some saliva in my dry mouth, that there's something wonderfully old school, and traditionally Lamborghini, about a supercar that genuinely frightens and intimidates you when you try to push it.

I can't imagine buying one myself, but I can imagine why a certain kind of enthusiast would want to.

Safety

BMW Alpina B48/10

The Alpina ships with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, forward AEB, road sign recognition and active cruise control.

There are also two ISOFIX points in the rear. Neither the Alpina nor the 4 Series has an ANCAP safety rating.


Lamborghini Aventador7/10

You're not getting AEB in a car like this, as the sensors would ugly up the front of the car, and there's nowhere to fit them. But you do get a 'passive pedestrian protection system', which is nice.

Some markets get a driver's knee airbag, but sadly we don't, so you have to put up with just four airbags in total, and a collapsible steering column.

Ownership

BMW Alpina B46/10

Alpina offers a two-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty which is a bit behind the times and not in keeping with the price point. Servicing is another matter altogether and you're subject to your dealer's standard charges for servicing.


Lamborghini Aventador5/10

You can have a five-year warranty with your Italian supercar, but it will cost you $22,200. Or you can have one for four years for $11,600. Both of those seem like a lot of money, but it's the big jump in year five I'd be worried about.