BMW Alpina B4 VS Lamborghini Huracan
BMW Alpina B4
- Ride and handling
- Brilliant engine
- The price
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Some dodgy styling features
- Soaring V10
- Seven-speed gearbox
- Even more fun than all-wheel-drive Huracan
- Lack of second screen makes dash a bit crowded
- Not much storage
- Can't see the engine
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.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Lamborghini's Huracan is the howling and fiery follow-up to Sant' Agata's best-selling model ever, the vicious, V10-powered Gallardo.
The first clean-sheet design since Audi's takeover of Lambo in the late 1990s, the new car has picked up where the Gallardo left off, selling like crazy. Since its launch a couple of years back, the new variants have come thick and fast, with the rear-wheel-drive 580-2 joining the LP610-4 as well as Spyder variants of both. Last month Lambo dropped the madcap and much waffled over Performante (or "totally bonkers" version).
Lamborghini's local arm made a canny decision to ensure we could kill two birds with one stone, letting us loose in a Huracan Spyder 580-2. Less power, less roof, fewer driven wheels, more weight. Does it mean less fun, though?
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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?
The rear-wheel-drive Spyder couldn't be more fun if it put on a silly wig or sprouted a jet engine and wings.
Yes, it's heavier and slower than the Coupe but the Huracan loses almost none of its feel with the roof whipped off, plus you get all the fun and fresh air of a Spyder. The extra weight doesn't mean much on the road and the added bonus of the rear-wheel drive's more responsive steering and even sharper turn-in evens things out.
The V10 is the last of its type, with Ferrari and McLaren both employing forced induction V8s for their smaller sports cars - in McLaren's case, all of them. The Huracan Spyder is everything that's good about Lamborghini - nutty looks, crackpot engine, head-turning theatrics - with all of the bad stuff booted out by parent company Audi. The 580-2 loses none of the fun of the circus and with the roof off it's even louder music to your ears.
Are you roofless in intent or do your sports cars need a lid?
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.
The roof is a fabric job and folds away in a tidy 15 seconds, more than quick enough to save you from a drenching in all but the most sudden of rain showers. It looks pretty good when up, doing a decent impression of the coupe's roofline, but roof down with the cool speedster-style humps, the Huracan looks epic.
It's not a shy and retiring car (no Lambo is), not by a long shot and if you enjoy the attention of the local constabulary, the bright yellow (Giallo Tenerife) is the colour for you. One particularly nice touch is the Huracan Spyder script engraved on the windscreen header rail.
Frustratingly, there's only a small cover to gain access to the oil filler - unlike the coupe you can't see the engine through the cover. The rear section of the Spyder is quite different, with a huge composite clamshell that lifts out of the way to allow the roof to stow itself. It's a necessary compromise but a shame as well.
The cabin is standard Huracan, with switchgear handed down from Audi and that brilliant red starter button cover that looks like it should have 'Bombs Away' written on it. There are a lot of fighter-jet influences, and it's a more convincing space than the more expensive Aventador.
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.
Yes, well, the usual mumbling explanation about how you have to take into account what this car is for and that there isn't the room for everyday luxuries will have to suffice. You do get a cupholder that pops out of the passenger-side dash garnish and the front boot will hold 70 litres. There's not a lot else you can squeeze in, although you can probably slip slim items behind the front seat backs. You'll be golfing on your own.
It's a more comfortable interior than the Aventador, with more head and shoulder room and a better overall position for driver and passenger.
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.
As always, value for money isn't one of your top priorities if you're looking for a high-end sports car dripping with standard features. The stereo has just four speakers but really, who's going to be listening to Kyle when you ears can reap the Huracan?
You also score dual-zone climate control, remote central locking (the flush fitted handles pop out endearingly as you draw closer), LED headlights, running lights and taillights, (very cool) digital dashboard, electric seats, sat nav, leather trim and a hydraulic lifter to help keep the front splitter pristine over kerbs.
Naturally the option list is long. Our car was specced by a restrained hand, with 20-inch black Giamo alloys ($9110), front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera ($5700 - ahem), black painted brake calipers ($1800) and $2400 worth of Lamborghini logos and stitching. Very nice stitching, obviously.
You can go completely mad if you want to, spending up to $20,000 on matte paint colours, $10,000 on bucket seats, carbon fibre bits can mount up and then of course you can commission stuff to suit your personal taste for even more cash. If you're prepared to drop well north of $400,000 on a car, what's a few more thousand, I guess.
As far as value goes, the Spyder is about right for its segment, coming in around the same price as an admittedly less focused Ferrari California and a bit more than the less-powerful R8 Spyder range.
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.
As the name suggests, the 580-2 is 30 metric horsepower down on the 610-4. In our language, that means Automobili Lamborghini's 5.2-litre naturally-aspirated V10 (yes, like many parts, shared with the Audi R8) developing 426kW/540Nm. Those figures are down 23kW and 20Nm on the AWD car.
The official 0-100km/h figure is 3.6 seconds, although it's unlikely it's that slow(!), Lambo's figures are regularly bettered by other publications with little effort.
The amazing thing about this car is that despite being handed a regular thrashing, its fuel consumption is little worse than a large Toyota SUV's. When cruising along it will sip fuel, with cylinder deactivation helping further ease its thirst. The claimed combined cycle figure is a reasonable (and almost achievable) 11.9L/100km. I got a calculated 15.2L/100km and did not spare the rod, Nosirreebob. And nothing like the terrifying, guzzling consumption of the Aventador's V12.
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.
The Huracan's V10 is a glorious thing. It revs to the redline like a demon and does it all day every day. It feels utterly unburstable and delivers its power with such joy and abandon it gets under your skin.
With the roof off and Sport mode engaged on the Anime switch, the mix of induction and exhaust noise is utterly addictive. It's a theatrical machine, popping and banging and the metallic scream under power all combine to blow away the cobwebs in double quick time. Its sound is symphonic and pulling the gearshift instantly changes the note. It's breathtaking.
A big part of this particular car's charm is the switch to rear-wheel drive. The engineers didn't just forget to bolt in the propshafts and front-wheel-drive gear, but the steering had a going-over to compensate for the changes and to improve feel and responsiveness. It worked.
Where the all-wheel drive is prone to mild understeer, the front end of the dash-two is a little more planted. The Spyder might be heavier than the Coupe, but the rear-wheel-drive car feels that tiny bit more agile, with a lightning change of direction and a livelier rear-end. It's more delicate than -4 and doesn't feel appreciably slower.
One side note about the -4's understeer: it simply isn't a big deal. The internet will tell you it "understeers like a pig". The internet is completely wrong, but you already knew that; the internet loves cat videos. Nobody accuses the Ferrari California of the same vice, and yet it, too, understeers mildly in standard spec (as opposed to HS) - it's deliberate, safer and user-friendly. It is not, however, a pig.
Anyway. On with the show.
In an effort to lower the cost of the 580-2, it also comes with steel brakes - the expensive carbon ceramics are an option. On the road, you're not really going to notice too much difference apart from slightly different pedal feel. It probably renders the Huracan a less effective track car, but the reality is, not that many owners are going to care, particularly Spyder buyers.
I spent most of my time in Sport mode - it's where the most fun is to be found, with the electronics taking a more relaxed approach to the car's attitude. The drive-by-wire throttle is lovely and sharp, the steering a bit weightier and the seven-speed twin-clutch (or, as I prefer to say at every opportunity, doppio frizione). Corsa is certainly fast but it's far more interested in getting the car straight and slinging it out of the exit of a corner. Don't bother with Strada mode - it's far too soft, and deeply unappealing.
BMW Alpina B48/10
The Huracan has four airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and brake force distribution. A super strong carbon fibre and aluminium spaceframe does the heavy lifting in a crash.
The Huracan is supplied with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Given the usual mileage of a car like this, that's ample. There's three-year roadside assist into the bargain and the option to extend the warranty - $6900 for one year and $13,400 for two, which seems okay given what can go wrong in such a sophisticated car.
Servicing intervals are an absurdly reasonable 15,000km although you're expected to visit the dealer once a year (mainly so you can order your next Lambo).