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Alpina B5 2019 review

The Alpina B5 might just be the perfect mild-mannered missile for you.
Dan Pugh
Marketing manager

30 Apr 2019 • 8 min read

The Alpina B5 Biturbo might just be the fastest family car you've never heard of. Here's how it fared on weekend duties.

Looking for a fast family car but keen to avoid being labelled a show-off by your neighbours? If so, then I might just have the perfect mild-mannered missile for you.

Not that the Alpina B5 Biturbo 2019 sedan isn't an eye-catching car. It's more that most people might never have heard of it. Alpina is a German tuning company, which in this case has worked its magic on a BMW M5.

The B5 is a high-performance sedan that might just go unnoticed.  The B5 is a high-performance sedan that might just go unnoticed.

As a result, the B5 - priced at a rather hefty $240,349 - is a high-performance sedan that might just go unnoticed.  

That money buys you a heap of standard features, including leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, navigation, Alpina-embossed headrests, a 10.25-inch infotainment display, digital radio, Alpina door sills, a sunroof, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a head-up display, Alpina's virtual instrument cluster, heated front and rear seats, and those 20-inch Alpina alloy wheels.

So, how will the B5 handle family taxi duties? My kids and I had the weekend to find out.

Saturday

A full schedule of activities for myself and the kids today, with a trip to a museum in the city in the morning, followed by lunch and then a visit to an indoor trampoline park in the afternoon.  

With a keen focus on under-the-skin performance enhancement, Alpinas are not noted for their brash exterior styling. And the B5 is no exception, with subtle, but distinctive, styling touches inside and out. 

Stand-out exterior features include the classic 20-spoke alloy wheels. Stand-out exterior features include the classic 20-spoke alloy wheels.

Stand-out exterior features include the classic 20-spoke alloy wheels and a large front spoiler decorated with embossed Alpina lettering. Other distinctive cues include the quad exhaust tips and the boot-lid spoiler that completes the rear of the car. 

What you won't find are any large air intakes in the bonnet or superfluous aero decoration, and there is good reason. It's what lies beneath that counts.

Moving inside the cabin we discover a dash layout that is unmistakably BMW, but with a number of classy Alpina design additions. Similar to the exterior, most traces of BMW have been replaced, with an Alpina-badged steering wheel, new virtual instrument cluster in vibrant blue, embossed headrests and illuminated door sills.

Moving inside the cabin we discover a dash layout that is unmistakably BMW. Moving inside the cabin we discover a dash layout that is unmistakably BMW.

The centre console includes a little brushed-metal numbered plaque with the number 46 engraved in the centre that gives an extra hint of exclusivity.

Alpina has done an exceptional job of reupholstering the seats in a mixture of soft quilted leather that provides an extra layer of comfort and a premium feel. The front seats in particular are an incredibly nice place to spend time, even making traffic jams a far more bearable experience. 

It’s a similar situation in the back seat, with the kids treated to limousine-like luxury and a host of creature comforts, including climate controls in the rear of the centre console, auto sunblinds ($1059 option) and two cupholders in the pull-down centre armrest.

  • The front seats are an incredibly nice place to spend time. The front seats are an incredibly nice place to spend time.
  • The kids were treated to limousine-like luxury and a host of creature comforts. The kids were treated to limousine-like luxury and a host of creature comforts.
  • You'll get climate controls in the rear of the centre console for back seat passengers. You'll get climate controls in the rear of the centre console for back seat passengers.

I can barely believe the compliance on offer around the bumpy suburban backs streets that surround my house. At lower speeds, its ride is limo-like, comfortably absorbing all the speed humps and potholes we encountered. It is one of the more remarkable achievements of this car, particularly when you consider it sits on 20-inch alloy wheels and will clip 100km/h in well under four seconds.

Inside the cabin there is an air of quiet and calm, the B5 navigating the local suburban blacktop with little flash or flamboyance, even under considerable acceleration.

The test car I drove came with $13k (approx.) of options, including a limited-slip differential, steering-wheel heating, a soft-close function for doors, sunblinds, on-board TV, the ambient air package and front-seat ventilation.

Sunday

The day commenced with an early morning drive sans kids, and then a family trip to a TreeTops adventure park.  

The Alpina B5 uses the same 4.4-litre V8 engine found in the BMW M5 (and also the B7), with power outputs at 447kW and 800Nm - 50Nm more than the M5. Both use the same ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with identical gear ratios, and both are all-wheel drive.

The Alpina B5 uses a 4.4-litre V8 engine. The Alpina B5 uses a 4.4-litre V8 engine.

With a 0-100km/h time of 3.5 seconds, its one-tenth slower than the M5 but has a higher top speed of 330km/h - good news for those keen to track this family hauler.

Sport mode requires only the lightest of accelerator inputs, where upon you are rewarded with a satisfyingly fast response that propels the car to a 100km/h in just 3.5sec.

Amazingly, though, the B5 barely sheds it’s mild manners as it collects speed, with only the exhaust and engine notes to entertain the driver. The  steering is light and direct, but not as engaging I had anticipated.

The  steering is light and direct, but not as engaging I had anticipated. The steering is light and direct, but not as engaging I had anticipated.

During our afternoon drive to the adventure park we made good use of the cup holders throughout (two up front and two in the back). Other storage areas include bottle holders in the doors, a small centre console bin and a hidey-hole in front of the shifter.

Under that power tailgate, the B5's boot capacity is 530 litres - which the kids and I made good use of over the weekend. The two plastic storage areas either side of the luggage space are a nice touch and handy for storing wet beach gear.

The five-star ANCAP-rated Alpina B5 arrives with a vast list of safety kit, including airbags, traction and stability control, AEB (front and rear), evasive steering, front and rear cross-traffic warning, blind-spot alert and lane-keep assist. The Alpina B5 also comes with BMW's emergency call function if you have an accident.

For parents with child seats there are two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the rear row.

Over the weekend we covered around 350km of city, suburban and motorway driving with the trip computer displaying a fuel consumption reading of 13.6 litres/100km. Alpina claims combined fuel use of 10.5 litres/100km, with the B5 sipping premium unleaded only.


The Wrap

Whether it’s playing the role of hardcore performance sedan or luxury family taxi, the B5 is an immensely satisfying car to drive. The understated way it goes about its business is a quality I can appreciate. Show-offs need not apply. 

Likes

Dislikes

Scores

Dan:

4.3

The Kids:

4

$21,000

Based on new car retail price