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Alpina B5 2020 review: Touring

Is the Alpina B5 the ultimate family wagon?

The Alpina B5 Touring 2020 is the ultimate performance wagon you never knew you needed. In fact, you might not have even heard of it.

For those unfamiliar with the brand, Alpina is the master of taking BMWs and turning them into absolute performance weapons. In the case of our test car, it has taken a BMW 5 Series wagon and created something akin to a big-booted M5, only better.

How much better? Well this wonderful wagon can reach a top speed of 322km/h, and scream from zero to 100km/h in the bonkers time of 3.5secs. And all that performance is wrapped in a refined and sophisticated package.

So, what's this mild-mannered missile like to with as a family taxi? My kids and I had the Alpina B5 for a week to find out.

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✅ What does it look like?

Dressed in black, the B5 looks smart, sleek and understated. The kind of wagon you wish you had parked on your driveway and a far cry from many other attention-seeking performance wagons.

The B5's trademark 20-spoke alloy wheels are stand out feature of the side profile and a personal favourite of mine. With the brake dust quick to cake on, though, they would benefit from regular cleaning, which will no doubt require an entire afternoon's investment. What the hell, it's worth it.

  • Alpina saved its finest design work for the interior with a makeover that dials up the luxury factor big time. (image: Dan Pugh) Alpina saved its finest design work for the interior with a makeover that dials up the luxury factor big time. (image: Dan Pugh)
  • The seats, draped in Nappa Leather and featuring bespoke diamond stitching, were a crowd favourite - soft, supportive and extremely comfortable. (image: Dan Pugh) The seats, draped in Nappa Leather and featuring bespoke diamond stitching, were a crowd favourite - soft, supportive and extremely comfortable. (image: Dan Pugh)

Upfront, Alpina has applied an aggressive-looking spoiler with signature branding, giving the car a slightly more athletic stance, while the rear valance neatly frames the angry-looking stainless steel quad exhaust. The BMW logo on the boot lid is now bookended by the slightly awkward-looking Alpina logo and B5 BiTurbo lettering.

Alpina saved its finest design work for the interior with a makeover that dials up the luxury factor big time. The seats, draped in Nappa Leather and featuring bespoke diamond stitching, were a crowd favourite - soft, supportive and extremely comfortable. A pleasure to spend time in.

Other Alpina touches in the 5 Series' cabin include the signature plaque on the centre console that displays the build number of the car, the bespoke leather-bound steering wheel, and the redesigned instrument cluster using the Alpina blue and green. The rest of the cabin more or less retains much of the familiar switch gear and layout of the 5 Series.

Upfront, Alpina has applied an aggressive-looking spoiler with signature branding, giving the car a slightly more athletic stance. (image: Dan Pugh) Upfront, Alpina has applied an aggressive-looking spoiler with signature branding, giving the car a slightly more athletic stance. (image: Dan Pugh)

✅ How does it drive?

A week of motorway, suburban and city driving was an effortless experience, with the B5 delivering the perfect blend of polish and performance.

Engine specs for the B5 make for impressive reading, and they're headlined by a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 powerplant producing 447kW of power and 800Nm of torque. Comparisons with the M5 reveal that while the B5 produces 50Nm more torque, it doesn't arrive until 3000rpm while the M5's is all there from 1800rpm.

The B5's secret recipe for its supercar-like performance figures lie with the car's all-wheel-drive system, new twin turbochargers and intercoolers, and reconfigured air intake and exhaust system.

A week of motorway, suburban and city driving was an effortless experience. (image: Dan Pugh) A week of motorway, suburban and city driving was an effortless experience. (image: Dan Pugh)

It's on the motorway where this car truly shines, comfortably sitting north of 100km/h (but not too far north, officer), with plenty left to propel us forward in absolute comfort and luxury. The on-ramps provided a useful runway to test the acceleration from slow and mid-range speeds.

Comfort and Sport driving modes proved equally satisfying, with Comfort requiring a more purposeful prod of the right pedal. Sport mode elicits a more  immediate response, pushing you back into the leather seats as a low-level growl from that quad exhaust enters the cabin.

Acceleration to 100km/h is fast yet refined, but without a booming exhaust soundtrack, it somehow feels a little subdued. It didn't stop my stupid grin, though.

It's has a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 powerplant producing 447kW of power and 800Nm of torque. (image: Dan Pugh) It's has a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 powerplant producing 447kW of power and 800Nm of torque. (image: Dan Pugh)

The eight-speed ZF automatic transmission was smooth and snappy and did an exceptional job in helping this car achieve a level of driving refinement, particularly when pushed. The B-roads surrounding the motorway did little to upset handling either, easily despatching corners with confidence thanks in part to the super-sticky Pirelli tyres.

For drivers more likely to be piloting the B5 around the 'burbs, it offers plenty as a daily driver with the suspension set up ensuring a comfortable and rewarding drive at lower speeds.

We covered around 435km over the week in Comfort and Sport modes with the trip computer displaying a fuel consumption reading of 11.3L/100km. Only slightly above the claimed combined figure of 10.9L/100km.

✅ How spacious is it?

There's generous space available for passengers and cargo alike. Head and legroom in the rear was ample for someone of my height (180cm), with inches to spare to the roof and seat in front. My kids had more than enough space to spread out, too.

Boot capacity is 570 litres which increases to a generous 1700 litres with the 40/20/40 split fold seats down– more than enough space for two bikes. Items such as surf boards or skis can be accommodated by folding down the middle seat.

Head and legroom in the rear was ample for someone of my height (180cm), with inches to spare to the roof and seat in front. (image: Dan Pugh) Head and legroom in the rear was ample for someone of my height (180cm), with inches to spare to the roof and seat in front. (image: Dan Pugh)

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

The beauty of the B5 is how easy it is to live with as a daily driver. Cruising in Comfort mode was well, supremely comfortable, with the V8 happy to bounce around the suburban back streets.

Ride quality was untroubled by even the most dire road surfaces, which, coupled with the well-insulated cabin, made for a delightful driving experience. Navigating the two-tonne car around the city was easy with well-weighted steering and parking aids helping that make light work of visiting a crowded shopping centre.

  • oot capacity is 570 litres which increases to a generous 1700 litres with the 40/20/40 split fold seats down. (image: Dan Pugh) oot capacity is 570 litres which increases to a generous 1700 litres with the 40/20/40 split fold seats down. (image: Dan Pugh)
  • More than enough space for two bikes. Items such as surf boards or skis can be accommodated by folding down the middle seat. (image: Dan Pugh) More than enough space for two bikes. Items such as surf boards or skis can be accommodated by folding down the middle seat. (image: Dan Pugh)

There's plenty of storage on offer throughout the cabin, including a decent glove box, door bins with big bottle holders, and a centre console housing multiple USB ports and a pair of 12-volt outlets.

My kids in the rear seat made good use of the creature comforts including air vents with individual temp controls in the centre console and heated seats. There are also map pockets in the front seatbacks, bottle holders in the doors, a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders and two 12-volt sockets.

 

✅ How safe is it?

The Alpina B5 is based on the BMW 5 Series, which has a five-star ANCAP rating. Along with the comprehensive suite of airbags, traction and stability control, there's a decent list of advanced safety equipment.

Coming standard is 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.

For child seats, you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top-tether points across the rear row.

The Alpina B5 Touring is a unique high-performance family taxi made for the discerning driver with ridiculously deep pockets. (image: Dan Pugh) The Alpina B5 Touring is a unique high-performance family taxi made for the discerning driver with ridiculously deep pockets. (image: Dan Pugh)

✅ What's the tech like?

The technology is courtesy of BMW and includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen operated by a large dial in the centre console and a virtual instrument cluster for the driver. Also included is digital radio, 12 speaker Harmon Kardon stereo and a head-up display.

✅ How much does it cost to own?

Price is a sore spot, with the B5 Touring coming in at $217,000. Worse still, a handful of options - including soft close doors ($1,150) and leather dash ($2,243) - pushed the final price to an eye-watering $220,393.

There's a stack of standard equipment for the price, though, including LED headlights, cruise control, quad-zone climate control, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, sat nav, and BMW's connected services, all fitted as standard. Alpina standard touches include tweaks to the sports suspension, auto gearbox, driving modes and steering as well as ceramic-finished controls and floor mats.

There’s a stack of standard equipment for the price, including LED headlights. (image: Dan Pugh) There’s a stack of standard equipment for the price, including LED headlights. (image: Dan Pugh)


The Wrap

The Alpina B5 Touring is a unique high-performance family taxi made for the discerning driver with ridiculously deep pockets.  A class act of comfort, luxury and practicality with warp speed-style acceleration.

Likes

Subtle styling
Cabin fit out - especially the seats
Lightning quick

Dislikes

The price
No option to dial up exhaust note
Giving it back

Scores

Dan:

4.3

The Kids:

4

$217,000

Based on new car retail price

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