The 2015 BMW Alpina B6: Meet the fastest in the Gran Coupe family

By Norris McDonald - The Star

Base price/as tested: $142,400/$150,800

Engine: 4.4L twin-turbo V8

Power/torque: 540 hp/ 540 lb.-ft.

Fuel consumption L/100 km: 17.6 city, 11.7 hwy.; premium grade fuel

Competition: Audi RS7, Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG

What’s best: A rare beauty that both coddles and performs.

What’s worst: Hearty appetite for premium fuel

What’s interesting: Alpina founder Burkard Bovensiepen started it all in 1962 by slapping a pair of Webber carbs on a BMW 1500.

Alpina is to BMW what AMG is to Mercedes . . . but on a much smaller scale. With only 210 employees, this family-owned company in Buchloe, Bavaria, produces around 1,500 BMW-based cars a year. It’s on the road where this bespoke beauty separates itself from the other four-door coupe versions of BMW’s 6 Series, posting the highest top speed of any BMW.

I’m not alone in thinking the four-door coupe version of BMW’s 6 Series, known as the Gran Coupe, is one of the prettiest cars on the road. Drop into your local BMW store and they’ll have three turbocharged versions of this svelte Swabian on offer — the 315 hp six-cylinder 640i xDrive at $87,900; the 445 hp 4.4L V8 650i xDrive at $99,800; and the full-bore rear-drive M6 that starts at $127,900 and extracts an extreme 560 hp from the same 4.4L V8. 

Three choices should be enough, right? You’d think so.

But what if the two lesser models are just too “common,” and the M6 a tad too brutish for your sophisticated sensibilities? Well, Goldilocks, cut a cheque for 150 large and say hello to the rare-as-chicken-lips 2015 BMW Alpina B6.

This one is just right.

Dressed to kill in bespoke 20-inch multi-vane alloys and muscular body mods resplendent in Alpina Blue Metallic, the B6 is a bespoke beauty that doesn’t yell for attention. Yet it draws the eye and slacks the jaw with its elegance and sensuous tension.

The Alpina recipe leans more on the side of luxury than on track performance, but having said that, the B6 is hardly a poser. Those body bits are functioning aerodynamic aids, as this four-door coupe posts the highest top speed of any BMW — thanks to its Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and the deletion of that pesky 250 km/h governor found on all other high-po Bimmers. Credit also goes to the Alpina-modified 4.4L twin-turbo V8 that makes 540 hp (down 20 hp from the M6) but a robust 540 lb.-ft., which trumps the M6 by 38. Give it enough room, and the Alpina B6 will see 318 km/h.

So what the heck is an Alpina?

Alpina is to BMW what AMG is to Mercedes . . . but on a much smaller scale. BMW and Alpina were very successful racing partners in the ’70s. In 1988, Alpina said goodbye to motor racing and concentrated on the business of building their special brand of BMW road cars. 

With only 210 employees, this family-owned company in Buchloe, Bavaria, produces around 1,500 BMW-based cars a year.

In the case of this B6, partially assembled all-wheel-drive 650i xDrive Gran Coupes are plucked from the BMW assembly line and sent to Alpina for finishing. 

The engines get high-performance Mahle pistons, new turbos, water-to-air intercoolers and a heavy-duty cooling system with 30 per cent extra capacity so things don’t go boom when running at high speeds in hot climates.

Alpina tunes the excellent ZF eight-speed auto to their liking and installs their own stainless steel exhaust system that exits through a pair of twin elliptical tailpipes. In keeping with the philosophy of the automaker, the sound is rich but subdued — unlike that of a V8-powered Mercedes AMG vehicle that will unapologetically belt its intent.

Alpina also reinforces the xDrive system and rear axle, tweaks BMW’s variable damping control and adds a bit more negative camber in the front for better bite in the corners. And of course, there are bigger brakes to retard this 2,168 kg beast that weighs in a hefty 175 kg over the rear-drive M6 Gran Coupe.

Inside, you’re treated to blue-faced gauges and an Alpina-badged steering wheel with blue and green stitching. The traditional shift paddles are ditched for “Switch-tronic” buttons on the back of the wheel. A bit weird, but they work. The rest of the cabin is pure BMW 6 Series, and here in white leather it looks spectacular. Naturally, for your Alpina dollars you’re getting the full complement of goodies from Harman Kardon audio to most of BMW’s latest safety systems.

It’s on the road where the B6 separates itself from the other Gran Coupe models. The big torque coupled with all-wheel-drive give the Alpina B6 unrelenting urge and a rock-solid composure. There are no jackrabbit starts here — just the sense of a very powerful twin-turbo V8 rapidly overcoming substantial sybaritic mass.

And the suspension tuning is masterful. Looking at those 20-inch wheels you’d be forgiven for expecting a lousy ride, but in Comfort mode the B6 glides over the worst the GTA can throw at it. Yet there is not a millimetre of slop in the body control. In Sport or Sport+ mode, the dynamic parameters tighten up considerably.

BMW Canada is not saying how many 2015 Alpina B6s it will sell, but with under 200 allotted for the U.S., you can be sure of not spying many up here. It’s a unique take on this sleek four-door — smooth, luxurious, understated and fast as hell. For the few that dig a little deeper for the B6, it will be a justifiable expense