Looking for the best BMW has to offer right now? That near perfect blend of performance luxury and every day capability? It might not have those heavily-bolstered M seats, high strung M engine, or even be a BMW model. It’s called the Alpina B8 Gran Coupé, and it’s the range-topping performance four-door you’ve been waiting for.
The truth is that we’ve been here before. Not too many years ago, BMW was selling two ends of the spectrum in the form of the F06 M6 Gran Coupé and the Alpina B6 Gran Coupé. The distinct differences between two inherently similar cars drew many comparisons, and in the end, many felt obligated to choose the Alpina, because instead of the typical bone-jarring and teeth-rattling driving dynamics of such a high-performance vehicle, the B6 Gran Coupé offered an exceptional blend of speed, luxury, and comfort.
BMW and Alpina have just announced the new B8 Gran Coupé, and the model will be coming to the U.S. in late spring. It should make for an excellent alternative to the to the M8 Gran Coupé, which has been described as one of the best looking BMWs on sale right now. It’s also expected to be a worthy successor to the B6 Gran Coupé, which is still remembered fondly, as the B8 brings updated an updated drivetrain, styling, and tech to the table.
Like the long lineage of Alpina models that precede it, the B8 Gran Coupé isn’t based on the M8, it’s derived from the M850i Gran Coupé. This is an Alpina though, which means instead of the bodykit and aero bits worn by the M or M Performance models, it’s fitted with a model-specific set of appointments which give it a distinct look. The B8 isn’t dripping with model designations or badges, either. Alpina lettering appears just twice on the body itself; on the trunk lid opposite the B8 model designation, and on the lowermost portion of the front air dam, where it’s been given the effect of floating.
The primary colors are, of course, dead giveaways, as they include the signature choices of Alpina Blue Metallic and Alpina Green Metallic, but the Buchloe-based tuner-turned-manufacturer is supposedly willing to paint the B8 in just about any color a buyer specifies from the BMW Individual color palette, and likely a few others as well.
Multi-spoke wheels in classic Alpina style are also part of the ensemble, and them along with the blue brake calipers they frame are the only other places on the outside of the car where you’ll find any obvious clue as to what you’re looking at. Getting into the details, the twenty-spoke wheels have a 21-inch diameter, and come wrapped in 245- and 285-section Pirelli tires front and rear. This isn’t just any set of Pirellis though, as the front tires use the Pirelli Noise Cancelling system for improve acoustic comfort—BMW M usually works closely with tire manufacturers to develop model-specific (star-spec) tires for their vehicles, but they certainly aren’t targeting road noise.
Whatever subtleties the exterior might have are cast away as soon as one of the doors is opened. The cabin is where Alpina’s true prowess, and obsessive attention to detail become undeniably apparent. Fine materials such as Merino leather upholstery, a Nappa leather-finished instrument panel, and an Anthracite Alcantara headliner surround interior occupants. The steering wheel is wrapped in Lavalina leather, which is said to offer an, “incomparable tactile experience on every journey.” An array of trim choices is available, including carbon-fiber, which seems antithetical to the Alpina experience, but you’ll likely be hard-pressed to find anything more exquisite than the standard Alpina Walnut Anthracite or optional Fineline Copper Wood trim.
The Harman Kardon premium sound system comes standard in the B8, but if you’re looking for the full aural experience, there’s the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system. Elsewhere, equipment including that for infotainment and driver assistance mirrors that of the M8 and 8 Series model lineup, but with appearances for things such as the digital gauge cluster altered to match the Alpina aesthetic. The same goes for the crystal glass iDrive controller which features a laser-applied Alpina logo. Instead of a carbon-fiber roof panel, the B8 comes standard with a panoramic glass sunroof which can transform the interior at the touch of a button.
The engine is Alpina’s latest take on the BMW N63 twin-turbo V8. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph occurs in just 3.3 seconds per BMW, but with 612 horsepower from 5,500 to 6,500 rpm and 590 pound-feet of torque from 2,500 to 5,000, and the real-world test results of models like the current M5 and M8 in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn the B8 Gran Coupé is actually a bit quicker. Weight is a tempering factor though, as the B8 tips the scales at 4,831 pounds—a healthy bit more than the M5 or M8.
If the horsepower and torque figures sound familiar, that’s because they’re identical to the drivetrain of the Alpina XB7. For those keeping track, the B8 Gran Coupé will have five fewer horsepower than cars like the M8 and M5 Competition, and fifteen less than the upcoming M5 CS. In terms of torque, however, the Alpina B8’s 590 pound-feet rank it near the top of the lineup, with more than the 553 pound-feet of the current S63 M V8, but a bit less than the 627 pound-feet of the 6.6-liter N74 V12 in the M760i. There’s no forgetting about the Alpina sport exhaust system either, which is expected to create a uniquely different tone from that of the M8 and its system. The Alpina system also uses a set of active exhaust flaps which are controlled depending on which driving mode is selected.
BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system and a model-specific variant of the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic with Alpina Switch-Tronic shifting complete the drivetrain. xDrive also came standard on the Alpina B6 Gran Coupé, and when the model was upgraded from 540 horsepower and identical torque to 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet, the zero-to-60 time dropped from roughly 3.7 seconds to 3.3 in automotive magazine tests. The B8 Gran Coupé sits on specially-developed Eibach springs, and the aforementioned twenty-spoke, 21-inch wheels house the Alpina brake system, which employs blue four-piston Brembo calipers gripping 15.6- and 15.7-inch rotors front and rear respectively.
In addition to a zero-to-60 time in the low three-second range, BMW also lists a top speed of 201 mph. That’s actually a bit slower than the 205-mph capable Alpina B7, which has a bit less horsepower, but the B8 has something neither the B7 or the XB7 ever will—exceptional Gran Coupé styling that is more than a worthy follow up to the B6 it is succeeding.
The Alpina B8 Gran Coupé has a starting MSRP of $139,900, but don’t forget about the $995 destination charge. The numbers place the B8 directly between the $130,000 M8 Gran Coupé and its $144,100 competition derivative.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]