The Craziest Alpina Cars
Ever since its inception, Alpina has been tastefully filling niches wherever BMW wouldn’t or couldn’tby Tudor Rus, on LISTEN 07:56
Alpina’s knack for tweaking BMWs has its roots in the early 1960s, when Burkard Bovensiepen wanted to make his BMW 1500 go faster and developed a Weber dual carburettor system. Since then, Alpina’s road to tuning excellence took the trajectory of a steady upward curve sprinkled with rad builds that didn’t just offer more power or more torque, but a complete package of tweaks that complemented the extra oomph. We’ll be looking at some of them in the following lines.
Alpina B10 BiTurbo
It might look like a BMW E34 5 Series for the untrained eye, but it’s not. It’s also not an M5. The road headlights are there, that old elegance of old BMWs is there, and the normally-sized kidney grille is also there. Together with a bucketload of power.
The Alpina B10 BiTurbo made its debut in 1989, when it became the world’s fastest sedan. Road & Track’s Paul Frere called it "the best 4-door in the world" and for good reason. The donor car - BMW’s E34 535i 5 Series - had its engine completely tore apart and rebuilt to Alpina standards: 360 horsepower, 384 pound-feet of torque, and a new Getrag gearbox to handle the extra stress. Twin Garrett T25 turbos also had a contribution to these numbers, as did the forged pistons, new combustion chambers, and the unique intake and exhaust manifolds Alpina brought to the table.
Aside from the massaged engine, the B10 BiTurbo also got a modded suspension, 17-inch wheels wider in the back, and a functional spoiler and air dam. From a standing start, the B10 BiTurbo could shame the likes of Ferrari 348, Porsche Carrera 2, and Acura NSX, while top speed was rated at 180 mph. Just 507 units were built between 1989 and 1994.
Alpina 318i for the Shell Kilometer Marathon
The year was 1981 when Shell and Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport staged a rather peculiar competition called Kilometer Marathon. Participant teams would battle to see which one has the most fuel-efficient car over a distance of one kilometer (0.6 miles). 120 teams signed up, including Alpina, who fielded a BMW E21 318i that had received a very strange nose job.
Aside from the beak-y front end that was supposed to improve its aerodynamics, the car ran on just two cylinders, power went to just one wheel, and fuel was cooled before it reached the engine for a bigger bang. The result? An average fuel consumption of 88 mpg, which helped it win its class.
Of course, this wasn’t a mass produced vehicle but looking at how carmakers are adopting shut-off grilles and cylinder deactivation features to lower fuel consumption today, it really puts things into perspective regarding just how forward-thinking Alpina was in the early ’80s.
BMW Alpina Roadster V8
Alpina’s Z8-based Roadster V8 marked the company’s breakthrough into the American market. At the same time, the Roadster V8 was the first Alpina car with less power than the vehicle it was based on.
In developing the Roadster V8, Alpina actually ditched the stock M5 4.9-liter engine (394 horsepower) and brought in the 4.6-liter V-8 from the B10 V8 S. After the compulsory tweaks and upgrades, as well as a bump in displacement to 4.8 liters, the mill produced 375 horsepower (19 less than the stock Z8) and 383 pound-feet of torque sent to the rear wheels by a ZF-sourced five-speed automatic.
The Roadster V8 also had a tweaked suspension and a limited top speed of 161 mph. As Road & Track wrote, Alpina nannied the top speed because "the aerodynamic lift on the front end is said to affect straight-line stability." Launch price: $137,595 back in 2003. Just 555 units were ever made, although the initial plan was to have a run of just 333.
The 2007 B7 was the second Alpina model sold in the US and yes, it was based on the "ugly-trunk" 7 Series. Power came from a 4.4-liter V-8 that had an interesting birth path. It all started with components being given extra heat treatments at BMW’s plant in Steyr, Austria. Then the engine was assembled by Alpina in Buchloe, from where it was sent to the 7 Series plant in Dingolfing where the cooling systems were added.
Once ready to rock, the engine made 493 horsepower between 5,250 and 6,000 rpm. Even more impressive was the amount of torque: 506 pound-feet delivered between 4,250 rpm and 5,250 rpm. As a result, the 0-60 mph sprint took 4.8 seconds to completion and top speed was 186 mph.
Read our full review on the 2007 Alpina B7
Alpina B8 4.6
Arguably one of the most special cars ever to leave Alpina’s workshops. See, BMW had already tried to put a V-8 engine inside the E36 3 Series without success, so it was time for Alpina to flex.
After 42 modifications brought to the engine bay, Alpina took the 4.0-liter V-8 from the E34 540i, upped its displacement to 4.6 liters, added a new sump, higher compression Mahle pistons and re-tuned the valve timing. The new engine made 333 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque, out of which 258 were available from 1,000 rpm. For the sake of the bigger picture, 258 pound-feet was the maximum torque available in the BMW E36 M3 Evo.
The B8 4.6 rode on Bilstein gas-pressure shocks while the front brakes featured custom-made Lucas ventilated discs. The rear brakes were from the E36 M3, while grip came from Michelin tires mounted on 17-inch Alpina wheels. In return, the B8 4.8 was good for a 0-60 mph sprint of 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 174 mph. Just 221 cars were built between 1995 and 1998. Out of those, 23 were convertibles.
Developed to celebrate the 2011 ADAC GT Masters championship, the B3 GT3 was limited to just 99 units. The engine was the same as the B3 S BiTurbo, but Alpina added a titanium rear silencer with double 115mm pipes from Akrapovic, so power was rated at 408 horsepower (eight horses more than the B3 S BiTurbo) with a max torque of 398 pound-feet. The silencer also shaved off 11 kilos (24 pounds) compared to the B3 S BiTurbo’s exhaust.
Sending power to the rear axle was a ZF six-speed Switch-Tronic gearbox. Alpina also installed a limited-slip diff sourced from Drexler.
On the visual side, the B3 GT3 looked like a race car. The front splitter was made of carbon fiber, just like the rear diffuser and the rear wing. Inside, Alpina mounted a pair of Recaro sport seats upholstered in Alcantara. The B3 GT3 was good for a 0-60 mph dash checked in 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 186 mph.
Read our full review on the Alpina B3 GT3