Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 14, 2021
Forbidden fruits always taste better, don’t they? We feel the same about Alpinas, not just because they are a rare sight on this side of the world, but because of their understated performance, laser-guided focus on balancing comfort and performance, and their ability to fly under the radar to both casual onlookers and even hardcore car enthusiasts. In Canada, we are devoid of Alpina gems like the B3 Sedan and B5 Touring, but the Bavarians have recently seen the light and the demand, and have shipped even more of their notable vehicles over.
The B7 Sedan was the first, then came the B6, and then the three-row XB7. New to immigration is the B8 Gran Coupe that replaces the B6. It’s a 612 horsepower four-door rocket replete with stunning 20-spoke wheels and the softest leathers. Is it better than BMW’s own M8? And does its rarity and eye-watering price tag overlook any deficiencies compared to the more popular and well-known Audi RS 6, Porsche Panamera, and Maserati Quattroporte? Let’s find out.
A quick history for those unfamiliar with Alpina: think of them like what Brabus is to Mercedes. They are an automotive manufacturing company based out of Bavaria that takes a stock BMW and modifies it with a variety of hand finished tweaks and upgrades. Unlike BMW’s M models, Alpinas have a heavier emphasis on torque, automatic transmissions, and upscale interiors. They are more of a gentleman’s sports sedan and even come with a full BMW warranty.
Back to the B8 at hand, and you have to admit that Alpina Green is one of the most gorgeous hues in existence. Shimmering with faint blue and purple tints depending on which angle you are viewing it from, photographs just can’t seem to capture the depth and the soul of the green to ever do it justice. I guess you will have to take our word for it unless you spot one of these verdant unicorns in the wild.
Meshed with a long, raked silhouette, the B8 appears incredibly elongated and that’s because it is. To balance out the proportions, the stance is low to the ground, the fenders are slightly flared out, the shoulders remain broad, and the massive wheels finish it up nicely. Alpina upgrades include the new front splitter with Alpina lettering, lip spoiler, exclusive paints such as Alpina Blue and Green, stainless steel exhaust tips, and a rear lip spoiler. In all, the B8 is clearly not as shouty as the AMG GT 63 4-Door, or as distinctive as the Panamera, but it’s definitely more professional and mature, and is a beauty that only a select few will appreciate. If you know, you know. That’s Alpina in a nutshell.
And it’s not just the exterior that Alpina is livened up, because the interior is the star of the show. Alpina offers a host of two-tone leathers that make us weak in the knees, like the Ivory White and Tartufo spec in our photos, with a matching white headliner and tan-coloured carpets. Even the lower half of the door panel and the B-pillars match in colour. It’s the attention to detail that Alpina always aces, and we have spent more than a few hours on the configurator piecing together our perfect vehicle. A bit of odd that they no longer offer that signature Alpina Myrtle wood veneer, though.
The B8 has also been lathered with exclusive Alpina trimmings like a plaque on the center console, badge on the rotary dial, and a crystal gear shifter with an ‘8’ illuminated inside. Lavalina leather is used on the steering wheel - soft to the touch and slightly grainier than the BMW’s standard leather, but it gives extra texture and grip. Unfortunately, you can't spec out the seats and dashboard in Lavalina like you can in European markets. The iconic, what I like to call nipple shifters, are still there, though the B8 in other markets have switched to more conventional paddle shifters. We’re not a fan of them here still, as they are too small and can be hard to locate on a whim. The wheel’s contrasting stitching is nice though, with blue on the top and green on the bottom.
While I was disappointed that the B8 didn’t have some exclusive ambient lighting colours - I was hoping for a blue, green, and purple combination - the door sills, start button, and shifter do illuminate blue at night, something the regular M850i and M8 don’t do. Furthermore, the digital instrument cluster comes in a unique purple background, with green accents when you flick it into Sport Mode. The B8 does not come with the dual-adjustable backrests on the front seats like in the 5 or 7 Series, and lacks a button on the driver’s side to adjust the passenger seat, but there are a flurry of upsides. Switching on the heated seats also warms up the armrests. Back seat room isn’t too bad either, even for a six-foot adult, though don’t expect the same kind of accommodations as the B7. The separate rear-dedicated sunroof is a neat addition, as are the electrically operated side and rear sunshades.
In essence, Alpina pretty much takes an M850i - an already competent road cruiser - off the factory line and takes it to the next level. The 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 is massaged up to 612 horsepower and 590 lb-ft, and it’s mated to a retuned 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox that sends power to all four wheels. When all is said and done, the B8 will sprint from 0-100 km/h in a speedy 3.4 seconds. Max torque comes on at just 2,000 rpm, meaning it’s effortless to get up to speed, and there is proper shove anywhere in the powerband. It doesn’t even matter if you are in the wrong gear.
The acceleration is incredible but what surprised us the most was the turning radius and its ability to rotate like a small hatchback. Thanks to an adaptive steering system and rear wheel steering, you can throw it around a tight bend, let the torque vectoring and AWD sort out the grip for you, and just play with the gas pedal to your heart’s desire. Alpina has also installed their own exhaust system, which isn’t as rowdy as the M8’s. It is more restrained and gentler on the eardrums, though not quite as sonorous as a Maserati V8.
What stands out even more is the ride quality. The M850i was nearly perfect as a boulevard cruiser but the M8 erred on being too stiff for daily use. It wasn’t punishing per say, but it never failed to remind you that it was the sportiest kid on the block. The B8 on the other hand is much more cossetting, supple, and it made every one of our passengers feel like they were gliding over the tarmac.
Alpina’s exclusive Comfort Plus driving mode is what you always want to select. Vertical motions are quelled into barely anything noticeable, and only the sharpest and deepest of cracked roads or bumps will ever make the B8 shiver, even on the 21-inch wheels. And it’s not like the engine is sleeping either in this mode. Floor the throttle and it will instantly wake up, kick down a few gears, and thrust you into another timezone. Other cars feel lazier in their most comfortable modes, but the B8 always has reserves on tap, and we love that. Gear shifts are virtually imperceptible too - we’d call it as smooth as a Rolls-Royce Ghost’s. I wonder why that could be? The brakes, more specifically the pedal, is more gradual and progressive than the M8’s as well, and is easier to modulate to a smooth halt.
The only real faults that we could find with the B8 were that we don’t own one, and that its price tag of $159,900 could easily buy you similarly capable machines with change left over. But if you are after exclusivity, the best leather in the business, or sleeper status, the B8 will make mincemeat of BMW’s own M8. It’s more comfortable, more relaxing, and performs its intended job better. And who doesn’t love an executive sedan draped in green over tan?
Model: 2022 BMW Alpina B8 Gran Coupe
Paint Type: Alpina Green Metallic
Base Price: $159,900
Price as Tested: $176,650
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,090 / 1,932 / 1,422
Curb weight (kg): 2,191
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 612 hp @ 5,500 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 2,000 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.5
Tires: 245/35ZR21 front; 285/30ZR21 rear