BMW Alpina B5 2019 bi-turbo

2019 BMW Alpina B5 Touring review

Australian first drive

Rating: 8.2
$217,000 Mrlp
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The fastest production wagon in the world is here. We get behind the wheel for the first time of the 2019 Alpina B5 Touring.
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For the first time the Alpina B5 Touring gets all-wheel drive and becomes the fastest production wagon in the world. We take it for a drive through Victoria's Yarra Valley region.

V8-powered wagons are becoming a thing of the past, and here at CarAdvice, we are sad about that. As more people follow the SUV path, you are considered to have fine taste if you’re one who appreciates the humble station wagon.

If you like a bit of power with your wagon, namely a V8, you will be disappointed with choice. There's the Porsche Panamera and Mercedes-AMG C63, but if you want something a little less - dare we say it - in your face, then you should say hello to the 2019 BMW Alpina B5 Touring.

NOTE: With no photography resources supplied at this Australian launch event, we have used international photos for this review. We will update with local imagery when we get the B5 Touring through the CarAdvice garage.

For $217,000 before on-road costs (a $7000 premium over the sedan), the B5 Touring gets to 100km/h in a staggering 3.7 seconds, 0.4 seconds quicker than a C63 S Estate although 0.3 seconds off Porsche's fastest Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo.

Powering the B5 Touring is a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with 447kW of power and 800Nm of torque paired with an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission that can reach a top speed of 322km/h, with no 250km/h speed limiter in sight.

Thank you, Alpina.

Included standard are 20-inch Alpina Classic alloy wheels, Nappa leather, four-zone climate control, Comfort Seats, digital driver display, rear-wheel steering, and a stainless steel exhaust with quad pipes.

You can push the price tag much further with some pricey options, including massaging seats $1866, remote parking $943, a rear-seat entertainment system $4336, and a Bowers & Wilkins stereo $8766. Oh, and if you want to specially customise the interior of your B5, tick the Lavalina leather box, and you'll need to fork out between $12,252 and $22,244.

The interior obviously is very BMW, but there are some nice Alpina touches, such as a plaque on the centre console, a small Alpina badge on the passenger side of the dash, and the steering wheel. Plus, its famous Alpina Blue and Green colours light up the instrument cluster.

There’s plenty of room in the back seat, and 570L of space in the boot that stretches to 1700L once the back seats are folded down.

When we experienced the B5 around Victoria’s Yarra Valley, we had the CEO of Alpina, Andreas Bovensiepen, seated in the back, fresh off the plane from Germany. He had some interesting things to say about the Alpina brand while we were enjoying some twisty roads.

“Alpina is not like a tuner. We do not buy a BMW and change it afterward. We are very highly integrated with the BMW plant. We deliver our parts to the BMW plant, and the car is built there and born as an Alpina, and final production takes place in our factory in Bavaria.”

It’s something Alpina prides itself on. Even if you take a gander under the bonnet, the BMW VIN has been crossed out, and directly below it is an Alpina VIN. It has its own identity.

The B5 Touring fills a niche within the BMW market. If you long for an M5 wagon, we all know such a thing doesn’t exist, unless you go overseas and find an old E34 or E60. You could buy a 530i Luxury Line Touring for $105,000 less than the B5, but does it have enough power to blow your socks off while doing it with a sense of exclusivity? Well, not really.

“It is not our task to make a better M3 or M4 or M5. As the British press often says, Alpina is more like a Bentley because it’s so torquey, it’s so effortless, and has very high power and torque in the low rev range,” says Andreas.

He speaks truth there. Maximum torque is available from 3000 rpm, and the 447kW is available between 5750 and 6250 rpm, and you can certainly feel it. It’s effortless, and we feel the torque would be endless if given the opportunity to push it past the speed limit.

Once over 4000 rpm, the throaty V8 rumble kicks in, but thanks to very good sound insulation, it is subtle. However, perhaps due to the open cabin stretching to the rear, you can hear a nice note directly from the exhaust when the ever-smooth ZF transmission changes gears, which would sound even louder with the windows down, but it was a cold day. Forgive us.

Andreas encouraged us to try the different driving modes, and that we did. The difference between them was very noticeable. Comfort Plus is the ultimate cruising mode, where it glides along like a sailing boat on a calm stretch of water. It’s so relaxing and as the name suggests, comfortable.

It soaked up some of the worse bumps on our trip and was very supple in its ride. Although it has plenty of power and precision, the Comfort mode makes you want to take your time and just enjoy the drive.

“If you go to Sport or Sport Plus, the car is not a race car but it feels really sporty and very precise. Not as sporty as an M, but it’s not far away,” Andreas explains.

We were surprised at how comfortable the Sport modes were. We believe they rode better than Comfort mode in the M5, and you could easily drive it all the time in this mode and not worry about feeling the car crashing over bumps and ruts.

Moving away from rear-wheel-drive for the first time, the B5 Touring now has power driven to all four wheels, like the sedan ahead of it, so you won’t get any tyre spin when the throttle is planted while the car is stationary.

While the 2.1-tonne wagon is impressive in a straight line, find some twisty roads, and you’ll soon forget you’re essentially driving a car that is capable of hauling the kids and the family dog in the back. It handles beautifully when everything is thrown at it.

Its Pirelli tyres have been specifically tailored for the B5’s 20-spoke 20-inch wheels, with 255/35 tyres on the front, and wider 285/30 tyres on the rear. To cater for high-speed stability, rear-wheel-steering is on hand, and as we were following a B5 sedan in front of us while tackling Chum-Creek Road, you could see the rear wheels at work. It was fascinating to watch.

Alpina's combined fuel claim is 11.1L/100kms (1.5L more than the M5), and after a mixture of straight highways and curvy mountain roads, the B5 Touring reached 14.5L/100kms. The stop/start system was turned off pretty quickly after we found a delay in throttle response once it started back up. You needed to think ahead if you need to get the car moving quickly.

The Alpina B5 Touring is one cool cat. It looks subtle and sophisticated on the outside, and for those who are up with the car lingo, a sleeper with that bi-turbo V8. It’s just a damn shame we don’t get to experience its full potential at top speed, where Germany’s autobahn is its playground. But a car with so much practicality and premiumness that is capable of reaching 100km/h in under four seconds is pretty special.

After all, prestige performance wagons are somewhat of a rare breed Down Under, so if you want to be a little bit unique, the B5 could be just what you’re looking for in the world of grand touring.

NOTE: With no photography resources supplied at this Australian launch event, we have used international photos for this review. We will update with local imagery when we get the B5 Touring through the CarAdvice garage.

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