by Gabe Beita Kiser
An even more exclusive alternative to the BMW M6 Gran Coupe is this, the Alpina B6, from the specialist automobile manufacturing company that has been releasing high-performance versions of BMW's already revered models for several decades. In this case, one of BMW's most stunning modern designs - the so-called "four-door coupe" body of the Gran Coupe - gets the B6 treatment and, with it, a colossal 591 horsepower to play with. The key difference between the B6 and the M6 is the former's all-wheel-drive setup, allowing it to transfer all of that power to the road more effectively. While the M6 may be less powerful, it is more focused on a scalpel-sharp driving experience, with the B6 aiming for a better balance between dynamism and comfort. The usual array of striking Alpina wheels, colors, and trim differences further set the 2019 B6 apart, making it a charismatic, four-door performance car setting tongues wagging wherever it goes.
Apple CarPlay integration is now supported, although the service is subscription-based. Beyond this, the Alpina B6 is unchanged.
Working with the base of the beautiful 6 Series Gran Coupe, Alpina has added its usual touches to give this luxury express even more presence. The 20-inch multi-spoke wheels are classic Alpina and are complemented by prominent Alpina badging, a unique rear spoiler, and two Alpina-specific colors. That being said, Alpina has released more dramatic modifications to standard BMW models in the past, and one gets the sense that they didn't want to mess too much with the Gran Coupe's basic design. LED foglights, adaptive LED headlights, and power-folding side mirrors are also part of the standard equipment list.
Long, wide, and fairly low, the Alpina's dimensions help it to cast a considerable - and distinctive - shadow. The B6 is 197.1 inches in length, 55 inches in height, and 74.6 inches wide. The wheelbase is 116.9 inches, and ground clearance is 4.3 inches, so the B6 sits a tad lower to the ground than a Mercedes-Benz CLS 53 AMG. Curb weight is a hefty 4,780 lbs, no doubt a result of the all-wheel-drive system.
A wide selection of 17 colors is available for the B6. Many will opt for the two model-specific colors, Alpina Blue metallic or Alpina Green metallic, as they do well to distinguish the B6 as something special. Other standard exterior colors are Alpine White and Jet Black, along with seven metallic shades: Black Sapphire, Glacier Silver, Jatoba Brown, Mediterranean Blue, Melbourne Red, Mineral White and Space Gray.
Six premium metallic colors can be optioned on at a cost of $1,950, with the likes of Citrin Black, Frozen Brilliant White, Frozen Bronze, Moonstone, Ruby Black and Tanzanite Blue to choose from.
There's just a single engine option available for the B6, although you'd hardly want anything else. The Alpina-fettled 4.4-liter V8 uses twin-turbocharging to deliver 591 horsepower and a crushing 590 lb-ft of torque. Together with the xDrive system and a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, it's enough for a 3.6-second blast to 60 mph. This is faster than the similarly swoopy Mercedes-Benz CLS 53 AMG, and you'll need the likes of the even more powerful E63 AMG S to keep up with the B6. Unrestricted, the B6 will reach 200 mph. If this is the kind of car you're on the hunt for, the B6 tops the class with its absurd level of straight-line performance.
Alpina has extracted impressive outputs of 591 hp and 590 lb-ft from the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8. A number of modifications, including optimizing the air intake ducting and enhancing the fuel supply system are responsible for the hike in power. It sounds epic, too, thanks to a special lightweight exhaust system. Whether pulling away from a standing start, munching up the miles on the highway, or overtaking at virtually any speed, the B6 delivers mind-blowing performance.
The engine is well-matched to an Alpina-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission. It has been modified by Alpina to prevent unwanted upshifts in more aggressive driving environments. It's a superb transmission that changes gears smoothly and enhances, rather than takes away from the monumental driving experience.
There's no disguising the fact that the Alpina B6 is a big vehicle, and despite the massive performance on offer, this is more of a rapid cruiser than a serious sports car. While it grips with the reassurance you'd expect of an all-wheel-drive setup - and the steering is accurate and well-weighted - feedback remains muted in typically modern BMW fashion. Quite simply, it's the B6's engine, not electrifying dynamics, that dominates proceedings with its explosive power delivery and burly sound. Using the Dynamic Drive Control, and switching from Comfort to Sport or Sport+ modes, opens the exhaust valve and delivers endlessly entertaining sonic thrills. Switch back to Comfort, and the advantage of those softer handling traits is a ride quality that is surprisingly absorbent, considering those enormous wheels. There's a compliance to the suspension setup that makes the B6 easy to live with, and more than capable of covering long distances without fatiguing driver and passengers. High levels of sound insulation and superior quality interior fittings make for a properly luxurious cocoon from which to watch the world whizz by. A powerful braking system effectively reins in the B6 from high speeds.
Despite the increase in power, Alpina has also managed to improve fuel consumption numbers over the M6 Gran Coupe. EPA-rated figures are 17/25/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. A full, 18.5 gallon gas tank results in a combined cruising range of 388 miles. By comparison, the M6 Gran Coupe's mixed consumption figure is just 16 mpg. Considering that the B6 uses a heavier xDrive system as opposed to the M6's RWD layout, it's an impressive feat indeed.
The basic Gran Coupe interior is now a generation behind the cabins in the current 5 Series and new X5, but it is actually one of BMW's more distinctive interiors. In Alpina B6 form it's even more lavish - thanks to more standard features and higher-quality materials. Low-set seats and a rear seat sculpted for two make it feel cozy and inviting, although headroom is at a premium at the back. BMW's iDrive system remains one of the best offerings on the market and makes accessing the B6's navigation and connectivity features easy and fast. Alpina badging and a unique set of blue-hued gauges with red needles are visual reminders that you're at the helm of one of the rarest luxury cars available.
While the B6 does have seating for five passengers, it's best thought of as a 4+1 as the middle rear-seat passenger has little legroom with the center console running all the way through from the front to the rear seat. Space for the driver and front-seat passenger are good, although ingress and egress require a little extra effort due to the B6's low stance. Rear legroom is acceptable, but six-footers will struggle with a limited amount of headroom due to that sloping roofline. The seats themselves are comfortable and supportive.
A combination of BMW and Alpina-specific interior trim and color options ensure that there is a myriad of possibilities when customizing the B6 interior. Standard interior material is Nappa leather in a choice of four colors: Black, Cognac/Black, Ivory White/Black, and Vermilion Red. Optional is BMW's Merino leather upholstery at a $3,500 premium in a choice of six shades: Amaro Brown, Canyon Brown, Champagne, Opal White, Opal White/Amaro Brown and Platinum/Black.
Alpina offers its own exclusive interior trim options, with Myrtle Wood trim being one of the more flamboyant of them. It does, however, suit the generally more extrovert Alpina character. Alpina Piano Black is also available, while the more conservative range of BMW wood and aluminum trims can also be specified. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and features parallel blue and green stitching, an Alpina tradition.
With around 16 cubic feet of space, the B6 Alpina's trunk capacity is enough for two medium-sized suitcases and some smaller soft items, although there is a high loading lip so hoisting heavier items will take a bit more effort. Folding down the rear seats is easy enough using levers mounted in the trunk. The clean cabin design is more a case of form over function, so small-item storage is rather limited.
A full house of comfort and convenience features is expected at this price point, and the B6 Alpina doesn't disappoint. On the standard equipment list is four-zone climate control, front seats with heating that are extensively power-adjustable with 4-way lumbar support, memory settings for the front seats, keyless ignition and entry, a power-adjustable steering wheel and classy ambient lighting. Safety equipment includes parking sensors front and rear, a backup camera and cruise control. Four distinctive packages are optionally available and, if money is no object, you can drive out of the showroom with virtually every available bell and whistle. Night vision, a head-up display, ventilated seats and ceramic-trimmed controls are all available.
As on the regular Gran Coupe, the B6 Alpina benefits from BMW's superb iDrive interface with its 10.2-inch display. The system is well-regarded for its sharp graphics and rapid responses - it also helps that it can be controlled either via the touchpad or the touchscreen. For 2019, Apple CarPlay integration is standard, but you'll need to pay extra to use it after the first year. Android Auto still remains absent from every BMW's spec sheet. Other than that, all of the expected connectivity and infotainment features are fitted: HD and satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth phone and audio, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, USB ports and wireless charging for your mobile phone are all standard. The audio system is a 16-speaker Harman Kardon unit, while an even more impressive Bang & Olufsen system can be added as an option for $3,700.
While no recalls have been issued for the Alpina B6 over the last few years, the model's low production numbers must also be taken into account. While the 2019 6 Series on which the B6 is based suffered no recalls, it might be well worth noting the 6 Series Gran Coupe was recalled twice as a 2018 model - once for a crankshaft sensor firmware issue, and once for no image displayed by the reverse camera. J.D. Power has also not yet rated this vehicle. A four-year/50,000 mile basic warranty covers the Alpina B6, along with a four-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty. Maintenance covers three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The Alpina B6 and the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe have both not been crash-tested by the NHTSA or IIHS. However, BMW's high reputation for safe vehicles and many standard safety features for the B6 provide peace of mind.
Dual front airbags, front side airbags, head airbags, and a driver's knee airbag keep passengers safe in the unfortunate event of an accident. While safety features like a backup camera and a rear parking aid are appreciated, it's a pity that the various driver-assist features are only optional. Opt for the Driver Assistance package, and you'll get blind-spot monitoring, a head-up display, a forward-collision warning system, pedestrian detection, low-speed collision mitigation and lane departure warning. Adaptive cruise control and a handy side and top-view camera system are also available, but rear cross-traffic alert is not.
When you're paying in excess of $100k for a luxurious, high-performance car, the intangibles start to come into play more than they would if you were shopping for a family hatchback. At this premium end of the market, it's not only about the raw numbers, but the level of exclusivity too. Therein lies what makes the Alpina B6 so special; inside and out, it looks and feels like something markedly different from the regular M6. Under that striking exterior, it also sets itself apart with more power, a modified transmission and less edgy dynamics. Seated within its finely crafted cabin, there's the self-satisfaction of knowing that you're unlikely to see another car like this one on the road, and many would say that is priceless. If you're lucky enough to get your hands on one, the Alpina B6 is likely to become a collector's item, especially as the 6 Series as we know it bows out to the new 8 Series.
The Alpina B6 is available in just a single trim and has a listed MSRP of $124,400, exclusive of tax, licensing registration, and a destination charge of $995.
With just one model available, the choice will come down to selecting from the vast list of options, colors and trims. The Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe uses a 591 hp 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is standard.
Standard exterior features include 20-inch Alpina wheels, Alpina insignia, a unique front splitter, LED headlights and fog lights, a rearview camera and an adaptive suspension. The luxurious cabin is trimmed in Nappa leather, while both front seats are extensively power-adjustable with four-way lumbar support. Memory settings are also included for both front seats to return to your ideal seating position easily. A power-adjustable steering wheel, keyless entry and ignition, four-zone automatic climate control, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system, iDrive with a 10.25-inch screen and Alpina-specific blue gauges are all standard.
|Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe||
4.4-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
Four distinct packages are available: the $500 Parking Assistance Package, the $1,700 Driving Assistance Package, the $1,200 Driving Assistance Plus Package and the Executive Package for $2,200.
The Parking Assistance Package adds nifty side and top-view cameras, with crisp images displayed on the central screen. The Driving Assistance Package bundles together a suite of driving aids namely; a head-up display, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, low-speed collision mitigation and lane departure warning. Driver Assistance Plus further packs on adaptive cruise control, which can be used in stop-and-go traffic to reduce driver fatigue.
If more luxury is on the agenda, the Executive Package is likely to entice. It adds ventilated seats with active bolsters, heating for the steering wheel and rear seats, controls trimmed in ceramic and a power-operated sunshade for the rear window.
There's only one Alpina B6 to choose from, but you can create your own model by delving into the extensive options list. The Driving Assistance Package offers a comprehensive suite of driver-assist technologies and makes the Alpina B6 both less taxing and safer to drive. While pricey at $2,200, the Executive Package ups the feel-good factor and, ultimately, that's what the Alpina B6 is all about.
We'd also recommend spending enough time working through the various color, material, and trim options available, as these can quite significantly affect the look and feel of the final product. The optional Frozen Bronze Metallic color looks spectacular, for instance, and is a great alternative if the standard range of colors isn't to your fancy.
For over $5,000 less than the B6, you could drive away in an M6 Gran Coupe. With 31 hp less than the B6 in standard guise - albeit with an available Performance Pack that overcomes the deficit with an extra 40 hp - the M6 has to make do with sending its still-considerable power exclusively to the rear wheels. This is a double-edged sword, as it makes the M6 the more challenging car to drive, but also the more thrilling one if you're in the mood for it. Both have a similarly high standard specification, while the M6 looks the part thanks to the M division's usual array of sporty add-ons. The B6, however, is the more comfortable car thanks to a more forgiving suspension setup. Its unique interior and exterior treatment, along with the knowledge that it is produced in significantly lower volumes, help to make it the Alpina the more alluring choice. One isn't necessarily better than the other, but the Alpina B6 is the one we'd most want to own.
While significantly less expensive than the Alpina B6, the range-topping CLS 53 AMG also can't match the B6's outputs, so it is a less exhilarating performance car. The CLS enjoys sleek styling and a deeply impressive interior, although both lack rear headroom due to their coupe-like profiles. Each of these German competitors excels dynamically, with a fine balance between secure handling and exemplary long-distance comfort. Ultimately, the CLS is a stunning car, but truthfully, it's just another impressive Mercedes-Benz. The Alpina B6 offers something a bit more special and exclusive, and is likely to appeal to a more discerning buyer - and one with the means to afford it, of course.