If a BMW isn't fast or luxurious enough, Alpina has you covered.
Due to how closely Alpina works with BMW, and how closely integrated its cars are into BMW's product lines, Alpina is officially recognized in Germany as an automobile manufacturing company rather than a tuning company. Alpina's relationship with BMW goes all the way back to 1962 and a Weber dual carburetor for the BMW 1500. The new carburetor was so good that BMW gave it a factory warranty on the cars fitted with the system. Alpina became a full company as a BMW tuning specialist in 1965. Alpina cars became competitive in motor racing, but due to capacity limitations and restrictions that came to an end and, instead, full BMW Alpina road cars were born.
It was 1971 that started the ball rolling for what the company would become today in the form of the lightweight version of BMW's 3.0 CS coupé, most commonly known as the 3.0 CSL "Batmobile." The evolution of road cars following the race cars has morphed into versions of BMW cars that pack more power but with a more refined delivery, and a greater level of luxury inside while the outside gets attention but stays classy by not going over the top. We'll start with the Batmobile first though.
The 3.0 CSL "Batmobile" had a successful campaign in European saloon car racing under Alpina's development. The car took on an almost mythological status and became a unicorn for many an impressionable enthusiast in the 1970s. To save weight, Alpina built the unibody structure from thinner gauge steel, deleted trim and soundproofing, then gave it perspex side windows as well as aluminum doors, hood, and trunk lid. The Batmobile moniker comes from the aggressive aerodynamic package, and its unicorn status comes from the fact only 110 Batmobiles were built.
One of the cars that allowed Alpina to cement its reputation for building fast BMWs was the company's first full conversion on BMW’s 6-Series platform. It arrived in 1977 with a 5 Series-based B7 Turbo sedan engine. The 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine was rebuilt using lower-compression Mahle pistons and a new fuel-injection system, and variable boost control for the turbocharger meant that output could be modulated between 250 and 300 horsepower.
Alpina's take on the BMW Z1 almost slid under the radar. Only 66 were made under Alpina's watch and featured chassis interior refinements, as well as signature deco style striping and a power bump to 197 horsepower. Its rarity is compounded by half the models made going to the Japanese market while the rest were spread throughout Europe.
As the 1990s got underway, Alpina became the goto for people with extra money that wanted a more refined and luxurious M car type experience. In 1991, the B10 BiTurbo did all that and it's 180-mph top speed put it in supercar territory for out and out speed. The M5 it was based on was a rev-hungry beast, but the B10 BiTurbo came front-loaded with a big gob of turbo power that was easily accessible.
BMW never handed the 850 CSi over to the M division, but Alpina got its hands on it anyway and delivered a big upgrade. With the V12 engine bored out to 5.7 liters, Alpina then set about modifying the camshafts, intake, crankshaft and swapping in a new exhaust. The end result was an immense 416 horsepower in 1994 and the choice of the standard six-speed manual transmission or Alpina’s Shift-Tronic automatic.
While stunningly beautiful, the BMW Z8 wasn't entirely sure what it wanted to be as a car. Alpina's angle on the Z8 is generally accepted to be the perfect refinement with a more relaxed but torquey 4.8-liter B10 V8 instead of the more frenetic BMW M5's 5.0-liter V8. Alpina also ditched the manual transmission for a smooth 5-speed auto and softened the suspension. To finish making the Z8 a relaxed but powerful roadster, Alpina also threw away BMW’s run-flat tires and replaced them with rubber that had taller sidewalls and sat on new Alpina wheels.
Alpina's slightly understated style where most companies would typically be slapping on carbon-fiber, and whatever other sporty bling is fashionable at the time, is highlighted by the B5 S. There's extra power in the form of BMW's V8 taken to 523 horsepower, but the transmission is calmed down until a right foot is pushed to floor. Sport mode doesn't turn it into an out-and-out track day weapon, but firms up the suspension and sharpens the throttle response for playful fun on the backroads.
The B4 and D4 are both based on the BMW 4 series, the difference being that the B4 is the gas-powered version and the D4 uses the diesel engine. Both are available in coupe and convertible bodystyles and billed as dignified alternatives to the M4. The interiors are plusher and the gauges sophisticated, while the engines have the edges sanded off but are still smooth and punchy. The B4 delivers 404 horsepower between 5,500 to 6,250 rpm and 443 lb-ft of torque between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm. By smooth and punchy, we also mean seriously quick with 62 mph coming in just 4.5 seconds.
The Alpina B7 is a serious contender for the fastest sedan available right now and is a legitimate member of the exclusive 200-mph club. In the US, the 2019 model was limited to 192 mph, but the 2020 model year has a claimed 205 mph from BMW. Based on the new BMW 7 Series, the B7 packs a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 600 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque under the hood with the help of larger turbo impellers and new software. It's also packed with all the Alpina goodness we expect in the way of interior plushness, gauges and build quality, plus air springs that lower the car 0.6 inches in sport mode.