5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Epic powertrain; luxurious feel; muscular wagon stance
Cheap-feeling shift buttons; polarising design additions
The Wheels Verdict: Performance, badge cachet and family-friendly practicality all in the one wagon. If you can afford the $217,000 asking price and don't mind the styling, there’s little not to like. Space and pace need not be mutually exclusive.
WHAT IS THE ALPINA B5 TOURING?
The Alpina B5 Touring is the ultra-fast V8 wagon BMW doesn’t offer – discounting SUVs, of course. If you want M5 levels of performance and 7 Series luxury with the ability to bring along a four-legged friend, Alpina is the only option available. Ultimately, the B5 Touring embraces its BMW routes rather than trying vehemently to disguise them.
- Read: 2019 Alpina B5 Touring headed to Australia
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
It’s quite a unique proposition. While we await Audi’s upcoming RS6, Alpina’s B5 Touring is the kind of car that befits the one-car-to-do-it-all mentality. Plus, who doesn’t love a fast wagon?
ALPINA B5 TOURING REVIEW
There’s something profoundly pleasing about a barnstorming wagon. It is pragmatism meeting performance in the best kind of way. The Alpina B5 Touring embodies this theory, with a $217,000 touch of luxury and exclusivity.
Understated certainly describes the Touring’s exterior. Yes, the traditional 20-spoke alloys, quad exhaust pipes and prominent Aplina badging are present, but little else gives away the Alpina’s go-fast identity – even the V8 heart is hushed until provoked.
Inside, the luxe ambience is apparent. It’s ostensibly a BMW 5 Series at face value, but overtly Alpina in detail. High-quality materials are used throughout, with fine leathers and intricate coloured stitching signs of a bespoke touch. It lives up to its price tag.
- Read: 2018 Alpina B3 Biturbo Touring review
Myriad Alpina references are made within the cabin, most notably the plaque near the iDrive controller, which like the infotainment system is lifted straight from its Bavarian donor, while the digital instrument cluster receives a complete Alpina redesign.
Practicality levels are high. The boot offers 570-litres cargo capacity, which expands to 1700L with the back seats folded. There’s ample room front and back for heads and legs, while the rear doors open wide, making the B5 a good choice for a busy family.
However, turf the family for a spirited drive and the B5 Touring comes alive. Motivated by a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, the Alpina offers 447kW of fun. It sounds tough in sportier driving modes and is bloody fast, with the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system fostering ample grip - a prerequisite to properly harness the 800Nm of torque you could use to tow a horse float and not know it. Alpina's 0-100km/h claim of 3.7sec is utterly believable, aided by the Alpina-tuned ZF eight-speed auto. Frustratingly, the shift buttons remain a bugbear and unsatisfying to use.
With the BMW 540i Touring as its base, the B5 is softer and not quite as focused or agile as an M5, however, with an Alpina-only Comfort Plus mode for the adaptive dampers (as well as air suspension on the rear axle), it delivers greater ride comfort than BMW can achieve. Flick to Sport mode and body control tightens, but at the expensive of the plush ride quality.
Where the road surface allows the stiffer setup, the B5 remains capable – so much so that you can forget its wagon status. With four-wheel-steer fooling you into thinking it has shortened the 2975mm wheelbase, the almost five-metre long Touring is responsive and somewhat shrinks around you. It is staggering how adept and fast the Alpina is for a 2.1-tonne wagon.
For the well-heeled buyer who requires practicality, but enjoys spirited driving and exclusivity, the booted Alpina is the chameleon car that can do it all. If ever there was a case for not buying a bloated SUV with performance pretence, this is it.
ALPINA B5 TOURING RIVALS
Audi RS6 Performance, Porsche Panamera Gran Turismo, Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate
- ALPINA B5 TOURING PRICE AND SPECS
Model: Alpina B5 Touring
Engine: 4395cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 447kW @ 5750-6250rpm
Max torque: 800Nm @ 3000-5000rpm
Kerb weight: 2120kg
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Economy: 11.1L/100km (claimed)
0-100km/h: 3.7sec (claimed)
On sale: Now