SPECS AND VERDICT Model Engine
ho is this car for? Predominantly anyone who thinks a 552bhp, 1,950kg BMW M6 is too mad, which makes that most of us. But did this Alpina B6 have to be that sensible? I kept thinking, for something so similar to an M6, but not being an actual M6, this is incredibly grounded – stubborn, you could say – and unwilling to do much at all, even with all the electronics switched off.
Then I confirmed my suspicions by bothering to look at the specifications of the car to find out it is all-wheel drive. OK, that changed things…
And that’s Alpina’s deal. Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH is not a tuner but a proper car manufacturer, recognised per se by none other than Germany’s Technischer Überwachungs-Verein. And with a name like that you know it’s the authority on such matters. So M GmbH and Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH coexist very happily. This is only feasible because their wares are so different. An M6 is hard to keep pointed straight. A B6 is impossible to get a little sideways. So I was initially a little upset about the B6 and its restraints. But then the miles started disappearing. Got a continent? Aaaand it’s gone… s far as uber-luxurious grand tourers go, this certainly lives up to the name. It’s not an M6, then. It’s merely a better 650i Gran Coupé… a way better 650i… which makes it over two-tonnes dear, producing almost 100bhp on top of the base car.
A 650i is good for 444bhp from its twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, and 650Nm of torque; the Alpina, 540bhp (12bhp short of an M6) and 730Nm of torque (50Nm more than an M6). However, it bears no carbon-fibre roof like the M6 and no aluminium front subframe, which makes the B6, give or take, 80kg heavier. Big deal. And so I realised… The M6 is actually the confused one.
The M6 Gran Coupé is the mad supercar perplexedly splitting the seams of its ill-fitting four-door suit. And the B6 is the one at peace with itself, a confident luxo-barge making no absurd track-day promises and in its element, happy to distil entire continents to mere unperturbed Friday-morning drives.
To be honest, once I realised the B6 is all-wheel drive, I had it in Eco Pro mode the entire time. Seven hundred-plus Newton metres of torque is, believe me, seamless and abundant, and the car’s nature hardly changes from Eco Pro, five modes up, to Sport+. What’s the point of straining it? I may as well save wheels’ fuel bills. What else makes the B6, arguably, a better proposition than an M6? Now, I understand BMWdoesn’t want you to think of it this way. Munich and Buchloe (that’s some Bavarian village where Alpina is from), instead, would rather you considered both the M6 and B6 as entirely different propositions, which they are, but I’m here to argue the B6 is actually better. And not only because I believe the M6 isn’t all that good. As I’ve already said, it’s totally uneasy about what it is.
Then there’s the fact the B6 utilises the good ol’ ZF eight-speed instead of BMW’s rougher DCT seven-speed found in the M6. There’s also the ride quality, which is way more compliant in the B6. It also offers colours unavailable on the M6, and of course those traditional Alpina wheels that my boss says are embarrassing, and I say are… embarrassing.
Then there are the paddle shifts behind the wheel, of which there are none. Instead you just get slightly ridiculous little mouse buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes. Sure, wildly inappropriate for the power and progress they call upon, but still applicable for this type of grand tourer. The idea is, nothing is supposed to be a chore here, not even a cumbersome flick of a nuisance paddle. At full acceleration, it also squats its behind way down so that through the gears on your way to, say, 250kph, you’ll yo-yo there.
But at anything below 90 per cent throttle it’s serene and seamless, with an absolutely absurd amount of torque on tap in any gear, any revs. At jail-baiting autobahn speeds it’s more settled than a serious hot hatch at 120kph and hard-braking only judders the thing minutely… In fact, in true German autobahn tradition, at these speeds is where the B6 feels happiest, with little wind and road noise.
And much as I can complain about its unwillingness to play dirty, and wag a tail here and there, and that all-wheel drive, it really is impressive. You can still dart into a highway onramp at unreal speeds, carry it all the way through and merge straight to jail. What a difference a letter of the alphabet makes.
The B6 is at peacewith itself, making no absurd track-day promises and simply in its element
At anything below 90 per cent throttle, it’s serene B6 Gran Coupé 4.4-litre V8 turbo Transmission
Max torque Top speed 0-100kph Price