Friday - - Motoring - Eight­speed auto, AWD 540bhp @ 5,200rpm @ 2,800rpm 318kph 3.9 seconds Dh600,000 (ap­prox) Su­perb as a grand tourer, eas­ier to live with than a BMW M6 Ex­pen­sive

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

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