SOUPED-UP BMW B4 DROP-TOP GETS THE ALPINA TREAT­MENT

We find out whether the su­per-fast Alpina B4 Bi­turbo re­ally is a qual­ity al­ter­na­tive to the main­stream BMW M4 Con­vert­ible

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JACK EVANS

BMW ALPINA B4 BI­TURBO

WHAT IS IT? Alpina has a long-stand­ing rep­u­ta­tion for tak­ing all the key cars from BMW’S line-up and tweak­ing them in spe­cial ways.

With the B4 Bi­turbo, the Ger­man tun­ing com­pany has brought in a BMW 435i con­vert­ible, taken away the stan­dard car’s sin­gle tur­bocharger and re­placed it with two in­stead. That re­sults in a car which pro­duces an amount of power within strik­ing dis­tance of a BMW M4 Cabrio, but with more torque too.

Of course, the car also gets Alpina’s styling tweaks. There’s the stan­dard 20-inch multi spoke al­loy wheels and aero­dy­namic kit. There’s also a rather nice four-pipe Akropovic ex­haust sys­tem at the back, to let you know that this isn’t any old BMW con­vert­ible.

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

Alpinas have al­ways been able to man­age the look of a car that is un­der­stated, but shows sport­ing in­tent too. The B4 Bi­turbo con­vert­ible con­tin­ues this.

There’s the pre­vi­ously men­tioned bodykit, which in­cludes a front split­ter. You’ll also find Alpina pin strip­ing along the flanks of the car. This may not be to ev­ery­one’s taste, but in our eyes, it looks fan­tas­tic.

The large multi-spoke wheels fin­ish the ex­te­rior look and a duck­tail spoiler at the rear looks the part too.

In­side, it’ll be fa­mil­iar to any­one who has seen or driven a cur­rent-gen- er­a­tion 3 Se­ries. BMW’S ex­cel­lent in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem re­mains, con­trolled by the i-drive ro­tary se­lec­tor in the cen­tre of the car.

There are, of course, cer­tain el­e­ments of the in­te­rior that have been tweaked by Alpina.

The steer­ing wheel, for in­stance, is thin and trimmed in al­can­tara, rather than the much thicker BMW M-sport one.

There’s a leather-trimmed dash too, though on our test car, this was a hefty £1,075 op­tion.

Blue and green stitch­ing is used through­out the cabin, while a num­bered metal plaque makes you fully aware — if you weren’t al­ready — that you’re driv­ing some­thing a lit­tle bit spe­cial.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

De­spite hav­ing seat­ing for four, the B4 Con­vert­ible — much like the BMW car on which it is based — can never claim to be a fully-fledged four-seater, rather a 2+2. The rear seats would be fine for chil­dren, but for longer trips, adults are go­ing to find it a bit of a squeeze.

Up front, how­ever, there’s plenty of room. Legroom is de­cent enough, while there’s plenty of space for bot­tles and all man­ner of other items.

Two large cup hold­ers are use­ful too, es­pe­cially on hot days with the roof down. How­ever, that roof does af­fect prac­ti­cal­ity some­what.

If you’d like to fold it away, you have to first lower the lug­gage cover in the boot, heav­ily com­pro­mis­ing the area’s space. It’s a small thing, but users look­ing to have the roof low­ered fre­quently may find it an­noy­ing.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Make no ques­tion about it, the B4 Bi­turbo is a quick car. Putting out 410bhp and 600Nm torque, it’s able to reach 62mph in 4.5 sec­onds and won’t stop un­til it reaches 187mph. How­ever, the car’s ap­proach to those fig­ures isn’t as ag­gres­sive as you might think.

Pow­ered through an eight­speed ZF au­to­matic — as op­posed to the M4’s twin-clutch unit — the Alpina wafts up to speed in a much more re­lax­ing fash­ion than the bodykit would al­low you to imag­ine.

That ex­haust, de­spite look­ing more boy racer than B-road bruiser, isn’t in­tru­sive in the slight­est, only giv­ing away a lovely, me­chan­i­cal note when un­der heavy ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Alpina makes sure to thor­oughly change the sus­pen­sion on any car it makes and the B4 is no dif­fer­ent.

The wheels, though wear­ing 245/30 sec­tion tyres, bear no im­pact on the car’s ride. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a car that deals bet­ter with bumps in the road than this one. It man­ages to be firm with­out jar­ring, which is just what you want in a con­vert­ible. This is bet­tered even fur­ther by plac­ing the car in com­fort mode.

Up and run­ning, the B4 Bi­turbo is easy to drive quickly, with the vast amount of torque on of­fer mak­ing any change of pace quick and ef­fort­less. It also means the car is re­lax­ing to drive on the mo­tor­way too.

The B4’s steer­ing is also ex­cel­lent, helped no doubt by the thin-rimmed wheel.

Alpina still cu­ri­ously chooses to use but­tons mounted be­hind the wheel rather than pad­dle shifters, which is one thing we’d change.

That ZF gear­box still pro­vides ex­cel­lent shifts time af­ter time, though. One an­noy­ance was the start-stop sys­tem, which had a habit of cut­ting in in­cred­i­bly early and then start­ing again with a jolt.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The B4 Bi­turbo starts at £62,950. Our test car, fit­ted with op­tions such as adap­tive head­lights and Merino leather, came in at a hefty £72,010. Make no mis­take, this Alpina is not a cheap car. For that money though, you get a level of sub­tle­ness that is hard to de­scribe.

Those who know of Alpinas will ap­pre­ci­ate the car, while those who are un­aware may see it as a 3 Se­ries with a large bodykit and a set of wheels — but that’s what Alpina cars are about.

Given the per­for­mance avail­able, the car’s price makes sense. When you also take into ac­count the be­spoke na­ture of the car’s sus­pen­sion and pow­er­train, as well as the in­te­rior, then it be­gins to look like good value. Its price is per­ilously close to its BMW ri­vals though, which is an­other con­sid­er­a­tion.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

If you’re look­ing to stand out from the crowd, the Alpina per­haps isn’t the best choice. If, how­ever, you fancy driv­ing a car that has un­der­stated pres­ence hid­ing a vast amount of per­for­mance, the B4 Bi­turbo may well be for you.

The Alpina B4 bi­turbo is much more than just a 3 Se­ries with a large bodykit

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