Sport Ultra Plus 2021 BMW Alpina B8 Gran Coupè

Proper, full-on press presentations are rare those days. Covid definitely gave a kick forward to digitalization and it has been difficult to properly witness press events over the last 2 years. You can imagine how much pleased and honoured we were when Alpina called to invite us to the presentation of the new B8.

Two days at the Salzburgring where we enjoyed not only Alpina’s fine wines and hospitality, but got a full road and track test of their hottest new four seater Coupè. The B8 is based on BMW’s successful 8 series model line up, which is the only model that has been first presented as a world class GTE racing car which raced both in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) in North America. BMW made the new four-door variant longer, taller and wider than the Coupè and this has proven an already excellent base for Alpina for their new B8.

Definitely for those who love history, the B8 is a sort of distant cousin of the rare and now super collectible B12, a luxurious and sporty looking two door coupè, which was based on the E31 8 series. In this case the new B8 is the executive class 4 door coupè for the family conscious and discerning driver who does not want to compromise on power, style and practicality. Speaking with the engineers, Alpina reworked the chassis and the 4.4 litre V8 to produce 620hp and 590 lb of torque. Also, the electric motors of the anti roll bars were re-worked to eliminate roll, while the engineers tailored the transmission to withstand the extra power and strengthened the chassis to cope with the added power. The result is a pleasant executive coupè, whose identity is not far from the gorgeous B12 and B12 S of the 1990ies. Alpina gave us full access to the model with a thorough test drive in the Austrian countryside outside Salzburg which included narrow B roads and fast freeways: unfortunately unexpected road works and increased traffic limited our joyride, yet it was enough for us to sample it properly. 

The B8 is definitely more sporty than the B5 and more plush and relaxing than the B3: more sound insulation, more comfort and more torque. Whereas the 3 series boasts aggressive power, the B8 has consistent and greater torque and more comfortable suspension. What for us is “magic” for Alpina’s is a long and articulate work of engineering: besides the excellent drivetrain, the suspension set up is where Alpina truly stands out. 20 inch wheels that ride well are still to be found in other similar vehicles. According to the press presentation, specific tires were developed with Pirelli to go together with their new wheels. These wheels feature a new and more efficient contact surface with the tire to maximize the power transfer to the road. Needless to say that grip levels are truly immense and satisfying to experience.

Alpina is known for its “plus” modes: when you think that you just couldn’t want more comfort or sport in the standard maps, there you find the “Plus” setting. We must admit it, there is no more opulence in that, like adding diamonds in your Rolex Daytona. It’s just more of just everything: in comfort plus you have an even relaxed B8, while in sport it’s even angrier, with dialled back traction and stability. The Salzburgring is a quite interesting track: it hosted the top tier Austrian 500cc moto GP world championship from 1971 to 1994 and it is a fast and technical circuit with high-speed bankings and slow and challenging chicanes. It’s a good spot to test dynamics and lateral acceleration: the fast section on the back straight and the fast right turns put you to a test where you have to have complete faith in your machine. 

After the test , this track outside Salzburg gave us a good idea of the complexity of the work that has been done by Alpina. Bear in mind that the B8 is still a GT at heart, so no matter how you want to push it in Sport Plus, it still shows its weight and it could become tricky when driven at the limit. This is not to criticize this amazing piece of engineering: hustling this big and torquey bruiser needs you to fully understand the basic principles of track and sports driving. It’s not the kind of car which does everything you want, as if you do not brake properly and do not listen to it as it demands, it can become a bit upset. Roll is minimal and ride is plush even in the most harsh setting but the car is direct and changes direction with no hesitation.

Whilst the B3 will tolerate aggressive driving and both late and trail braking, the B8 just needs feet of silk for it to be 100% satisfying on track. In other words, it’s more sporty and rigid than the awesome B5 S Biturbo, yet it’s more refined and sophisticated than the excellent B3. Excessive weight transfers will upset the balance and will make the B8 hard to drive on the edge. The great and pleasing stability in high speed corners, mixed with the immense torque and smooth ride make the B8 the executive’s all rounder that was missing from the current line up. It boasts great qualities, great character and a wonderful styling that will make your day after you come home from your office. We hate to pick up Alpina’s own branding scheme but like they say: it’s a car for automotive gourmands, those discerning enthusiasts who just want to discreetly enjoy a car which is still made according to the classic principles of quality over quantity. 

The B8 is at the current moment a car which is still able to reflect the enthusiasm and the humanity of the people behind it rather than the cold and pointless marketing of today’s big corporations.

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