Photography courtesy of BMW/Alpina
BMW’s esteemed tuning partner, Alpina, sure knows what it’s doing. The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé is a powerhouse in and of itself; my experience with it dates back to the Coupé’s infancy as the M6 on the streets around Road Atlanta in 2013, and it’s a car I’ve been waiting to get back in touch with ever since.
Alpina has been specializing in BMW’s best for over 50 years, to the point that its involvement in BMW production actually classifies it as a manufacturer in Germany. However, it only entered the North American market in 2002 with the 2003 Alpina Roadster V8. Of the 555 units produced, six came to Canada, 444 went to the USA, and the remaining 105 were sprinkled across the globe.
Last year marked the largest output for Alpina, shipping 1,700 vehicles globally, including this B6 Gran Coupé tester – which is all the more impressive considering the company produces vehicles on special order only.
From the outset, there are a number of things design- and drive-wise that make this up-scaled and tuned 6 special.
Inside, driver and passengers are treated to a list of handcrafted and special appointments: the white LAVALINA leather (used exclusively by Alpina) plays off the dark Alcantara headliner, piano black accents and Alpina metallic blue exterior brilliantly. The finish is soft and supple, and paired with the heated and cooled eight-way front seats and ample legroom, provides all occupants with the perfect balance of luxury and support.
The hand-stitched steering wheel and inlaid Alpina badge ahead the moon roof are subtle reminders of the B6 Gran Coupé’s esteemed heritage and bespoke workmanship.
The exterior design elements that have graced past Alpinas are tastefully found on this B6, and are as much function as they are form: the signature 20-spoke wheels have a single hollow spoke to house the tire fill tube, which hides behind the centre cap for an untainted appearance. The front apron denotes the Alpina brand between extended splitters on either side that catch extra air for cooling and stability, while under-body NACA ducts direct cold air upward into the large 41.7-inch front and 13.6-inch rear brake rotors taken from the larger BMW 760i. In the rear is a diffuser and trunk-mounted wing that alludes to the power within. Each works cohesively to improve high-speed stability and performance, of which this has plenty.
Although the B6 weighs in at more than any of BMW’s 6 Series offerings, the 4,780 kg Gran Coupé suffers no latency issues. The mono-scroll twin turbos help the Alpina-tuned, 90-degree four-valve V8 output 540 horsepower (600 for the 2016 model) and 540 lb-ft of torque from 2,800 to 5,000 rpm. To put that into perspective, that’s 95 more horsepower and 60 lb-ft more torque than the closest 6 Series, and 20 less horsepower but 40 lb-ft more torque than the twin-scroll, twin-turbo M6. All of this equates to a zero-to-100 km/h time of just 3.9 seconds.
Although shifting through Alpina’s Switch-Tronic button shifters on the back of the steering wheel feels less sporty than the traditional paddles, it all happens just as quick through a reinforced eight-speed automatic transmission with Alpina software to push you far back into your seat.
Alpina says the B6 tops out at 318 km/h, and it’s at speed where the intelligent all-wheel drive B6 feels most comfortable. The electronic damping control and active roll stabilization keeps the drive smooth, balanced, and responsive in whichever mode you choose, and regardless of your speed, wind noise is almost inaudible.
The large, single-piston brake calipers taken from the larger 760i provide smoother operation than a multi-piston unit, and while they may be less performance oriented than their six-piston counterparts from the M6, bring the Alpina to a halt quicker than you’d expect. It keeps with the impression that this luxurious sport saloon drives much smaller than its size suggests.
Put simply, it’s the perfect blend of performance, exclusivity and heritage, and I couldn’t think of it being better in any way.
List price (CAD): $135,000
Price as tested (CAD): $150,800