Driven: Alpina D5 Biturbo

A large turbodiesel, it's fair to say, is never going to truly replicate the qualities of a high-performance petrol engine: a wide, linear power band and sharp throttle response really are the preserve of motors that run on unleaded.

Turbodiesels do have their own subtle charms to make up for it, though, a fat dollop of low-down torque and a very light thirst being chief among them. Which is why diesel power suits Alpina's latest take on a fast BMW so well.

Buchloe-fettled cars have always been a more relaxed, less hyperactive proposition than their BMW cousins, so the choice of 3.0-litre twin- turbo diesel for Alpina's latest offering, the D5 Biturbo, seems entirely apt.

535d, and then some
Based on the 313hp, 464lb ft 535d, the new D5 brings an extra 37hp and 52lb ft of torque to the party, and yet somehow managing to post mpg figures and emissions that are identical to the far more humble 530d.

But it's not just bald statistics that this motor has going for it. Straight-six BMW diesels have long been the closest oil-burners have got to satisfying committed petrol fans, and Alpina pushes even closer to mimicking petrol engine behaviour, with its genuinely revvy nature and almost-actually-pleasant six-cylinder gurgle. Okay, it's not going to give you goosebumps in the way the best petrol engines do, but it really is a lovely engine.

Ask for a bit of acceleration and, after a pause to allow the turbos to spool up, the D5 fairly leaps down the road, allowing you to ride the fat torque curve and pile on speed at quite rate. OK, so it's not M5-explosive, but it is darn fast, and although it will rev out to 5,000 rpm or so, you really don't need to do so to make vigorous progress. Mind you, if you start plumbing the depths of that torque on a regular basis it will start to hurt the fuel economy quite heavily. But it's just so satisfying... particularly in combination with the Alpina-tuned 8-speed ZF Switchtronic transmission

Get the look
The D5 is more than just a tweaked turbodiesel, however. The Alpina styling tweaks to the F10 5 Series (skirts, rear spoiler, 'those' wheels, front bumper, decals, and as much or as little bespoke interior work as your wallet can manage) might be an acquired taste, but I guarantee Alpina's work to the chassis will be of more universal appeal.

Put simply, the D5 manages to work with the UK's pockmarked road network better than any current BMW. It's more fluid, more controlled and a more involving steer. It works with the road rather than despite it. This can be partly accounted for by the fitment of non run-flat tyres, but the work done to the electronic dampers must surely take most of the credit. Provided you don't put them in too soft a setting, that is - Comfort and Comfort Plus are just a bit too 'floaty'.

That balance of comfort and control in the suspension also works wonders with the steering. It seems more faithful to your inputs and communicates more effectively what's going on with the car and the road than any BMW wheel, though admittedly in this case that might also be to do with the absence of the irritatingly chubby, squidgy rims that BMW insist on fitting to its more sporty models.

That 5 Series size issue again...
It's not all good news, of course. On smaller British roads the F10 body shape still feels half a size too large (whether it actually is or not is kind of a moot point; it feels as though it is), and that engine does lack the precision and zing that the true petrolhead will crave.

In comparison with BMW's new and super-tricksy tri-turbo diesel, the D5 also seems a teensy-bit lo-fi. Then again, BMW isn't bringing the M550d to the UK (more on this on the blog), leaving us only the unlovely X6 and chunky X5 with which to sample its new engine. Which gives the D5 the super-fast diesel BMW market pretty much all to itself.

In fact, there's precious little marketplace competition for it from beyond BMW, too. Given such a monopoly, you might think Alpina would naturally go in for the kill, price-wise, with no downward pressure on its pricing. And yet Alpina only wants to charge £55,950 for the privilege. That makes it only £8K or so more than a 535d M Sport.

Worth every penny? Depends whether or not you can stomach a diesel. If you can, we reckon the Alpina D5 is an absolute gem, a car that, even if it did have a rival, it would be hard to imagine it being anything other than the top of its class...

2,993cc straight-six, twin-turbo
Transmission:8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp):350@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft):516@1,500-3,000rpm
0-62mph: 5.1 sec
Top speed: 171mph
Weight: 1,865kg
MPG: 47.9mpg (combined)
CO2: 155g/km
Price: £55,950 (£63,410 as tested)


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Comments (70) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Wills2 04 Apr 2012

    Lovely thing, I agree on the size issue my F10 feels far too big on the road.

  • Liquid Tuna 04 Apr 2012

    "And yet Alpina only wants to charge £55,950 for the privilege".

    Bargain rolleyes

  • Riggers 04 Apr 2012

    Liquid Tuna said:
    "And yet Alpina only wants to charge £55,950 for the privilege".

    Bargain rolleyes
    Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro: £56,610
    BMW M5: £73,040
    Top-spec Jaguar XF diesel S: £49,100

    Stand by my comment smile

  • wainy 04 Apr 2012

    Liquid Tuna said:
    "And yet Alpina only wants to charge £55,950 for the privilege".

    Bargain rolleyes
    £63k as tested

    Depends on the extras - what is the spec compared to the 535d?

  • RichTBiscuit 04 Apr 2012

    Lovely thing.

    How was the test MPG? I'm thinking you'd only buy one of these if you had loads of miles to do, so real world MPG will be important. If you only do 10k a year i'd defaintely have a petrol smile

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