Happy New Year to you all I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write this review, but there are several reasons for this. I will spare you the details but all I can say now is that if I would have written this review any earlier, my impressions may have been biased due to my negative experience with the E60 M5 and the excitement of having replaced it with the sensational Alpina B5.
I have covered over 8’000 kilometres in 3 months, and the time has come for me to write this brief and simple review for all you BMW aficionados out there. I hope you enjoy it and I hope that I can be of service to any of you guys out there that are thinking of purchasing one of these phenomenal cars yet are hesitant or do not really see the sense in trading in an M car for an Alpina.
I procrastinated for a very long time before taking the plunge…and I still remember the 8 visits to the same dealership in Lucerne, Switzerland to see this gorgeous black B5 sitting there in the showroom as if it was yesterday It was a curse…a black cloud hanging over my head for weeks to come!! I would sit in the B5 and gaze out the showroom window at my E60 M5 which was parked right outside, and she would gaze straight back at me…it was a long and difficult process…
To any of you that did not read my previous posts on M5board.com, you may remember my frustration and anger at what the E60 M5 had become in my eyes. I was just expecting something different…a car that was engaging yet simple and super fast, I remember my E39 M5 and how you could just be so blisteringly quick in it without blinking an eye. In comparison, the SMG 3 transmission was always in the back of my mind when driving the E60 M5. Am I on the right transmission setting…is sport mode on…will it downshift smoothly this time around…will the modulation of the accelerator pedal offer my passengers and myself a smooth gear change after overtaking that group of cars? Etc…Etc…!
The answer was YES 99% of the time…but that ever present 1% still lurked in the back of my mind every time I wrapped my hands around that gorgeous M steering wheel. On the track, SMG hands down. But never again for me on a 4 door saloon designed and built to be used on the road SMG does NOT and never will give you the same control and versatility as a manual or automatic gearbox “on the road”. I also found the seats to be much too firm, maybe it was my fault for not having ordered the Comfort seats, but for God’s sake, who thinks of ordering a car like the M5 with comfort seats?! I thought the active sports seats would be at least as comfortable as my Porsche 996 turbo seats…how wrong I was, having to bare a terrible pain in the back of my thighs and numb buttocks every time I drove the car longer than 4 or 5 hours and last but not least, the suspension’s choppy ride, even in comfort mode and minimal tyre pressure. How could BMW do this…how could they fit a car with adjustable damping settings and not take full advantage of the word “Adjustable”? Comfort mode on a new 997 turbo offers a smoother ride than the M5!! Make comfort softer, ffice:smarttags" />Normal should be the current comfort setting and Sport should be much harder than the current sport setting.
But hey, we all have our own opinions, so all you guys out there that disagree with me, and undoubtedly many of you will, do not take it personally when I tell you all that the best decision I ever made was to order the M5 back in 2004…but the even better decision came when I decided to trade it in for the B5 in autumn of 2006.
In my opinion BMW took a huge gamble by introducing this car the way they did, by offering SMG only and it’s known weaknesses…the ridiculous range…the incomprehensive fuel consumption…the poor damping…and the stiff seats. All these memories make me smile now when I pass by a dealership or take a look at the European car classifieds and realise just how terribly wrong they were. Hundreds of E60 M5’s are for sale…most of them having driven less than 20’000 Kilometres, many of them even brand new. The M5 could have been more complete…but it isn’t. The Alpina B5 is, and these are my impressions of her…B5 number 233, in my opinion the ultimate 4 door sedan.
Well where do I start how will I ever be able to express the sounds this engine makes! The plural tense is required here…the whirring sound of the starter…the growl that ensues…and the deep rumble it settles into at idle. The rotation of the engine being felt at the base of your seat for the first minute, reminding you that this is not just a tuned BMW with a tweaked engine, but an Alpina. The exhaust sound at 2’500 rpm’s hitting a deep note only a V8 can muster but this time combined to the howl of a V12 all the way up to maximum revolutions and then when you think it’s all done and you have already heard everything there is to hear from this awesome car, you lift off the accelerator pedal and open the driver’s window whilst slowing down and a jet turbine like sound can be heard from under the car…supercharger blades spinning at over 100’000 rpm’s slicing the air and making you feel like a Hawker Harrier fighter pilot returning from a mission, heading back to the hanger
On the open road this car is just so quick…the 700nm of torque and the way the power is delivered is mind boggling. No car test or magazine review can give this car the praise and credit that it deserves, for this is a car that hides its game very well at first and then grows on you like no other! I still remember how basic it felt when I stepped in it for the first time after having driven my M5. The car felt so much mellower and friendlier. Yes the engine is superb, yes the sound it releases is fantastic, but it is not what this review is about…it is about the package as a whole. The steering has been tightened up and feels much more precise than on my ex M5, the damping is pure perfection, offering a tight yet super smooth ride…no buttons to fiddle with and no settings to think of when driving, and all this is happening around you with such ease and such comfort.
This is a car that will do 500 kilometres on one tank and get you to your destination faster than most other cars out there, including the M5. On the freeway it feels like it’s on rails, when you hit long high speed curves the car is perfectly balanced allowing you to use the switch-tronic gear change in combination with the torque, to power in and out of curves to your heart’s content…and when the short tight turns appear you can still drive at an incredible pace and get that all familiar grin the M5 gives us all. The car just feels light and the speed of the gear changes combined with the perfect damping and the super sharp steering will allow you to have serious fun, but the only drawback is the absence of a differential, which is incomprehensible. It has rarely happened to me but on a couple of occasions I did end up lighting the inside tyre.
Life with the B5:
The B5 is a mellow alternative to the M5 as far as every day life is concerned. It is also much more discreet, looking more like a normal 5 series with big wheels than an all out high performance saloon. I remember driving my M5 around and getting quite a bit of attention due to the M5’s unique mirrors, side gills, quad exhausts, front spoiler and rear diffuser J None of that here…this car barely gets a second glance, except on one occasion when I drove into a parking lot in Monaco and got out of the car with my wife, only to be approached by a well dressed man in his 40’s and his wife. We glanced at each other briefly and he just extended his hand out to me and said: “superb car isn’t it?” I answered “Yes, I love it”, “Do you know it is the car I enjoy driving the most” he told me. “I have a Sapphire Black B5 just like yours back in the UK, it really is a pleasure to meet you” We shook hands for a little longer than normal, as if to compliment one another for our choice of car, both wives impressed that a car can generate such complicity! We walked towards the exit as he took out a set of keys and used them on something…as I glanced behind us, the hazard lights blink briefly and the doors unlock…he was driving a Bugatti Veyron I had a huge smile on my face!
When you think that there are only 250 B5’s out there, your mind cannot help but send your heart and soul signals every time you sit behind the wheel…reminding you that you are driving something really quite unique and special here. How sad it is that the B5 is not available in the US and Canada, as I’m sure that many of you, my Canadian and American friends on M5board.com would absolutely adore this car. I hope you will all find my review interesting and helpful, and if ever you require more info regarding the B5 please do not hesitate to ask.
Thank you for the great write up It truly is one of the greatest cars.. I still think the market is there for both the M5 and B5 and am happy that consumers can choose between them.. the comment from the Veyron owner is priceless
Enjoyed the reading,thanks!Good thing you waited for a while so you could write a honest review.Magazine reviews and there performance figures can indeed not tell the story,so thanks again.I only own a BT but i know the car grows on you;it will only get better
and then when you think it’s all done and you have already heard everything there is to hear from this awesome car, you lift off the accelerator pedal and open the driver’s window whilst slowing down and a jet turbine like sound can be heard from under the car…supercharger blades spinning at over 100’000 rpm’s slicing the air and making you feel like a Hawker Harrier fighter pilot returning from a mission, heading back to the hanger
This is great stuff..You should send it to Buchloe! They'll have a job for you..After all the BMWcar and other magazines covering the B5, I think your write-up covers it the best..Its like I can almost feel how it runs..well put.
Nice to see someone taking care in their words after some of the atrocious speech-writing we often see.