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TEST DRIVE: ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe — Better Than The BMW M8?

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I still remember snagging the keys to the absolutely stunning BMW M8 Gran Coupe, tingling with excitement, and then being completely let down by its lack of engagement and uninspired driving dynamics. Sure, it was every bit as fast as the Millennium Falcon at lightspeed but it just wasn’t very interesting or exciting to drive unless you were hammering the go-pedal in a straight line. During my review, I said that I think it would be a better car if BMW leaned more into the GT nature of it; softening the suspension and making it more comfortable. I felt that an ALPINA version might actually be the best version. Now, after driving the all-new ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe, I’m happy to report that I was absolutely right.

Let’s just start with the design. Just look at it. The ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe is bite-the-back-of-your-fist beautiful. The shape, the subtly body lines, the ALPINA-specific bumpers, and — of course — the always-gorgeous iconic ALPINA wheels. Admittedly, it owes almost all of its beauty to the standard BMW 8 Series, which is pretty even in its most basic form. However, the ALPINA-specific changes, such as the lower front lip, the killer wheels, and the rear bumper, which tidily wraps around its quad exhaust pipes, make send it over the top.

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If I had a complaint with the look of my week-long test car it wasn’t with the car itself but with the spec. My tester wore a Frozen Bluestone Metallic exterior paint which, while a nice color, is without a doubt the wrong color choice. Frozen Bluestone is a cool color on a standard 8 Series but that’s just it — it’s a color that’s available on the most entry-level BMW 840i Gran Coupe. The ALPINA B8 costs nearly $60,000 more than the 840i and is far more exclusive, it shouldn’t wear the same color scheme as a standard 8er.

That’s especially true when you consider the B8 comes in two ALPINA-specific colors — ALPINA Blue Metallic and ALPINA Green Metallic. Both colors are iconic and have been worn by almost all ALPINAs throughout the brand’s history. Choosing a normal 8 Series color for the ALPINA B8 is misstep if you ask me, so my test car lacked the presence the B8 is capable of. Still, it’s a stunning car in any color and turned heads wherever it went.

The cabin is probably the ALPINA B8’s biggest let down, though. That’s not to say it’s bad because it isn’t — not even close. In fact, it’s lovely; with incredible leather, brilliant build quality, and top-notch materials. However, the issue is that it’s essentially indistinguishable from the standard 8 Series. Without the ALPINA badges, and the metal plaque on the center console, there’s almost no way of telling it’s an ALPINA, rather than an 840i. That notion was exacerbated by my test car’s Ivory White leather and Ash Wood trim, both of which are — yet again — available on even the entry-level 8 Series. So, visually, there was very little to distinguish my tester from any other 8er.

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Still, anyone that complains about sitting in an ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe needs their head checked. It’s a wonderful place to spend time, even in the back seats, which are not only comfortable but feature their own climate controls, USB-C ports, and nice cupholders.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Under the hood of the ALPINA B8 lies a monster 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8, similar to the one found in the BMW M8 Gran Coupe but it’s not the same. Both the M8’s S63 and the B8’s ALPINA engine start out life as the same mill — a BMW-sourced N63 engine. However, they’re both specifically modified for their individual needs. For ALPINA-duty, the N63 engine gets quite the comprehensive tear down and upgrade.

ALPINA replaces the N63’s pistons, turbochargers, intercooler, intake manifold, exhaust manifold, and exhaust. The new turbochargers are larger and twin-scroll units, providing more low-end torque and, seemingly, a smoother powerband. The final result is an engine that makes 612 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. For reference, that’s almost as much power as the BMW M8 Gran Coupe Competition (617 horsepower) but more torque than it (553 lb-ft). While the ALPINA B8 is probably a tenth or two slower to 60 mph, doing the run in a claimed 3.3 seconds. However, it feels every bit as teleportation-quick as the M8.

Power is only part of the charm, though. The ALPINA B8’s engine is better than the M8’s, despite being a bit slower, as it’s far smoother and more enjoyable to use. I don’t know what ALPINA does to the engine to make it feel so smooth but the B8’s V8 feels as if it runs only on a combination of heavy cream and angel tears. And yet, it thrusts you toward the horizon as if you were shot out of a catapult.

Interestingly, despite being largely the same engine you’ll find in many BMW products, it sounds quite a bit different in the ALPINA. In the B8, the twin-turbo V8 is more muted, a bit deeper in tone, and less raspy. It actually sounds a bit more American than German, like a four-door Corvette. That’s not an insult, though, as I really liked the B8’s noise, it gives the car a more distinct character, one that separates it from the rest of BMW’s V8-powered product line.

Smooth as Silk

My biggest complaint of the BMW M8 Gran Coupe was that it didn’t really pick a lane. Its driving dynamics were numb and vague, as if BMW intended to make it a grand touring car. However, the suspension was a bit too firm and its ride a bit too busy for proper GT-duty, as if BMW wanted to also make it a sports car. So it ended being great at neither. The ALPINA B8, on the other hand, was developed with a clear vision.

Even in Sport Plus mode (which is the best mode for it), the ALPINA B8 is smoother, more comfortable, and more stable than the M8 Gran Coupe. Its ride is better, its steering is more fluid, and its inputs more responsive. There’s a well-oiled tactility to the B8 that makes it both more premium and more engaging than the M8.

ALPINA also specifically tunes the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and it’s brilliantly calibrated. In Comfort mode, it completely disappears, blending gears together so smoothly you’d think it were electric. However, in Sport Plus mode, it does its best dual-clutch impression, with snappy, immediate shifts that actually give you a bit of a shove in the back. That might sound trivial but it gives the B8 a more exciting, more engaging feel.

In fact, Sport Plus mode completely changes the entire demeanor of the ALPINA B8. The steering sharpens, the suspension firms up (but still remains comfortable somehow), and the body feels like it rolls less. It just comes alive, turning what is normally a very soft, comfortable, and luxurious cruiser into a sporty GT car.

BMW M8 Gran Who?

As far as I’m concerned, as long as the ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe exists, there’s a very little case for the BMW M8 Gran Coupe. The ALPINA product isn’t even $10,000 more but it’s more enjoyable to drive, live with, and own. Plus, it has a unique style and charm, typical to ALPINA products. The M8 tries too hard to be both a proper M car and a luxury GT car but doesn’t fully deliver on either. While the ALPINA B8 embraces its grand touring nature and is better for it, while still being genuinely exciting to drive.

In fact, if I were to compare the ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe to anything, it’d be an Aston Martin Rapide; great to look at, fun to drive, but doesn’t lose sight of what it’s supposed to be — a brutally fast, yet effortlessly elegant GT car. And that’s about as high of praise as I can give any four-door GT. The ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe is the best version of the 8 Series. Period. It’s also one of the very best four door machines in the world.

Exterior Appeal – 10

Interior Quality – 8

Steering Feedback – 8

Performance – 9

Handling – 9

BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine – 9

Price Point – 8


What do you think?

Written by publisher

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