Tooling Around in an Alpina B10 V8

Some years ago I owned a 5 Series BMW, a ’98 Sea Green 535i E39 model, and it was the first Beemer I had. I have written elsewhere that BMWs have never really been for me, I had a rather underwhelming 1 Series and also a 2013 520 estate, a barge in sheep’s clothing. Don’t misunderstand, I think that the offerings from the Bayerische Motoren Werke AG are generally excellent, some are among the finest examples of automobiles on offer over the last 50 years. BMW Alpina especially so.

BMW 635CSi
Achingly beautiful BMW 635CSi

There have been some mingers (looking at you Chris Bangle), vehicles hit with the ugly stick, but also there have been some achingly beautiful cars. The 635CSI E24 model springs to mind and is on my list of Lottery win cars. I was also a fan of the 2002Tii from 1971 and that is also on the ‘list’.

Bangle BMW
Bangle’s ugly Beemer

Filial impoverishment has brought an E39 5 Series BMW Alpina B10 V8 to my drive and I have been using it whilst my C43 has been commandeered by son no. 2. He bought the BMW Alpina in immaculate condition and ran it as a daily but a knackered differential required replacement and therefore paternal wallet intervention. Plus Ça change…. A brand new part was sourced from Germany (£1500!), a friendly garage fitted it and we were ready to go.

So therefore the opportunity to tool around in this icon is a joy, it is so smooth and relaxed. It gets quite a few admiring glances from those who recognise it for the classic it is and the burble of the V8 more than compensates for its desire for lashings of the best petrol.

Alpina B10
Alpina B10 V8

Based on the fabulous 540i (and similar to the 535i that I had previously) Alpina have created a trans continental cruiser, one could drive from here to the South of France and arrive relaxed and ready for that all important appearance at Cannes. The changes are not conspicuous and a casual observer would be hard pressed to spot the differences, Alpina’s ethos is more about improving a cars road abilities and less about raw power. The engine capacity is increased from 4.4 litres to 4.6 with a power increase from 286 bhp to 347 bhp, the interior has one or tweaks including double glazing and the suspension is also fettled.

The Alpina wheels are worth a mention, if you look carefully you may notice that there is no valve with which to inflate the tyres. The centre cap tilts to reveal both the wheel nuts and also the tyre valve which is then inflated through one of the spokes, aesthetically sublime. 

Alpina Wheel
Alpina Wheel

However, the 57 year Alpina relationship with BMW is now over, the Bovensiepen family selling to BMW entirely. The end of an era?

Back to BMW

A Pragmatic Choice

Mercedes C63 after a jaunt round town.

The time has come to say goodbye to my Mercedes C63 Estate, possibly the best car I have ever had (so far). The image here will illustrate the reason why. After some very careful driving I managed to get the average MPG up to 23.2. And careful driving is not really what the car was about. It was about noise, acceleration and more noise. Yet if driven quietly and carefully it was an extremely capable car although the suspension was a little harsh. The rear tyres lasted for 23000 miles, incredible for a rear wheel drive car with 450BHP, and servicing was no more expensive than any other comaparable vehicle. It was the thirst, and the fact that I only ever put Shell V Power in her that combined to make using her as an everyday hack unaffordable.

BMW 520d and its astonishing range.

So we come to the BMW, an ordinary but newer car, a 520D Estate, also capable and solid but soooo boring. It does not make my willy tingle, something the Merc did whenever I got in and it started with a roar like Zeus clearing his throat. The pragmatic part however is it cost around £85 to fill the Merc for around a 230 mile range. The Beemer is a similar price for the cheapest diesel to fill but the range is well over 700 miles. In fact I can confidentally set off knowing that I need not worry about where or when to fill up whereas with the C63 and my Shell V Power pedantry, the smaller range gave me the sort of anxiety that I imagine drivers of electric vehicles suffer.

Essentially then, the BMW 520d is like an ugly mistress; it does the business when required without complaint and who knows, I may grow to love her.