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