Weekend Wheels: BMWs don’t come more exclusive than this

BMW’s 612-hp Alpina B8 Gran Coupe offers pace with grace

by Howard Walker

BMW design has gone a little, shall we say eccentric, of late. All chronically-swollen kidney grilles, creased and crumpled bodywork, and cartoonish proportions. 

Case in point, the all-new iX electric sport-ute which looks like it came from the Etch-a-Sketch of some sugared-up four-year-old.

But there’s one design masterpiece in the burgeoning BMW line-up that never fails to spin heads and deliver endless ooohs and ahhhs. That would be the stunning 8 Series Gran Coupe. 

This sleek, sensuous four-door fastback, with its low-slung, bulldog stance, raked-back windshield and swoopy roofline, is one of the most gorgeous automobiles money can buy. Period.

Of course, there’s one way of increasing the appeal of the 8 Series Gran Coupe even further – and ensuring you become part of an ultra-exclusive group of owners. And that’s opting for the Alpina version.

Excuse the CliffsNotes here, but Alpina is BMW’s performance division – kinda like Mercedes’ AMG set-up, but on a way smaller scale. These days fewer than 1,700 Alpinas a year are built, split between the 7 Series-based B7, the honking X7-based XB7 and the B8 Gran Coupe. Less than 400 find their way to the US.

All three models are developed by Alpina, built by BMW, and, here in the States, sold exclusively by BMW dealers and backed with a full BMW warranty. 

This latest 612-horsepower $140,000 Alpina B8 Gran Coupe I’ve been driving, is the purest of the three and without doubt, the most-coveted performance BMW in production. 

Yes there’s a 617-horsepower M8 Competition Gran Coupe that’s faster, more hardcore and around $10,000 cheaper. But what the Alpina delivers is staggering performance coupled with true luxury and refinement. And exclusivity.

See it out on the street and the B8 is instantly recognizable with those trademark 20-spoke, 21-inch Alpina alloys at each corner, wrapped in custom Pirelli rubber. Those and the bright, cobalt-blue brake calipers ready to clamp down on rotors the size of family-size pizzas. 

Bodywork changes include a re-worked front bumper with bigger, air-gulping intakes, and a new lower apron-wearing that distinctive Alpina script. At the rear, there’s a sleek decklid spoiler and a quartet of fire-breathing ovoid tailpipes attached to a unique, Alpina-developed exhaust.

Yes, you have a choice of 13 colors, but why would anyone stray from the trademark Alpina Green Metallic of our test car, or the equally gorgeous Alpina Metallic Blue? 

Inside, it’s all glove-soft Merino leather and black walnut trim, together with an almost comically-thick Alpina wheel with signature blue and green stitching. A somewhat quirky addition is the laser-etched, crystal glass shift knob embossed with the Alpina logo. Very bling.

But it’s the beating heart under the hood that helps make this Alpina Gran Coupe so special. 

While it’s the same twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 used in the standard 850i Gran Coupe, Alpina ups the horsepower to 612. But more importantly, max torque increases to a mighty 590 pound-feet. 

As you might expect, it’s quick. Blisteringly, rock-out-of-a-catapult, quick. Quick as in standstill to 60 in 3.3 seconds, with forward motion not ceasing until the speedo needle is showing 201 mph. 

Coupled to an Alpina-programmed eight-speed ZF automatic, shifts are lightening-fast and light-switch responsive.

Alpina’s tuning wizards also scattered their pixie dust all over the stock suspension, active anti-roll bars, xDrive all-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering to ensure the B8 corners like it’s running on invisible rails.

But what truly sets the car apart is the stellar quality of its ride. Whereas the M8 Competition Gran Coupe will chatter teeth and jiggle eyeballs through its punishing, jarring ride, the Alpina soaks up lumps and bumps with astonishing alacrity.

Performance with refinement. Now what a concept.

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