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Road Test: Alpina D5 S

Alpina’s fine-tuned 5 Series is an uncompromisingly capable executive car, explains Alex Grant.

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SECTOR Executive   PRICE £62,000   FUEL 46.3mpg   CO2 161g/km

A technological showcase, few would argue that ‘compromise’ was high on the agenda while developing the latest 5 Series. So you’d be excused for scepticism that one of the most well-rounded cars money can buy could be improved upon without a downside.

At least until you try this one.

Alpina isn’t a household name in fleet, but it’s also not a newcomer. Based near Munich, it’s worked closely with BMW for over 50 years, developing no-holds-barred, hand-finished versions of its model range. A relationship that includes access to technical data and facilities pre-launch, and BMW-approved products with a full factory warranty. Volumes are small – around 100 per year in the UK – but fleets are very much on the radar.

So, while this isn’t an M5 rival, it’s very much a performance car. The D5 S uses an upgraded version of BMW’s straight-six diesel, with sequential turbochargers, uprated intercoolers and a redesigned inlet and exhaust for optimised airflow. Four-wheel drive, and a modified eight-speed automatic gearbox are tasked with putting down the resulting 322bhp and 516lb.ft with minimal drama.

Alpina builds products to work hard, for long periods, delivering occupants to far-flung meetings in absolute comfort. So the engineering behind it is fascinating. Its adaptive suspension features shorter, stiffer springs, and bespoke wishbones for more precise steering responses, paired with the re-tuned rack, while the wind tunnel tested bodykit is designed to press the wheels into the tarmac at speed, while chanelling cooling air through the front bumper. The wheels are forged to save weight, their spokes filled with oversized brakes, and it has its own control unit just to manage engine cooling.

While the result of all of this is a

4.9-second sprint to 62mph, with road-holding most drivers will never fully exploit, the D5 S is a laid-back travel companion rather than a skittish hot rod. Ride quality – particularly in the Alpina-specific Comfort+ drive mode – is as good as any luxury saloon, and the abundance of grip and performance add up to a reassuringly confident drive, safe in the knowledge that there’s always more in reserve. It’s no more challenging to drive than a 7 Series, but with the sharpness of response and agility of a 3 Series, helped by the rear-wheel steering that makes it feel smaller than it really is. It’ll even return almost 50mpg, if you keep an eye on the creeping speed increases.

Of course, there’s a cost. Pricing is on par with a 6 Series Gran Coupe, even before dipping into Alpina’s extensive personalisation options, though it’s well-appointed with its standard-fit Nappa leather, latest-generation infotainment and D5 S specific digital instruments. It’s also no more aggressive than BMW’s most popular M Sport trim, never shouting about what’s going on underneath.

Uncompromised, then? Not quite. Right-hand drive cars don’t get the triple turbo, 382bhp diesel or the Touring offered in other markets. But it’s a limited downside for a car that otherwise offers a spread of talents to suit almost any journey.

The Verdict

The connoisseur’s 5 Series is talented in every area, compromised only by the ubiquity of the standard car.

Strengths – Economy, performance and sublime luxury.

Weaknesses – Pricey, for a 5 Series.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.