Review: Alpina D5 S

Review: Alpina D5 S
Review: Alpina D5 S

Another superb fast diesel from Alpina, but what’s the long-term prognosis for the best-known tuner of BMWs?

If there’s such a thing as a sexy diesel just now, chances are it will have an Alpina badge on it. The extra breadth brought by Alpina to BMW’s base cars has traditionally made their products more attractive and commercially valid.

But is that the case with this new D5 Sportdiesel? Are Alpina’s efforts to improve on the (excellent) standard vehicle becoming increasingly strained?

The D5 S’s sequentially-twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel engine has 322bhp, which is a useful uplift on the 260bhp dished out by the standard range-topping BMW 530d xDrive M Sport. With the 516lb ft of torque that’s on tap from just 1750rpm, the near-1.9 tonne D5 shoves itself up the road at a suitably rude rate.

Alpina D5 S

Price: £62,000
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel
Power: 322bhp at 4000-5000rpm
Torque: 516lb ft at 1750-2500rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd tiptronic automatic
Kerb weight: 1870kg
0-62mph: 4.9sec
Top speed: 171mph
Economy: 46.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 161g/km

Slightly annoyingly, non-UK D5 S owners in Europe get 383bhp and 590lb ft courtesy of BMW’s tri-turbo diesel engine, an engine never sold in UK-spec 5 Series cars. Still, even the UK-spec D5 S will do the 0-62mph in under five seconds and approach 45mpg on the motorway, with only a little too much tyre roar from the classic 20-inch multi-spoke alloys spoiling the peace.

Alpina has always been adept at ride tuning, and despite those big wheels the D5 S wafts convincingly along most roads. Modified suspension geometry has put extra negative camber on the front axle. On the test vehicle, the D5’s stiffer springs worked with adaptive dampers which have a Comfort Plus mode that out-softs the equivalent mode in a regular G30 BMW 5 Series. The D5’s strong wheel control replaces some of the driving confidence forfeited by steering that’s short on feel.

For us, this first all-wheel-drive diesel Alpina (marked by the typical transmission tunnel plaque now reading ‘Allrad’) veers too much toward sheer grip rather than chassis adjustability, another indicator perhaps that the car could – and, in mainland Europe, does – take more power. Alpina’s in-house dynamic traction control tries to put things right by biasing more torque to the rear, a satisfying enough solution on damp roads but not a complete answer.

For those looking for straightforward pace allied to security, such distinctions won’t matter all that much. Owners will be gleaning plenty of satisfaction from the standard-setting eight-speed ZF torque-converter automatic gearbox and the superb body control that make swift progress so easy. The D5 feels more like a well-sorted 3 Series than any 5 Series, with the possible exception of the M5.

Inside, the only word to describe the D5 S is sumptuous. Once you’re done admiring the wonderful detailing – most notably the digital instrument display from the 5 Series, vibrantly reprofiled in Alpina colours and changing with each new driving mode – you’ll marvel at the softness and support of the leather seats.

There’s a price to pay for exclusivity. A D5 S costs £62,000, but it doesn’t after you’ve visited the options shop. Adaptive dampers with electronically actuated stabilisers come in at £1785. We’d probably tick that box, but we’d be less sure about laying out £995 for the four-wheel steering system that’s designed to boost agility at speed and manoeuvrability.

Alpina decals are a no-cost addition, as you’d expect, but things like the head-up display, heated seats, powered tailgate and Apple CarPlay all cost extra. The car you’re looking at here costs a chin-stroking £86,690, perilously close to the £90k or so M5 and way above the new 282bhp V6 diesel Audi A7 Sportback at about £55,000. As ever, it’s for the individual to decide on the value of specialist cars like the D5 S.

Every year, 1600 cars arrive at Buchloe in Bavaria with a blue-and-white roundel on their bonnets and leave the Alpina works with a carburettors-and-crankshaft badge. The worrying thing for Alpina’s 240 workers (and to some extent its customers, looking at it from a residual values perspective) is that most of those 1600 cars are diesel-powered.

Another area of concern is that this D5, while incredibly broad-shouldered in its own right, is dramatically shaded by the petrol-powered B5 Biturbo. Let’s hope it doesn’t get torpedoed by negative attitudes.

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