The 2022 BMW ALPINA B8 Gran Coupe is the closest thing to “perfect” that I’ve ever driven.
Of course, the obvious retort is, “Well, for $176,000 it bloody better be perfect!” And that’s understandable. $176,000 is an astronomical sum of money. It moves the ALPINA B8 firmly out of the realm of “aspirational” and into the realm of “exclusive”, even “dream car”.
For perspective, the ALPINA B8’s starting price is almost $40,000 more than the starting price of the base 8-series… and $100,000 more than the starting price of the base 5-series.
But if you’re reading this review trying to figure out if the ALPINA B8 is good value for money, you’re missing the point. Spare us your, “Oh, I could build a faster car than that for way less money” and “I’ve got a 2006 Mercedes that still runs like new” working-class hero bravado.
You probably could achieve similar value to the ALPINA B8 for far less money, in the same way you could ingest many more calories at McDonald’s than you could at a fine-dining steakhouse for far less money.
Trying to crunch the numbers on paper to determine if the ALPINA B8 is “good value for money” is to dismiss the simply sublime, unspeakably lavish and indeed blissful experience of driving the automotive equivalent of perfect level (see Rick and Morty).
So instead of trying to determine whether a $176,000 luxury sedan (excuse me, “gran coupe”) is really “worth it”, I’m instead going to describe the experience of interacting with such a machine and you can decide for yourself if you would indulge, if given the means.
The first thing you’ll notice walking up to the ALPINA is that it is no ordinary BMW 8-series — which is not to say the styling is overdone or gotti. In fact the only thing shouty about the B8, aside from its brilliant green metallic paint (everyone will tell you they love the colour) is the ALPINA logo nestled on the chin spoiler.
Amazingly, ALPINA has been allowed to replace BMW’s logos everywhere except for the hood and the rear decklid… and the key. Every other logo, including the one in the centre of the steering wheel features ALPINA, not BMW.
Indeed, little gives the impression that ALPINA is a relatively small, family-owned company of roughly 290 employees. After successes modifying the BMW 3, 5 and 7-series, they’ve moved on to newer models, including the X7 and of course, 8-series — further tightening their relationship with BMW.
Further distinguishing the B8 on the outside are 21’ multi-spoke rims, which look unmistakably European, sporty, and tasteful all in the same breath.
The rims are mounted on a lockable wheel hub cover with the ALPINA logo in the centre and wrapped in ultra-high-performance tires – 245/35ZR21 on the front axle and 285/3 ZR21 on the rear axle — specially developed for the BMW ALPINA B8 by Pirelli.
Shrouded by the rims are four-piston blue brake calipers by Brembo, featuring white ALPINA lettering.
Step inside the B8 and you’re immediately struck by two-tone Merino leather. It’s a $4,500 option — but hell, at this point, in for a penny, in for a pound. And it’s a pound you’ll be glad you spent.
Beyond the flowing, elegant and organic-feeling design complimenting the 8-series excellent forward sight lines and abundance of natural light (passengers commented, “this feels like being outside”), the feel of the Merino leather is miles beyond any other leather you’ve interacted with in a car. It’s soft, supple and because it isn’t treated or coloured with any artificial dyes, it feels and smells organic. Merino is also a full grain leather, which means it’s amongst the best quality leathers you can get.
There is one higher-spec leather trim, Lavalina, which is available in markets outside of Canada and is notably used on the B8’s steering wheel. However it’s difficult to see how Lavalina could be that much better than Merino. Seriously, Merino already makes Nappa leather feel like it was made from discarded orange peels.
As your hands wrap the ALPINA branded wheel, stitched with blue and green thread, you’ll find the start button located on the centre console, nestled amongst a host of crystal, brushed aluminum and black marble-look trim.
The 4.4-litre bi-turbo V8 barks to life and you get your first hint that this gentlemen’s express houses a barbarian 612-horsepower cudgel under the hood. It’s like if Michael Myers wore a fine European suit.
Getting out of your tightly-cornered downtown parking garage might seem like a choir, what with the 8-series’ behemoth 3023 mm wheelbase. However, a forward facing camera, parking assist and a 360-degree camera make it essentially impossible to hit anything, ever.
Still, this is all sort of standard 8-series stuff. Heck, you can buy a Kia Stinger if you want a 360-degree camera and a wheelbase the length of a football field.
It isn’t until you start cruising in the B8, on Toronto’s mindfield-like pothole-infested roads that you truly begin to feel where ALPINA has really worked their magic — in the suspension .
You feel… nothing. “Riding on a cloud” is an understatement. I’ve been less comfortable sleeping in my own bed than driving a B8 down the bumpiest road in the city. Potholes simply evaporate. The roads all become velveteen highways.
Comfort mode is the default setting, and is generally great for highway cruising. While it keeps the suspension cushy, it allows you to have all 590 lb-ft torque available at 2,000 r.p.m. Comfort Plus will make things even more supple for heavy traffic or city creeping.
The Pirelli Noise Cancelling System is fitted to the front tires, and is made to “improve acoustic comfort” according to the B8’s media kit. I think what they mean to say is, “noise, vibration and harshness simply do not exist in this car”. There is some minimal road noise while cruising on the highway, but you get the distinct impression ALPINA has intentionally allowed some road noise so as to assure drivers they are indeed moving.
Of course, you’ll inevitably think, “Hey, that whole 612 horsepower thing sounds pretty neat. Let’s try that out.” And so you’ll select Sport Plus by pressing a small, but readily accessible button next to the gear selector, mash your foot to the floor, and proceed to be transported forward through time.
While putting your foot down in a B8, you could swear you’re having all of the air from your lungs and blood from your head extracted. It’s not necessarily violent… but it is all-consuming and very intoxicating.
The bi-turbo V8 doesn’t roar so much as it declaratively clears its throat. It makes its presence known, elegantly, politely, albeit in an assertive manner as it goes about the business of convincing you that the B8 is not a luxury yacht, but indeed a fighter jet.
Between ALPINA’s engine tuning and the 8-series’ all-wheel drive system, the B8 will accelerate to 100 km/h in roughly 3.3 seconds. For perspective, that’s the best time Car And Driver ever got out of a Ferrari 458.
This thing is fast. Not “fast for a big car”. It is objectively wicked fast by any measure and any comparison.
In an ALPINA B8, you are winning 99 per cent of drag races between the lights — in a car that is more comfortable to sit in than a hot bath and rides better than… literally anything you can think of.
Even better than the power itself is how it’s delivered. Because maximum torque is available from 2,000 rpm to 5,000 rpm and translated through an 8-Speed ZF transmission with “ALPINA SWITCH-TRONIC” (a number of technical enhancements to increase shift speed and smoothness), delivery feels instantaneous.
Whenever you want 612 horsepower, bang you’ve got all of it — and it’s actually being directly translated into speed. No fuss, no theatrics, just burning the smiles off the faces of Corvette owners everywhere.
ALPINA has also seemingly eliminated the throttle delay which has plagued BMWs of late. To achieve “throttle harmony” they’ve done a lot of tinkering with the twin-scroll turbochargers while upgrading the cooling systems (the B8 has 50 per cent more cooling surface than the units found in the BMW M850i xDrive Gran Coupe)
That half-beat between putting your foot down and getting a response that is sometimes characteristic of BMWs just isn’t here.
And this is what will sell you on the magic on the B8. Because yes, the ride is hilariously excellent. And we haven’t even really touched on how incredibly planted and chuckable the B8 is as a result of ALPINA’s chassis tuning. You can put the B8 through twisty corners at frankly stupid speeds and the car remains nothing but totally composed. The braking, the grip and especially the steering — which is chocolate lava cake, smokey whiskey, hot sex levels of good — make the B8 damn-near as fun as a proper sports car on the back roads.
But the real magic is in that throttle response. It’s immediate. And that immediacy combined with the savagery of the 612 horsepower means the B8 feels very connected to you at all times. It feels alive.
There are things about the B8 that I don’t like. It’s too wide. It’s too long. You can’t see out of the rear window. The gear selector makes you look like you order bottle service (and there’s nothing more lame in the world than ordering bottle service).
And if I’m honest, it still doesn’t have as much personality as say, the Lexus LC 500 or Dodge Hellcat. Sure, the B8’s V8 sounds great (say that ten times fast). But it will never match the death metal opera of the Lexus 5.0 or the demonic scream of the supercharged Hellcat HEMI. I certainly don’t love the B8 as much as either of those cars.
That’s the real price you pay for perfection: a lack of faults means a deficit of personality.
A lack of personality has been why I never quite gravitated to BMWs in the past. I’ve always felt that BMWs were a product you bought more with your head than your heart — short on flair and humanity in favour of being technically and objectively superior.
The ALPINA B8, though, manages to offer you uncompromised comfort and luxury, while also making you feel like a very involved part of the driving experience. It can spoil you and thrill you in equal measure — and in a way I’ve never experienced from any other automobile.
When that’s the product that’s on the table, it really is a seller’s market. And they can charge whatever the hell they want.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.