Photo credit: BMW
Our initial reactions to the 2022 BMW Alpina B8 were like the overawed exclamations of a street urchin meeting a member of high society. In a Dickens novel, the next scene either would involve being adopted by the Alpina or picking its pockets. Work fast, Artful Dodger, this car may look weighed down by wealth, but it's got quick moves.
You'd have to be seriously jaded to not be just a little impressed by Alpina's take on the BMW 8-series Gran Coupe. Alpina, longtime collaborators with BMW, has taken the stiff, muscular, fighter of a four-door and helped it relax. That's what Alpina is known for: tweaking BMW's best with a little sparkle here, a touch of torque there, and most notably in the B8, a more comfortable ride.
Photo credit: BMW
Alpina's changes to the exterior of the B8 are subtle. It gets larger air intakes up front, a black diffuser in the rear, and a saucy little decklid spoiler joined by an Alpina badge on the trunk. The wheels and tires are specific to Alpina, a 20-spoke design in a standard 21-inch size wrapped in custom Pirelli rubber tuned specifically for the Alpina. For those more worried about inclement weather than grip, 20-inch wheels with all-season tires are also available. Peeking out from the thin-spoked wheels are four-piston Brembo brake calipers in bright cobalt blue that clamp 15.6-inch rotors in the front and 15.7 inches in the rear.
The B8 uses the same engine as the BMW M850i, a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, albeit with Alpina's own tune. With 612 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, the Alpina is just 5-horsepower short of the M8 Competition, but 37 pound-feet ahead in torque. That's in keeping with the tuner's mission, which is not necessarily to outdo BMW's versions in all-out performance but to make that performance feel more effortless. Alpina says zero to 60 mph takes 3.3 seconds and that the B8 can cruise at a top speed of 201 mph. In our hands, the lighter M8 Competition Gran Coupe has reached 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, so consider Alpina's estimates conservative. Backing the V-8 is an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, again with Alpina's tune for a focus on smooth performance. Changing drive modes adjusts shift points and response; leaving everything in Comfort mode will make you forget the car shifts at all. We were unable to test the top-speed claim while running errands, the Nürburgring sadly not on the way to our local Target, but the car's stoplight scoot is plenty to get ahead of other traffic in order to nab the best parking spot. (Make it a big one; this is a large automobile.) Even in the Sport settings, there is a slight delay to all that power coming in that might fool an impatient driver into thinking this is not a quick car. Stay in it, pal. Just wait. When you get home, you'll find all your toaster strudel on the far side of the trunk from where you placed them.
Photo credit: BMW
A reoccurring complaint with many performance sedans, and particularly the M8 Competitions, has been ride quality. Gone, it seems, are the days when a big luxury car would float over the roads, cushioning the driver and passengers. The B8 looks back to those days. It's still a willing partner on a winding road, however, with all-wheel drive, a limited-slip differential, rear-axle steering, and active anti-roll bars that keep it upright and pointed in the right direction. But the best use of the B8 is as it's intended, to bring elegance to mundane commutes and comfort to long trips. It is a luxurious place to spend time. Why would you want it over quickly?
Perhaps if you were a back-seat passenger, you'd be less excited about an extended stay in the B8. Although the ride is just as smooth, the rear seats are smaller, and the bottoms are deeply dished with an extreme rake that looks suave when you open the door, but sitting in them feels a bit like falling through the seat of a worn-out rattan patio chair. Getting out might require assistance. Up front is the best place to be, roomy for both driver and passenger, with plenty of soft, aromatic leather to stroke—especially on the comically thick steering wheel—and lots of private tea-room glamour, like the ridiculous yet compelling cut-crystal shifter knob and faceted infotainment dial. One wants to clink a champagne flute against it.
Photo credit: BMW
Don't get blinded by the glitter, though. The interior is attractive, but you can get leather and glasslike accessories in a Genesis for a third of the B8's $140,895 starting price. The B8 is almost $8005 more than the M8 Competition Gran Coupe, and some of our same quibbles with other 8-series cars extend to the Alpina as well. The big one being, in a car that starts at $140,000, BMW charges extra for the upgraded stereo system and driving-assistance package.
For a customer already shopping the M8 but loathe to suffer a bone-rattling ride in pursuit of the ideal fast four-door, the B8 presents the perfect solution. Alpina doesn't make thousands of B8s, nor does it want to. It's looking for just the right buyer, someone who already loves the 8-series Gran Coupe's style but wants more power, comfort, and crystal. Is that you, guvnah?