The Difference Between BMW ‘M’ and ‘Alpina’ Models

BMW Alpina B7Pin

Alpina or M? Alpina or M?  Some may start this conversation first asking, what is an Alpina?  Most BMW owners and enthusiast know the merit of the M badge.  We know what to expect when you find yourself behind the wheel of one.  Race car DNA, tuned into a street going car.  This usually equates to a loud, brute and visceral experience.  Lurking in the shadows is another company that BMW pairs with that is often overlooked or not mentioned at all.  BMW and Alpina's relationship dates back over 50 years now, and they have helped produce some amazing vehicles over the years.

The Alpina is curated with luxury in mind, but does not mean that they skimped on the engine.  Alpina re-configures the production engines out of your normal 3, 5, 6 and 7 series, to usually push more power than the M variant.  The results are true luxury touring cars that are incredibly fast.  There are numerous differences between the two brands, but which one is arguably better on the roads we drive everyday?

Which one is the King of the road?

Aplina vs. M Performance

Bred on the track, BMW's M division started on the racetrack and has not strayed off course.  Replacing most of the production parts from standard BMW's models and replacing them with performance in mind.  Their engines, suspensions, exhaust and body lines all differ from their non-M series counterparts.  This all makes for great fun, but often too noisy and quite stiff on normal roads on a day to day basis.

The Alpina on the other hand, takes and crafts the models BMW produces and turns them up on all fronts.  Interiors are more luxurious, and bespoke.  The engines, while not completely different like the M's, are hand built and tuned to a higher output.  This will give you great power and comfort.  A touring car for the high speeds of the Autobahn.

What kind of speeds are we talking?  How about 205 mph?  Yes, the new 2020 XDrive B7 will have a top speed of 205 mph.  The top speed of the new M5 Competition is 190.  While the M5 is certainly faster to 60 mph, 3.1 seconds vs. 3.5 for the B7, remember it is a full sized 7 series.

BMW M5 CompetitionPin

The Alpina Difference

The M is the car for the track and the Alpina is the car to get you there.

Automotive passion, state-of-the-art technical training, the permanent implementation of innovations and a well-blended team of passionate “movers” produce unique and efficient high-performance automobiles made by ALPINA, which offer perfect every-day usability. -Alpina

Alpina is BMW's automobile craftsman.  Engines are built by hand, and interiors can be opted up into the Alpina saddlery, instead of BMW's regular leathers and stitching.  After Alpina is done creating their interiors, engines and parts, they are sent to the BMW factory for final assembly.  Alpina's goal is not to be the aggressive, track ready beast that the M's are known for.  Rather, they are simply powerful and luxurious.  Created for the everyday driving done on our roadways.  This philosophy brings a more functional and enjoyable car in the long run.  Giving the performance, and not sacrificing the luxury and comfort that is needed for daily driving.

The Alpina Brings the Best of Both Worlds

If you are looking for a daily driver that packs a ton of power, I would suggest to start looking at the Alpina.  The new Alpina B7 makes 600 horsepower, and is all wheel drive.  I'll say it again.  600hp, in a full sized sedan without a V-12.  0-60 only takes 3.5 seconds.  Did I mention this is a 7 series?  The current M3 competition does the same 0-60 in 4.1 seconds.  While the price may be a barrier because they start at $142k, but used examples are becoming more and more affordable.

On the used side, there are the B7, B6 Gran Coupe and the previous generation B7 which are model years 2007-2009.  You can find a good used example like this 2007 B7 for $21,995 which packs a supercharged V8 with 500 horsepower.  A 7 series like this, even at 12 years old, goes 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, only 3 tenths of a second from the current M3.

How's this for thrust? The B7 ties the Audi R8, which is 1100 pounds lighter, at 12.8 seconds through the quarter-mile, at which point the gargantuan Alpina starts pulling away. The 551-hp Bentley Flying Spur can't keep up, and Audi's 450-hp S8 is so much slower it's hardly worth mentioning. - Road and Track 2007

The R8 was Audi's top of the line performance coupe, and yet the full sized Alpina ties it in the quarter mile.  From a form and function stand point, the Alpina is a no brainer.  If you want a sportier option, this 2016 B6, is listed for $41,777.  0-60 reached in 3.7 seconds and even this one has a top speed of 193 mph.  Compared to the M6 of 2015 which reached 60 at 3.9 seconds.

King of the Road vs. King of the Track

The Alpina is no doubt a great brand that has paired with BMW to produce some amazingly fast cars over the years.  The question I usually hear the most it, why is no one talking about them?

The short of it, they just don't produce many vehicles.  At the time of this writing, it is around 1,200 to 1,700 units a year for the world.  Out of what they do produce, the States only get the B7 at the moment.  In Europe, you can find the B3 wagon, B4 coupe and convertible, D5 and B5 wagon and sedan, XD3 and XD4, and B7.  If you want to learn more about the models, here is the link.  The B5 in this lineup is a 200 mph wagon.  Yes, a wagon to rival the performance specs of the Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari.

To put a comparison on these numbers, the last generation F10 M5 had a production of just over 19,000 units during its production years.  The F80 M3 nearly 35,000 units.  The M5 alone accounts for more than 10 years of current Alpina production.

Known for the 'pure" experience, the M is a car that enthusiasts are always on the lookout for.  Whereas, the Alpina is a refined performance.  If you are coming to a point looking at M's and others in that category, take a few moments to see if there are any Alpinas near you.  In my opinion, the Alpina is the king of the road, and the M is the king of the track.  At the end of the day, it seems that BMW has an answer and option for every driver out there.

Let me know if you agree, or what your thoughts are on the Alpina.  Check out our post on M3s here.

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  1. Does the Alpina come with manual transmission on the floor?

    Since the motor of an Alpina is over and beyond any other non-Alpina BMW motor, is there a mechanic that I would have confidence in at any BMW service center let alone a private mechanic that services ordinary BMW motors in the USA?