A supercar or a roadster? The same very question was posed by the famous Top Gear host Jeremy Clark where referencing the BMW Z8. In our recent trip to Pebble Beach, we had the opportunity to drive the “step-brother” of the Z8, an ALPINA Roadster V8, a vehicle with similar looks, but with ALPINA DNA underneath.
In 2003, the final model year, the BMW Z8 model was augmented by the ALPINA V8 Roadster which marked the entry of Buchloe-based company into the American market. Also, the Roadster V8 was the first ALPINA model that offered less power than the base BMW model.
Instead of the original six-speed manual and 4.9 L (S62) engine featured in earlier Z8′s, the ALPINA came only as an automatic, using a five-speed BMW Steptronic transmission coupled to a downgraded upgraded 4.8 liter ALPINA-tuned V8 motor from the original X5.
Power was reduced to 375 horsepower while peak torque was raised to 383 lb-ft (519 Nm). Its power peak comes at 5800 rpm, vs. 6600; its torque peak occurs at the same 3800 rpm.
The electronically limited top speed was officially raised to 161 mph (259 km/h).
To market the car towards a Tourer or a comfortable Roadster, ALPINA also tuned the suspension, offering a more relaxed setting, a “feature” that became evident in our short drive around Pebble Beach and its curvy roads. The Roadster V8 offered more bodyroll that one would expect from a vehicle of this size and construction, and the ride was softer that we have seen in other roadsters.
Cornering through the hills of the Carmel Valley was a bit more challenging than we expected, rear tires were skidding and understeering occurred quite often.
The car compensates though with its agility coming from more than sufficient 375 ponnies and its quick-shifting Steptronic transmission tuned by ALPINA, even though we would have preferred to see the six-speed manual in this car.
Looks wise, even after seven years, the ALPINA Roadster V8 remains a head-turner. The beautiful and avantgarde lines of the Z8 remind us why the original car was chosen to be “James Bond car” in The World Is Not Enough flick. The BMW ALPINA 20-inch wheels, with five clusters of four spokes each, and 55/35R-20 at the front and 285/30R-20 at the rear tires, come to emphasize the aggressive look of this Roadster.
Overall, the ALPINA Roadster V8 remains a highly appreciated collectors car, and for those that can afford a second or third classic, weekend car, the Roadster can be the perfect choice, just not at the original $137,595 price.
The car becomes even more unique when only 555 of these ALPINA were built, and the odds of seeing two on the road at the same time, are slim to none.
The ALPINA Roadster V8 was provided by BMW of North America from their Zentrum Museum in Spartanburg. Photos by John Hietter