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Short Drive: ALPINA Roadster V8

BMW Z8, Featured Posts | September 16th, 2010 by 14
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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 …

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.

Short Drive: ALPINA Roadster V8

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.

Short Drive: ALPINA Roadster V8

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.

Short Drive: ALPINA Roadster V8

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

  • Laszlo

    Facts are wrong about the engine. It was UPGRADED from the X5 as the 4.8l in the X5 makes only 360HP. The Z8 made 375 which is only 15HP less then the 5.0 V8 M5 engine and had higher torque numbers.
    In reality this car was better suited for the people who were looking to buy the Z8 then the original .
    The M5 engine and transmission should have been the optional and the 4.8l and automatic should have been the standard. The reason for this is not many people want a hardcore manual machine when they want a pleasant riding convertible.
    The car is not an M car, its a touring convertible and thus the automatic with a torque rich engine would be the majority’s choice. Nevertheless the cars styling and prestige sold it well in the US. Fortunately or unfortunately in Europe the Z8 tanked so most of the shipment was directed to the US where it was a success.
    The Alpina version came to rescue the car and did well. The high price ensured that owners will not be tracking and abusing the car, yet the chassis suffered badly. Torsional flex caused cracks and expensive repair and modification was required. More then 50 cars have been known to have the issue. BMW never admitted the trouble, but after the 2nd year they introduced a chassis brace which protected against the cracks. Ironically it was an option accessories and quite expensive too. I’m surprised that there were no lawsuits against BMW .

    an another cool fact is that the James Bond car was not equipped with BMW engine but a Chevy engine. It was very heavily modified for the film and was an automatic transmission version as Mr. Bond ( Pierce Brosnan ) could not drive a stick.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Thanks. Made the change

    • bob

      “The car is not an M car, …”

      Doh! No, it’s not a ///M car; it’s an Alpina. Alpina is a separate auto manufacturer from BMW AG.

      If you meant that the std. E52 is not a ///M car, well, since it has a BMW M GmbH – sourced S62, what else can it be? It’s just not externally-badged as such.

      If you meant intended purposes among customers, opinions are fine…

      “Nevertheless the cars styling and prestige sold it well in the US. Fortunately or unfortunately in Europe the Z8 tanked so most of the shipment was directed to the US where it was a success.”

      The facts do not agree.

      Regional prefernces/cultural differences have to be considered prior to any judgements concerning a program’s success or failure. Generally-speaking Americans prefer cabrio’s; Europeans prefer coupes.

      If you look at the E52′s (incl. Alpina) ‘NA vs. AG’ *take*, you’ll see that the US market took just under 42% of all E52s. ROW took (1 – .42) or 58%, obviously. This is inline with BMW’s experiences with the E36/7 & E85. Despite the vast difference in total production for the two programs, NA’s take stayed constant at ~38%-39%.

      Now, let’s look at the E64 ///M6. It’s not a roadster, but a cabrio. Yet, for price, performance, and customer demographics, it might be reasonable to classify it as the most recent entrant to occupy the market segment that BMW used the E52 to establish their position.

      Fortunately for us, with the E63-64 ///M6 have recently reached EOP (E60-61 ///M5, too), BMW M GmbH has provided overall sales figures.

      Total ///M6 = 14,152 = 9,087 (E63) + 5,065 (E64)

      For the E63, NA took 3,528 units, or ~38.8% of total. DE took 1,183, or ~13%.

      For the E64, NA took 3,246 units, or ~64.1%(!). DE took 541, or ~10.7%

      Therefore, overall, ‘NA/AG’ = (6,775 / 14,152) = ~47.9%.

      Consequently, given the wider BMW picture, I would disagree with your assessment that the E52 “tanked” in Europe. My assessment would be that BMW has always known that Americans prefer roadsters/cabrio’s; and, if there’s a notable observation, it would be that they, evidently, really, really like the E64. The E52 doesn’t stand out as far as sales figures go, would be my analysis…

      • Laszlo

        aha, and how many of the European Z8 ended up in the US ? The fogures you looking at the book figures. Majority of the 1st month sales (only EU sales at the beginning) headed to US. In SFLA I saw at least 5 parked at the local importer place when I picked up my Z1.

        I would safely say that a min of 25% of total EU numbers ended up in US or CAN.
        Also the prices, the us prices started at 185k usd when it was not yet available only as a gray market car or limited numbers. Europe dropped the initial prices and they were available for 110k usd. This created a large gray market ! The price difference was largely due to the success of the car. In Europe the car wasn’t a hot seller, although they might have eventually sold higher numbers, it took a longer time and less of an “extra” profit.
        My friend imported 2 of them and sold both within a week with a nice profit. ALl he did as far as conversion that replaced the yellow/red tail lights for the DOT test and then put them back after the test was done.

        Convertibles are of course popular in the US, the better weather, more rich people, safer atmosphere (less stolen or vandalized cars) and a tradition in the convertible cars.

        Most of northern Europe can only enjoy them for a few months. UK is a bit of an exemption , that country is probably with the highest percentage of convertibles in the northern area. Traditionally British people like no roof above their head :-)

        so the facts you mentioned are book facts and not real data. The gray market never shows up anywhere but in this case it was significant !

        I might add that the same time the 360 Ferrari was in a similar shoes. Their cars import ended with a huge scandal . Ferrari found out that a large number of cars are headed the US from Europe and they called DOT and EPA and informed them that the European vehicles are absolutely not meet the DOT crash tests and there is no way to modify them unless they are completely rebuilt with new bars, etc. So basically they tipped off DOT that a Ferrari 360 US is not the same as F360 EU.
        Many cars were confiscated and later shipped back to Europe.
        The Z8 had no such issue.

        • bob

          “I would safely say that a min of 25% of total EU numbers ended up in US or CAN.’

          Fine, kindly provide *independent verification* from credible source.

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  • Giom

    Question Horatiu… do you prefere the origional or the Alpina? As a luxury weekend toy, that is.

    I’ve only ever seen two here in SA, and they were on display. They never brought them out to this country for some reason. But, it is a car I deeply admire.

  • viper

    I think that this is the Only tuned car in the world that is worse than its original.
    less power , smaller engine , automatic gearbox. horrible. it all went wrong for the alpina z8.

  • viper

    oh and to answer ur question. its a roadster. bmw never had a supercar.

  • anonymous

    A thing of beauty. I’d love a black one for the occasional weekend. But they’re rare in the UK.

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