The gap between BMW M cars and ALPINAs has never been closer. While the two don’t directly compete, as BMW and ALPINA work closely together to make sure each product is distinct, the two brands are closer than ever before. So now which do you choose if you want a go-fast BMW?

The recent ALPINA B3 Touring just debuted packing an S58 engine which is actually a BMW M engine. Typically, ALPINA doesn’t use BMW M engines, instead opting to modify standard BMW engines. That’s the BMW Group trying to make sure that M engines are bespoke and not used in non-M cars but apparently an exception was made. That exception might give pause to M3 customers, as they can get a B3 Touring instead, which comes with the same engine but more practicality.

Admittedly, the B3 Touring does have less horsepower than the M3, packing 455 hp. However, it makes more torque, with 516 lb-ft. The BMW M3 will make around 473 hp as-standard, with a 503 hp Competition version, but only 442 lb-ft of torque. So they’re quite evenly matched; one with more torque and the other with higher-revving horsepower.

But despite these two being so similar, the answer is still the same — you buy the BMW M for a sharper, purer driving experience and you buy the ALPINA for a more luxurious, more premium go-fast experience. ALPINA’s cars are still crazy fast, in fact they’re often faster than the M car counterparts, but they’re not as hardcore, not as razor sharp. They’re more grand tourers; with blistering speed and effortless comfort.

If you want the sharpest, highest-performance BMW possible, go for one with an M badge on it. It’s going to be the car that will hold up best on track, get the blood boiling best on back roads and just feel more thrilling during normal driving. However, ALPINA products will be the more ones, with more sumptuous leather, more supple suspensions and quieter cabins.

Also, typically, ALPINAs feel more special, as they’re rarer and a bit more premium. Plus, they also have a bit of wow-factor, as people don’t often see them.

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To be honest, ALPINAs make better daily drivers, while M cars make for better toys. It’s a lot easier to drive around in an ALPINA everyday than an M car but if you want to tackle a twisty road, it’s the M car that will deliver the goods. So while the two brands are sharing more than they ever have before, and are closer in terms of both performance and comfort than ever, they’re still quite distinct and have their own pros and cons.