There’s long been an internal debate among BMW enthusiasts about which cars are the better buys: BMW M cars or their ALPINA alternatives? Both cars often have different flavors that make it hard to actually compare them, being that there’s really no concrete blanket answer. However, in recent years, BMW M cars have become more and more comfortable, high-tech and luxurious, tightening the gap between M cars and ALPINAs. Now that the BMW M5 Competition, despite the “Competition” in its name, is more luxurious and isolated than ever before. So which do you buy: the BMW M5 Comp or ALPINA B5 Biturbo?
More specifically, let’s take a look at the M5 Comp and the B5 sedan. The reason for specifying the sedan is that if we don’t specify, most fans are going to choose the ALPINA B5 Touring, as it’s a wagon and that immediately makes it cooler. However, if we level the coolness playing field, which is the better sedan to buy?
There are obviously a lot of things to consider here but let’s take a look at the specs first. Both cars use upgraded versions of BMW’s N63 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The BMW M5 Competition’s, dubbed “S63”, makes 617 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. The ALPINA B5 Biturbo makes just a few ponies more, with 621 horsepower and 590 lb-ft. The two engines are very different in their delivery, though. The BMW M5 is designed to rev more freely, make more noise and deliver its power with an iron fist. While the ALPINA’s is far smoother, it breaths better and has a silkiness to its power delivery that’s intentionally absent in the M5.
Differences in the way these two cars drive are also similar. The BMW M5 Competition is designed to be more engaging, with its solid subframe mounts and increased camber over the standard M5. It’s designed to be a driver’s car, to be something that can be equally as impressive on track as it is on the road. For better or worse, the M5 Comp is stiffer, harder edged and more engaging. That said, it’s only slightly more engaging nowadays. There’s a level of smush, of comfortable refinement between what the car is doing and the driver’s inputs like never before. So it is more engaging than the ALPINA but not by as much as it used to be.
As for the ALPINA B5, it’s every bit as fast as the M5 in a straight line and, to be honest, it’s probably faster past 100 mph. Its engine will deliver thrust like a solid rocket booster but it does so as if it runs on a mixture of heavy cream and Scarlett Johansson’s voice. While the B5 certainly the more luxurious car of the two but that doesn’t mean it’s a luxo-barge. The B5 Biturbo can properly hustle and will absolutely respond to your inputs. It just does so in a more suave manner. Think James Bond, not Jason Bourne.
So which one do you buy? While that question used to be answered with another question — “Do you lean more toward handling or comfort?” — that’s not really the case anymore. Genuinely, as much as I like the current M5, I think the ALPINA B5 Biturbo is the better choice. It’s every bit as fast in the real world and likely even faster, to be honest, its suspension is far better suited for everyday life and, on a twisty road, it will handle just as well.
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The only areas where the M5 excels over the B5 is either when the road gets extremely twisty or when you wind up on a race track and, to be perfectly honest, you shouldn’t take an M5 to a track. If you want to go track driving, get an M2. So if you’re going to buy a massive, extremely expensive, nuclear-powered four-door sedan, get the one that isn’t trying to be a track car and get the ALPINA B5.