A while ago I inadvertently stated a small war of words when a story broke saying that BMW’s titanic new diesel-powered M550d was going to be sold over here. All I did was tweet my enthusiasm for the idea. But then other journos waded in to say it wasn’t going on sale, while a few more said it was. BMW in Germany then said it could be sold here, while BMW in Bracknell said it wouldn’t. It now seems it won’t because it can only be made with four-wheel drive, which is incompatible with right-hand drive on a 5-series.
Which is the news Alpina has been waiting for, since it leaves its new D5 with the field to itself and a wide-open goal at the end of it. Simply put, if you want a large saloon of specifically rather than incidentally sporting intent, but need diesel range, economy and emissions, there’s nowhere else to look.
Not that you’d want to. The D5 is one of those cars you’d choose to drive for hours, but which will actually show you its soul in five minutes if you’ve got the right piece of road in front of you. The 345bhp engine is quiet enough to make your passengers think it is petrol flowing through its combustion chambers, at least until you flex your right toe and release more torque than even BMW’s biggest hitter the M5, can muster. Then you’ll feel grunt that no 3-litre petrol engine could manage.
Speed accrues without apparent effort and is matched by a chassis set up to be far less aggressive than that of the M5. On British B-roads, which are often wet and always require cars to be able to breathe over the bumps without also compromising primary ride control, the Alpina actually finds a far happier compromise than the M5, offering fine comfort yet fluent, fluid handling. I have no doubt that on a race track the tables would turn, but who cares about that with cars such as these?
Potential owners will be likely to care more about claimed fuel consumption almost 20mpg better than the M5’s, a spec-adjusted price tag around £10,000 lower and the fact you can have it as an estate and choose almost whatever colour interior you like.
Over the years I’ve driven some Alpinas I liked and a few I did not, but none I can recall that appealed beyond the niche in which the company has sat so comfortably for so long. But the D5 is different: not just by some margin the best Alpina of any kind I’ve driven, but a car that should be of interest to anyone who likes to go fast but needs a common-sense car too. To me it is a far better judged and more satisfying driving machine than an M5: the fact it will go over 200 miles futher on every tank of fuel is icing on an extremely well baked cake.