Four-door Face-off: BMW M5 Battles Alpina B5
M5 and B5 use similar performance hardware, but take completely different approaches to delivering luxury at lightning speed.
Not all fast cars are created the same. Some are quick in a straight line, but are too heavy and clumsy to keep that momentum going in corners. Others are only fast on paper. Then there are those cars that feel much more powerful than their stats would suggest. The 2019 BMW M5 and Alpina B5 are high-performance four-doors with a turbocharged V8, all-wheel drive, and an automatic transmission, but they were made to go ridiculous speeds in polar-opposite ways.
The Grand Tour‘s Jeremy Clarkson found that out for himself on a recent episode of the Amazon Prime Video show. The latest BMW M5, touted to be the fastest one yet, has all the characteristics you’d expect from BMW’s most potent performance sedan. It has four doors, room for five people, a trunk, and a monstrously powerful engine under its hood.
Its twin-turbo V8 generates an enormous 592 horsepower and puts it to the pavement through all four wheels. When you see The Grand Tour do the math, that’s enough power and grip for the M5 to outrun a Mercedes-AMG GT on a dragstrip. In fact, it accelerates so hard that it forces Clarkson’s head back against his headrest.
Given that the M5 is a luxury performance car, it allows Clarkson to adjust almost any setting, including the aggressiveness of the engine, the firmness of the suspension, the type of scent emitted by the onboard fragrance system, and whether the drivetrain operates in AWD or RWD. AWD allows the M5 to deliver its power more efficiently, but the M5 should be a little nuts, which makes the option of RWD essential. Clarkson makes sure to exploit it to its fullest. Two words sum up his hooning experience: “Holy s***!”
As pleased as Clarkson is by the M5, he thinks its performance potential will be lost on most of the people who buy it. According to him, the elderly businessman who will buy an M5 will “put it in four-wheel drive comfort mode and leave it there forever.” Fortunately, there’s another ultimate 5 Series out there whose power and approach to going fast should be much more appealing to people who think a lap time is for cats who want attention: the Alpina B5.
Like the M5, the B5 uses a twin-turbo V8, AWD, and an automatic gearbox in a 5 Series body. That’s largely where their similarities end. The B5 generates slightly more horsepower (600) and has differently tuned steering so it can “corner more like an airliner.” Its front suspension was designed to dull the impact of potholes, not neutralize the effects of high-g-force turns. As Clarkson says, “This car was not developed at a race track.”
As a result, the B5 may not be as fast and nimble as the M5 around The Grand Tour‘s test track, but it’s still staggeringly quick. Despite its higher lap time, it comes away a winner. In Clarkson’s opinion, Alpina created a fast 5 that’s not the same as BMW’s M model. They created one that’s better.