Alpina, Germany’s Coolest Car Tuner, Might Not Be Long For This World

Auf wiedersehen, meine Liebe.

If a BMW is ‘the ultimate driving machine’, then an Alpina is the ultimate ultimate driving machine. The esteemed German tuning house, which specialises in BMWs, is widely regarded as making some of the best performance and luxury cars on the planet.

Calling Alpina a ‘tuner’ is selling the firm a bit short, actually. Alpina is deeply integrated into BMW’s operations: their vehicles are assembled on the same production lines as normal BMWs before being sent to Alpina’s factory in Buchloe, Bavaria for finishing touches. Alpina is actually recognised by the German government as a car manufacturer in its own right and therefore it issues its own VINs.

Alpina likes to do things a little differently to BMW and its M division, too. Compared to ‘M cars’, Alpinas put more emphasis on luxury, higher torque, and often come to different conclusions about how to achieve power gains. All Alpina models are turbocharged (not all M cars are), and Alpina likes to install its own manumatic transmissions.

In short, they’re a bit special; a bit idiosyncratic. They’re a bit of an ‘if you know you know’, real enthusiast car brand – the epitome of cool for people who are really into their cars. But those people are set for a bit of a rude shock.

Earlier this month, Alpina announced that they’ve been bought by the BMW Group and that the production of Alpina vehicles at their Buchloe site will wrap up in 2025. The two firms “will continue to cooperate closely in the future, but in a new form and inter alia, with a focus on engineering and development services,” their press release elaborates, and “the spare parts supply and the service offering for BMW ALPINA automobiles of all ages is guaranteed in the long term.”

Watch how a hand-crafted Alpina steering wheel is made above.

You can read the press release in full here. The phrasing of the release implies that Bovensiepen (Alpina’s new name) will simply be responsible for legacy servicing and will instead work more as a design/engineering bureau for BMW rather than a tuner/manufacturer.

“In the coming years, we will showcase new, exciting, dynamic and efficient automobiles. Our order books are as full as ever and several new products and product updates are imminent“, Alpina CEO Andreas Bovensiepen explains. “With our in-depth expertise and know-how, we will continue to bring different but impressive mobility offerings to market… Our manufacturing activities will transform into engineering services over time.”

While it’s good to hear that Alpina hasn’t gone bust or anything – and that current Alpina owners will continue to be looked after – it’s not clear from the press release what BMW’s plans with Alpina are exactly.

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One potential future is we could see Alpina become a sort of trim level/specification for new BMWs, similar to BMW M. A similar thing has happened with other car companies: for example, AMG, which has long been associated with Mercedes-Benz, started off as an independent tuning firm before being bought out and absorbed into Mercedes.

The 2022 BMW Alpina B8 Gran Coupé. By way of comparison, the B8 makes 4 fewer kW than the BMW M8 Competition, but 50 more Nm of torque. Image: motor1.com

Alpina’s press release references how from 2026, BMW wants to introduce more luxury offerings in their range. Perhaps Alpina will become a luxury designation for BMW models, like how Maybach is for Mercedes?

All we know is we’ll be very sad to see Alpina disappear entirely. We hope BMW keeps the Alpina vision alive; to continue to make incredibly luxurious, incredibly fast and somewhat understated versions of their already impressive cars.

We also hope this doesn’t make Alpina prices on the used market even crazier than they already are (but that’s probably some wishful thinking). It would be great to be able to own a B12 5.7 someday…

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BMW Alpina B3 Touring Lands In Australia

Rare delights.

A rear end to die for. Image: LinkedIn

Performance cars are kind of like burgers. They’re tasty, can be quite bad for you (well, your wallet at least) and you can add all sorts of toppings to them if you really want to pig out. Is an Audi not enough for you? Why not get the S model, or the RS model if you’re feeling extra hungry for horsepower?Even more performance car delights can be found if you leave a brand’s showroom, too. While most performance marques have their own in-house ‘go fast’ divisions (Fiat has Abarth, Mercedes-Benz has AMG, Nissan has Nismo, etc.) some are also served by tuning companies who specialise in their brand’s vehicles. Ford has Shelby, Honda has Mugen, Porsche has RUF… You get the idea.BMW is easily the most complicated when it comes to this sort of thing. Not only do their have their own in-house performance tuner, BMW M, but then they’re also looked after by multiple tuning houses, such as AC Schnitzer and G-Power, who add their own brand of special sauce.But the absolute cream of the crop; the burger with the works when it comes to BMWs (or tuning houses in general) is Alpina. Rare as hen’s teeth even in their home country of Germany, it’s always exciting when we hear of one of these insane cars making its way Down Under.Which is why we’re here today: in a rare piece of good news to cap off 2020, BMW Sydney has just brought the very first – and so far only – Alpina B3 Touring to Australia.

Those six letters make all the difference. Image: LinkedIn
For those of you not in the know, Alpina is one of the OG German tuning houses, and arguably the most respected. In their 55-year history, they’ve only ever worked on BMWs – a real point of difference which speaks to their BMW expertise – and have a particularly unique relationship with the Bavarian brand.Despite being a separate company, Alpina’s processes are integrated into BMW’s production lines, which also means that they’re classified as a manufacturer instead of just a motorsports tuner. In fact, a weird quirk about Alpina cars is that they have two VINs: firstly, BMW makes the donor chassis, which is given a VIN, and then Alpina modifies the car, crosses out the old VIN, and stamps in their own. Alpinas also have their own unique badging which replaces the BMW badge on their cars: a crest with a carby and a crankshaft, a nod to their motorsport heritage.RELATED: Rare As ‘Rocking Horse Sh*t’ BMW Alpina C1 On Sale In AustraliaBasically, BMW M models and Alpinas get made on the same assembly line… But then they go in very different directions. Where BMW’s M division, which is just a subsidiary of BMW itself, has a track-focused philosophy, Alpina likes to do things a little differently.They put more emphasis on luxury, higher torque, and often come to different conclusions about how to achieve power gains. All Alpina models are turbocharged (not all M cars are), and Alpina likes to install their own manumatic transmissions. Despite their more luxury-focused direction, Alpinas regularly outperform their M brothers – so you get all the spice as well as all the creature comforts with an Alpina. They’re simply the ultimate BMWs. And we’d argue the B3 Touring is the best car Alpina’s ever made.
Check out the Alpina-exclusive rims and the subtle Alpina graphic that frames the B3’s silhouette. Image: LinkedIn
Look at this handsome devil. It’s based on the seventh-generation BMW 3 Series but makes 55 more kW compared to BMW’s hottest in-house version of the car, the M340i Touring (340kW vs. 285kW) despite using the same powerplant, the twin-turbo 3.0L B58 inline-six.Sure, BMW M’s new M3 (and its coupe version, the M4) are more powerful than the B3 Touring (the standard M3/M4 making 353kW and the Competition models making 375kW). But the B3 beats them hands-down in the luxury department, benefitting from a hand-stitched Lavalina leather and wood-grain interior. More importantly, it beats them when it comes to practicality – there’s no M3 wagon being sold Down Under, or anywhere for that matter. At least, not yet…RELATED: Hotly Anticipated BMW M3 Wagon Prototype Spotted On German RoadsHell, the M340i Touring that we compared the B3 Touring to just before – which commentators have called ‘the closest thing to an M3 wagon’ – isn’t even sold in Australia. The best we get is the 330i Touring which only makes 190kW from its turbo four-cylinder. Thankfully, the B3 fills that fast wagon void in BMW’s lineup.In short, the B3 Touring is more comfortable, more practical, and faster than the competition, while also being far kinder on the eyes (not only do the Alpina graphics and badging look great, but the B3 Touring doesn’t have the divisive ‘nostril’ grille the upcoming M3 wagon will be cursed with). Hungry yet?
A peek under the hood. Image: Autocar
This rare beastie has already been delivered to what we can only imagine are some very happy customers, so don’t go running out to try and pick it up. But the fact that one even made its way Down Under is good news.We’re big fans of fast wagons here at DMARGE, so getting even one of these cool cars on our streets is a win. Fingers crossed it’s the first of many that BMW Australia will bring to showrooms in the new year – or, if they can’t get enough Alpinas to meet demand, they’ll start offering their hotter 3 Series wagons to fill the void… It’s called optimism, people.In the meantime, we’ll gaze on lovingly and be very happy on behalf of its new owners. Viel Glück.

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