- Published: Sunday, 28 December 2014 11:38
Singapore - If you haven’t noticed, the era of the ethical sports car is upon us. Old school petrol heads will become, in both senses of the word, a dying breed, replaced by uhm, electron heads and hydrogen heads, or even diesel heads. Presumably those are bald and act in movies involving fast, modified cars.
Jokes aside, that all doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? And when we say ethical supercar, machines like the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrariLaFerrariLaFerrari….whoops, forgot to stop...they all come to mind.
That is the leading, uber-expensive segment. But in fact the second wave of more attainable ‘green sports’ cars is already upon us. In the preceding issues of CarBuyer we tackled the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and the BMW i8, both plug-in electric hybrids boasting fuel consumption of less than 4.0L/100km, plus carbon emissions that would make any greenie smile.
But there is another high-performing, fun, involving and at the same time, old-school-feeling machine out there that’s also relatively saintly and not outrgeously costly either: The Alpina D5.
Now as we’ve known from its other offerings, Alpina’s always been apt at throwing curveballs into the established order of things. Want a small super sedan? M3, RS 4, C 63 are your key choices...until you try an Alpina B3 Biturbo that is.
The D5 is no less outstanding. While the B3 takes its foundations from the 335i, the D5 it based upon the 530d and 535d sedans. Both of the latter have the new, inline six twin-turbodiesel engine that debuted with the face-lifted version of the car in 2013. As with all its machines, Alpina takes the body-in-white from BMW directly, then assembles everything else at its own facility in Buchloe with its own bespoke bits in almost every area: drivetrain, chassis, interior and so on.
There’s too many details to list here, but it is very extensive. The engine, for example, is retuned significantly, and treated with extra cooling, while the eight-speed transmission has been modified with manufacturer ZF and has a different torque converter. Maximising traction is a new adaptive damper setup (Alpina does some development work for BMW, after all) and a Drexler limited-slip differential.
From the outside, and with the signature ‘Deco Kit’ (that’s the graphic lines), the D5 looks a bit like someone with a 520i and more passion than sense went to town with big wheels, a quad exhaust and a bootlid spoiler.
Those are things that anyone can do, really, but drive a few hundred metres down the road in the D5 and you can tell it’s no ordinary 5 Series. It’s in the extra plush damping of the suspension - no run-flat tyres certainly help - which is taut without being crashy, while the beautiful steering makes the front end of the very-long 5 Series seem less distant than before.
Alpina has also sprinkled some of its green-and-blue magic dust on the drivetrain. While the 535d and 530d already have some of the best oil-burning mills in the business, the D5 stands out with even more accurate fuelling, smoothness and overall muscle. The D5’s got 55bhp and 100Nm more than the range-topping 535d (which is sold here on an indent basis) yet with the extra power and torque there’s not a hint of unruliness.
The refinement is still there in buckets, despite the bassier and more obvious note of Alpina’s exhaust system (developed in conjunction with Akrapovic), and it’s an impression supported by the way the D5 rides confidently, almost imperiously, over bad surfaces. There’s four drive settings, like other high-spec 5ers, with a real difference between them. Sport+ stiffens everything up, but even in its most extreme it never degenerates into crashiness.
There is of course, pace and grip aplenty. Tickle down the gears (with Alpina’s signature leather-covered button shifters) and the diesel takes a beat, then delivers a surging wave of torque while the engine purrs into a recognisable six-cylinder song.
But it’s when pushing that the D5 shows even more shine. While it’s not light - 1,845kg sans driver - it never feels heavy in the way lesser 5 Series variants do with their sometimes unruly body control. In fact the weight transfer is managed in a very pleasing, direct way that supports sporty driving, while the car’s sheer poise and traction is really quite outstanding. On the power during a corner exit, the traction control almost never kicks in unless you provoke it on purpose - a telling contrast to the current M5’s Christmas tree - sleigh ride nature - and no doubt a by-product of the LSD.
And to top all that off there are a few other reasons to own a D5. The lovely interior is finished in higher quality leather - the highest grade Lavalina leather wraps the steering wheel, although you can option it as general upholstery too.
The D5 is also shockingly frugal for a car of its size and nature. The official figure is just under 6.0L/100km, but we obtained just under 8.0L/100km in a day of cruising with bursts of hard driving and idling for photo shoots. That’s about the same score as we had with the Panamera S E-Hybrid, mind you.
We made a boo-boo with the pricing in print quoting it as $490,000 with COE, although in actual fact local dealer Munich Auto's now quoting its prices in a basic package and sans COE. The D5 retails for a reasonable $428,000 with COE. At that price, it's very likely the best version of the BMW 5 Series out there.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2,993cc, 24V, inline 6, twin-turbo diesel
Power 350bhp at4000rpm
Torque 700Nm at 1500 - 3000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 278km/h
0-100km/h 5.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.9L/100km
Price & 428,000 with COE