The Alpina B4 Coupe: great stress reliever

The Alpina B4 Coupe drives with plenty of verve but also behaves with much decorum. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Alpina B4 Coupe drives with plenty of verve but also behaves with much decorum. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Alpina B4 Coupe drives with plenty of verve but also behaves with much decorum. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Alpina B4 Coupe drives with plenty of verve but also behaves with much decorum. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Alpina B4 Coupe drives with plenty of verve but also behaves with much decorum. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Alpina B4 Coupe drives with plenty of verve but also behaves with much decorum. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Alpina's well-mannnered B4 Coupe is just what the doctor ordered

You are in a side road, waiting to merge with traffic in a busy arterial. You hesitate each time there is a gap, even though your car easily out-guns whatever is heading your way.

The reason for this self-doubt lies primarily in the way cars tend to respond to one's right foot. Quite often, there is a slight lag between pedal pressure and propulsion. So you wait for a bigger gap, which will invariably take inordinately long to appear when there is a queue forming behind you.

In the Alpina B4 Coupe, this dilemma hardly ever presents itself. The car moves off immediately, with predictable verve and linearity, the moment you squeeze the throttle.

It may not sound like much, but it makes the B4 a real pleasure on the road. No, actually, it makes it feel quite special. The car has such an uncanny connection to your right foot that it is almost possible to get it to go just by thinking about it.

Clearly, the car has what it takes to deliver the goods. Fashioned from the BMW 435i, it has excellent ingredients to start with.

Its 3-litre six-cylinder engine is fed by two turbochargers to produce 410bhp and 600Nm of torque - compared with the 435i's 306bhp and 400Nm.

The tried-and-tested power plant is mated to an eight-speed ZF autobox, which the driver can override by pressing little buttons behind the steering spokes.

You might say the Alpina B4 is more similar to the BMW M4. Well, yes and no. Like the B4, the M4's inline-six has two turbos. But unlike the B4, the M4's transmission is a seven-speed dual- clutch gearbox - with prominent paddle shifts on the steering column.

Behaviour-wise, the B4 is less maniacal than the M4, even if it has everything it needs to give a driving enthusiast a good workout.

But it is set up for smoothness and comfort, while the M4 is geared for hard-knuckled performance, preferably in a racing circuit.

Think of it as an M4 that is less in your face.

On paper, the B4 is 0.1 second slower to the century mark at 4.2 seconds. Its top speed is an unrestricted 303kmh, which the M4 will probably match if its electronic limiter was deactivated.

In the real world, though, the B4 is probably the car for a more mature audience - folks who have no need to prove themselves with speed and sound, and who want a car that has ample performance but does not broadcast it to all and sundry.

Beyond a bassy repertoire from its lightweight stainless steel exhaust system when the engine is fired up, the B4 is quieter than the M4 on the go. Even in Sport+ mode, it is relatively subdued vocally.

Along with a ride quality that is quite remarkable for something riding on 20-inch wheels, the Alpina B4 inpires effortless motoring rather than rascally histrionics.

Perhaps that is why its stated fuel consumption is 7.6 litres/100km, compared with the M4's 8.3.

Beyond its ability to merge with traffic with ease, the car's unusual light- footedness makes stress-free commute a norm in most day-to-day situations. In fact, you will hardly find yourself revving the engine beyond 3,000rpm.

That makes it special. To have the same level of responsiveness across a comparatively broad spectrum, you would have to have a supercar. But then, you would have to live with the hard ride, crammed quarters and that strange urge to rev the engine just for the heck of it.

The B4, on the other hand, is really easy to live with. That it comes with all the amenities you find in a high-end BMW coupe - including self-extending front seatbelts - makes that even more so.

christan@sph.com.sg