Distinguishing between the M and Alpina performance brands
Both the BMW M6 and the Alpina B6 are sold by BMW dealers and backed by full BMW warranties and service—even though M is BMW’s own in-house operation, and Alpina is a separate company. What’s going on?
“We are repeatedly asked whether M and Alpina are competitors,” says Frank van Meel, president of M GmbH. “We regard Alpina as a strategic partner and a complementation of our portfolio. While M models have a clear orientation toward dynamics, agility, and precision coupled with day-to-day suitability, an Alpina is an automobile for a very specific group of customers. The focus is on exclusiveness, individualization, and long-distance travel comfort.”
The distinctions between the two brands are carefully managed, van Meel insists, with BMW, M, and Alpina working together to determine which Alpina models are developed. But when Alpina cars start beating M cars in comparisons—the Alpina B3 has bested the M3 sedan in some European tests—then it’s reasonable to ask whether M is building the right sort of performance BMWs.
M was once the role model for an in-house performance brand. Its focus on performance and dynamics has been shaped by its role, over decades, as BMW’s race shop. “Any M car has to be track eligible, and it has to do well on the track, especially the Nürburgring Nordschleife,” says BMW North America chief Ludwig Willisch.
More on BMW M cars:
- M6 vs. B6: Which is the Best BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe?
- BMW M Boss: All-Electric M Cars “Will Happen” Eventually
But while BMW has steadfastly refused to build an M7 version of the 7 Series sedan or an M8 version of the 8 Series coupe, their reasoning looked inconsistent when they rolled out the lumbering X5 M and X6 M SUVs. The current M6 also doesn’t seem aligned the brand’s old-school value of razor-sharp performance.
M also has seen its brand expanded to include the kinda-sorta-faster thrust of M Performance kits, as well as the look-but-not-feel appearance packages of M Sport. But van Meel says this has not diluted the M brand overall.
When standing next to the menacing next-generation M5—we signed a nondisclosure agreement from discussing further details—van Meel said there was “no blinking” when considering the sedan’s crucial mission. Needless to say, it’s a beast. Will it be enough to resurrect the purity of M? That’s yet to be determined.
Watch a Head 2 Head of the BMW Alpina B6 Gran Coupe and BMW M6 Gran Coupe here:
Prototype could be an M Performance model
Our Spy photographers have caught the upcoming BMW 8 Series undergoing testing at the Nürburgring race track. Looking to challenge other big luxury coupes like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and the new Lexus LC 500, the BMW 8 Series will return as a grand tourer slotting above the 6 Series coupe and convertible.
Based on the photos, the 8 Series will be fairly large and will likely be as long as its key rival, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe. From the side, the 8 Series appears low-slung with a dramatically sloping roofline that exaggerates the car’s overall length. The side windows appear to be a bit narrow as well, which visually lowers the car. Despite the swirly camouflage, you’ll find BMW’s trademark dual kidney grille up front with wider openings. Out back, the classic coupe proportions continue with a short rear deck that almost makes the car look like a fastback.
Since this particular prototype features dual exhaust tips, it’s likely that it’s only a standard 8 Series, but the black side mirrors indicate that it may be an M Sport variant or an M Performance model like the recently released M760i xDrive. It’s not yet known what will power the 8 Series, but if it’s based on the current-generation 7 Series it’ll ride on BMW’s scalable CLAR platform and most likely share powertrain choices with the flagship sedan, which include a 3.0-liter turbo-six, a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, and the range-topping 6.6-liter twin-turbo V-12.
Currently, there’s no large coupe in the BMW lineup as the 6 Series is smaller than the cars the 8 Series will likely target. Last year, we reported that BMW was likely planning to bring back the 8 Series after the automaker applied for trademarks on the names 850, 860, and M8 among others. Three months after that report, we spied a prototype for the first time.
Photo Source: CarPix
Plans to compete with its own team in season 5
BMW has announced that it has registered as a Formula E manufacturer for the 2018/2019 season. The automaker’s motorsport division, currently paired with MS Amlin Andretti, will add its own entry for season 5 of Formula E.
BMW i and BMW M will see more involvement in Formula E as it is now part of the BMW Group’s long-term global motorsport strategy. The cooperation with MS Amlin Andretti, which includes sharing resources and working together on engineering, will continue this season as the automaker expands its presence in the first racing series for single-seat electric vehicles. BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt said that planning for its own team, which will enter in season 5, is already in the works. The automaker has also started Formula E powertrain development at its Munich, Germany headquarters.
BMW i vehicles have been used in Formula E since the first season with the i8 serving as the series’ safety car. The i3, on the other hand, is used as the medical car and the “Race Director” car. Recently, the BMW X5 xDrive40e was added as the newest Formula E support car, acting as the rescue and extrication vehicle.