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Headline:theALPINAregister.com review of the BMW ALPINA D4 Bi-TurboDate:29/05/2015
Source:The ALPINA Register   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:Topless atTraction

 
 

theALPINAregister.com
Review

 

BMW ALPINA D4 Bi-Turbo Convertible



Our Thoughts
Topless atTraction
 
   
 

Background

The F33-based ALPINA D4 Bi-Turbo had a relatively low-key launch being announced online in September 2014.

The D4 represents two significant firsts: For BMW the 4-Series represents a brand new range of cars albeit being the new name for the previous 3-Series Coupe and Convertible. A move no doubt caused by the likes of Audi and Mercedes who themselves have introduced similarly differentiated models. For ALPINA however the D4 represents perhaps a more important first - their first diesel convertible. Something a few years ago no one would have even considered, back in an era where a diesel only befit a van or lorry or some agricultural tool. Diesels have moved on and it is quite probable that the engine slotted in this svelte four series convertible body could just be the best performance diesel on the market today.

So the prospect is good for combining a great engine with this new four series shape. The only other consideration is that it is generally believed that convertibles compromise a great handling car. Such is their additional weight brought on by the need to strengthen the car when the roof is not up. Generally the weight and lack of the rigidity creates a vehicle that is not as pure as its coupe brethren. So will ALPINA, well known for witchcraft with a chassis make this a reality or a superstition? That is one of the things we aim to find out.



Exterior Styling

I’ll admit immediately that I am a fan of the 4-series! I wasn’t sure with the initial press photos but upon seeing one in the flesh both the new 4-series coupe and convertible look great in my opinion.

 


Kingsman - Sophisticated Brawn

As usual ALPNA sprinkles just enough of their design DNA on the car to transform the shape and render the car purposeful and sporty whilst not shouting it in people’s faces. Of course there will be some who want more – flared arches, bonnet bulges and vents, but that has never really been ALPINA’s style (with a couple of exceptions). Here we have for a recent analogy, the Kingsman of cars – the Saville row hard man with just enough visible brawn to makes its intentions and purpose clear.

At the front ALPINA add a deep front spoiler, augmenting the car’s face and giving it a wider and lower stance. As is typical now the car has the ALPINA lettering highlighted in this case in Silver. Finally the car has the added recognition of wearing the S17NER plate denoting its owners and the UK purveyors of all things ALPINA.

Out of all the angles to the front ¾ quarters view is probably my favourite. Looking from this angle the optional 20 inch Classic alloys fill the arches in the way only an ALPINA wheel can. This continues the beefy look of the car. Finally also clearly visible between the spokes are the large blue ALPINA-lettered brake callipers.

From the rear there is a small boot lip spoiler and four large oval tailpipes poking out from beneath the rear. If you were in any doubt ALPINA D4 BITURBO adorns the boot edge.



Top up still a great looking car

Being a hardtop convertible means that whether the roof is up or down the car looks sleek. During our time together the roof however for the most part remained tucked in the car’s boot. For once the UK weather was kind and every drop of sunshine was appreciated.

So let’s tackle the size and weight with a few comparisons.

The outgoing E93 3-Series convertible was also a hardtop but as is the case these days – nothing gets smaller – so this new F33 is an additional 6cms longer and 4cms wider. The new car has a slightly longer wheelbase by 5cm and now tips the scales at 1815kg (or 45kg more than the car it replaces).

  • Compared to the M4 convertible the D4 is 10kg lighter, 3 cm shorter, 4.5cm narrower
  • Compared to the 430d M sport convertible the D4 is 30Kg lighter
  • Compared to the 435d xDrive M sport convertible the D4 is 110Kg lighter (thanks to not having the xDrive)
  • The Audi RS5 cabriolet at 1920kg is 105Kg heavier than the D4
  • The Audi S5 cabriolet at 1880kg is 65 Kg heavier than the D4
  • The Mercedes CLK63 convertible at 1866 kg is 51Kg heavier than the D4
  • The E350 BlueTec convertible is 100Kg heavier than the D4
  • The Maserati Ghibli Diesel (Coupe) is 20kg heavier than the D4
Comparing the D4 to its ALPINA relations with the same engine:
  • The BMW ALPINA D3 Saloon and D4 Coupe are both 230kg lighter
  • The BMW ALPINA D5 Saloon is 50kg heavier, The D5 Touring is 150Kg heavier
  • The BMW ALPINA XD3 SUV is 95kg heavier
View a visual comparison of these cars



 

Interior Styling

  Personally I love the Saddle brown interior on this car, although I am aware this is not a universally opinion and I think the general reactions of people were they really liked it or didn’t like it. Those who liked it -REALLY liked it. The official option is Dakota leather in Saddle brown with exclusive stitching – again I think the stitching really adds to the interior. The ALPINA roundel on the back of each seat is standard and helps add to specialness of the interior.
 

Not for everyone but I really liked the Saddle Brown interior

The car also features a fair number of optional extras: BMW Professional media package, Carbon fibre trim, Head-up display, Harmon/Kardon loudspeaker system, air-collar to name a few (full list at the end). Of these the Head-up display and air-collar came in most useful. Whilst the carbon fibre trim was probably one I wouldn’t have ticked, I’d have preferred the black gloss ALPINA piano trim.



ALPINA wise the car has all the normal interior pieces aside from the seat roundels there is the familiar blue dials on the dash, the ALPINA steer wheel with the Switch-tronic buttons on its rear, ALPINA floor mats and the all-important plaque denoting this car as number 18 in the world. The car also has a removable wind deflector adorned with a large ALPINA roundel which is pleasing to view through the rear view mirror as well as when the car is parked.

Sat in the driver’s seat the car feels very good. The steering wheel is a good diameter and the soft ALPINA Lavalina leather feels good in your hands. The driving position is comfortable with the electric seats (with optional lumbar) adjustable. Visibility is good for me at 6ft 1 – the rear window is on the smaller side but the large wing mirrors give good range of vision.

Roof down the wind intrusion is pretty good especially if you keep the side windows up at speed. Low speed the car is fine with the windows down. The optional wind deflector does its job too and saves the all-important hairdo if that thing bothers you.



 
 

Ride, Handling & Steering

 

We have already discussed the relative size and weight of the D4 compared to both it’s ALPINA relatives and equivalent models from the competition. That said its closest relation the D4 Coupe is a whopping 230kg lighter (the equivalent to three adult passengers) and its clear if outright dynamics is concerned then the Coupe will be the model to plump for.

 


Typical ALPINA ride and handling

However despite on paper things looking not in the D4’s favour on the road it’s hard to detect any such weaknesses with the car. Therefore for more people the convertible should be more than sufficient in dynamics department. The car turns in well and there is not too much roll allowing corners to be taken flat and inspiring confidence.

The car rides well as you’d expect from an ALPINA – despite the 20 inch wheels and low profile tyres (245/30 + 265/30). ALPINA keeps the BMW system with the same 4 settings: Eco-plus, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ although they go to great lengths to tuned the system to provide the correct behaviour with the ALPINA packaging.

Comfort rides well absorbing bumps and giving a compliant ride whilst not losing too many dynamics. Sport stiffens things up and you can feel the steering response heightened. Sports+ deactivates stability control and frees up the fully manual mode in the automatic box allowing gears to be held for the more demand corners.



 

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

  This is the fourth ALPINA that we have tested with the 3-litre (2993 cc) bi-turbo engine. We were blown away with the linear power and broad torque of the engine. In the 5-Series based D5 Bi-Turbo the car was rocketed forward, similarly with the XD3 this time mated to the Xdrive the car similarly flew to the horizon in a manner completely out of kilter with the car you climbed into. In the 3-Series based D3 the same thing this time mated to a smaller and lighter car. So in the D4 were expecting big things and the car does not disappoint despite on paper being heavier than the D3 it is lighter than both the D5 and XD3 and any weight penalities it faces are outweighed by the 350 Hp (345 Bhp) and 516 lb ft (700 Nm) produced by the engine. The torque is most impressive being at peak between just 1500 and 3000 rpm.

 


3.0-litre Bi-Turbo engine with 345 Bhp / 516 lb ft

Equally impressive is the ZF 8-speed gearbox that is mated to this engine. In fact the combination of the two is pretty hard to belief. The gearshifts are seemless and range from gentle and almost undetectable to urgent when you push the car hard. ALPINA worked with ZF to ensure the maximum potential from the engine was realised on the road. In terms of modes the car will happily drive in D shifting leisurely or more urgently if required. Pushing one of the rear mounted Switch-tronic buttons, positioned on the left and right of the steering wheel centre puts the car into manual, the car will revert back unless you tell it otherwise. Pushing the gearstick to the left whilst in drive allows sport mode to be selected, as its name suggests this changes the characteristics of the gearbox, holding each gear longer and speeding up the shifts. Finally with the gearstick in this position if you also select Sport+ mode using the button to the right of the stick, or if you manually switch off traction control then the box becomes fully manual. And yes that means fully manual, you can bounce the car on its limiter if you so wish, the box will not upshift for you – this allows the optimal gear to be selected for a corner without the risk that the box will upshift at the inopportune moment.

Performance wise the car stacks up as follows: 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds (c. 0.4 seconds slower than the D4 Coupe and the D3 Saloon). Top Speed of all 3 models is the same at 173 mph. Looking at its competitors out there:
  • Audi RS5 convertible 4.2-litre FSI Quattro 450 HP + 430 Nm – 0-60 mph 4.3 seconds top speed limited to 155mph
  • Audi S5 convertible 3-.0-litre Quattro 333 HP + 440 Nm – 0-60 mph 5.1 seconds top speed limited to 155 mph
  • Audi A5 convertible 3.0-litre TDI Quattro 245 HP + 580 Nm – 0-60 mph 6.1 seconds top speed limited to 155 mph
  • Mercedes CLK 63 AMG convertible 475 BHP / 465 lb Ft - 0-60 mph 4.2 seconds top speed limited to 155 mph
  • Mercedes E 350D convertible 258 HP / 620 Nm – 0-60 mph 6.3 seconds top speed limited to 155 mph
  • Maserati Ghibli Diesel 3.0-litre 271 BHP / 600 Nm – 5.9 seconds 155mph limited
BMW Competition
  • BMW 435d XDrive M-Sport Convertible – 313HP / 630 Nm – 5.0 seconds + 155mph limited
  • BMW 430d M-Sport Convertible – 258 HP / 560 NM – 5.7 seconds top speed 155 mph

View a visual comparison of these cars

Note the D4 has the highest torque / weight ratio and 4th best power / weight ratio.

The final consideration when it comes to performance is the sound of the car. How does a performance diesel car sound ? Especially when you have no roof so can hear that much better ? The answer is that the car for the most part hides the fact it is a diesel. At low revs the cars sounds smooth and non-agricultural. Push the car and you get a real sense that there are lots of horses working. There is a lot of induction noise you can hear the car sucking air in as quickly as it can, there is a real urgency to this as an overtone to the subtle growl of the engine beneath.

 
 

Practicality

  Two sides to the practicality conversation in one the D4 fairs very well in the other it is destined to be at best relatively practical.

 

Performance without penalty

Let’s start first with the good news – despite the epic performance out its engine the D4 manages to deliver a very acceptable 36 mpg Urban, 44 mpg extra urban and 41 mpg combined. Which anyone’s book is pretty fabulous news for a car that does 173mph and 0-60 in less than 5 seconds.

If we compare this to the cars we mentioned in earlier parts of this review it’s pretty compelling.

Performance competitors:

  • The RS5 cabriolet 19.3 / 33.2 / 26.4 mpg
  • The S5 cabriolet 30.4 / 42.8 / 32.7 mpg
  • The C63
  • The M4 Convertible 22.8 / 39.2 / 31.0 mpg
The Diesel equivalents
  • The E350 BlueTec convertible 43.5 / 55.4 / 50.4 mpg
  • Maserati Ghibli Diesel (Coupe) 37.2 / 56.5 / 47.9 mpg

View a visual comparison of the relative economy of these cars

View a visual comparison of the relative economy of these cars

Space wise the D4 inherits the 4-series practicality – Boot space increases over the E93 based convertible by 95 litres. That said the boot is not exactly capacious. Rear leg room is probably not a big decision criteria.

The folding hard top definitely makes the car more practical a coupe with the roof up and a convertible with it down. The mechanism is reasonably quick but it’s a little optimistic to do while queuing at a junction or traffic lights. Despite the car not having to be stationary to work you need to be below 10 miles an hour which is as good as.

Roof down the boot can be accessed using a button on lid – this raises the boot lid and roof sufficiently to access the long shallow space beneath.



 

Conclusion

 

If you can measure a car by the smile it puts on your face then the D4 is a real winner – from the looks, to the comfort, to the performance it’s hard to find fault with the car. Add to that the fact that running the D4 won’t put a massive drain on your wallet and this really does drive the point home hard.

In terms of trying to find a true competitor it is clear that the D4 is hard to match in both the performance and economy stakes - a real unique proposition then. If I could I would...



 
Neil
 
 
Quick Section Links:         
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion

Related Links:         



Our review of the ALPINA D3 Saloon




Our review of the ALPINA D3 Touring




Our reviw of the ALPINA B3 Bi-Turbo Coupe




Our review of the ALPINA Roadster S




Our review of the ALPINA B5 Saloon




Our review of the ALPINA Roadster S



Full Set of Photos taken during the test


ALPINA UK D4 Website

Main ALPINA website

Cars:Alpina D4 Bi-Turbo (F33 (14 - ))

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