A Year Living with a G31 B5

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A Year Living with a G31 B5

Post by Grumpyjohn1957 » Thu Dec 30, 2021 7:32 pm

It’s now 14 months and 30k miles since the affair began. She came into my life late October ‘20 after 4 months of courtship. I shudder now at the prospect of being without her, even if our separation is to last only hours. She has, slowly, become my mistress, creeping into my being and becoming an expression and extension of myself. She raises passions, is coveted by other men, desired by the knowing but perhaps, fortunately, is not understood and therefore dismissed by most.
I first spied her shapely form one hot July afternoon whilst wandering idly around Sytner Nottingham. I hadn’t gone there specifically seeking an Alpina I was more inclined to take the 7 series or M route, but something happened.
Out the back, overlooking Mini and shielded from full public glare sat three 5 series. A green saloon bearing Sytners plate dumped seemingly, against a brick wall at a random angle. Similarly abandoned adjacent, a brace of grubby looking touring’s. Grouped in a lonely huddle, lost amongst the sea of used cars, the scene was reminiscent of 3 siblings who’d lost their parents in a crowd.
Looking through the grubby, finger marked, rain-stained glass the green car’s interior made a passable attempt at being the inside of a hamster’s cage. The grey car with its slightly deflated tyres, lopsided stance and thin camouflage of dust film appeared ready for immediate delivery to a sink estate. The blue, was sorely in need of soap, water and machine polishing, yet somehow, appeared almost presentable.
What a way to treat 300k worth of cars!
A voice interrupted my melancholy brought on by this scene. “Can I help you sir?” it enquired in cultured tones. “Erm yes” I responded, caught slightly of guard. “I’m looking to trade my 530D for something slightly more exciting”. Questions followed in quick succession as the salesman tried to discreetly evaluate both my sincerity and financial means.
Eventually, concluding I was worthy of investing more time in, he offered to fetch the keys so I could examine the B5s in more detail. The saloons interior was worse than it had first appeared through the glass, it also purveyed a faint odour of something unpleasant. After much apology and talk that it had been a press car, used by a certain Mr Clarkson in fact, I tried to start it. It couldn’t even manage a click. “Apologies sir”.
On to the grey touring. The glass was resplendent with dried condensation stains but otherwise the car was clean and smelt faintly of fresh leather. The instruments lit up, radio came on, iDrive had a little chime about some unhappiness somewhere, it even managed to slowly churn itself over a few times before dying. More apologies.
The Blue car had a better state of charge, it actually fired up, and did it sound nice or what? It sat there, producing a subtle deep base throb. To one more accustomed to the broken glass tinkling of a diesel the noise was symphonic, hinting of something immensely powerful lurking below.
My 530d was quite well spec’d in “M” trim but these B5s were something else. At once feeling familiar yet somehow different. As for the comfort seats, yes please, I’ll take some that. So many extras as standard it became bemusing. There then followed a lengthy explanation of the refinements Alpina bring to an already good car. After 10 mins of poking, exploring menus and tyre kicking my question came “Can I get to drive one?” Of course, sir, but could we have a few days to prepare a car properly for you? “Yep sure, see you this Thursday” I insisted.
Thursday came, I rocked up at the appointed hour salesman waiting. Pile of paperwork, driving licence check, key handed over.
A slow walk around the raised Alpina section, out of the back door to the showroom, through a corridor and there she was. Clean, reinflated with a 1/3 tank of fuel, trade plated and ready. A quick adjustment of the toys, a few words of wisdom from the salesman and off I went. Turning onto Lenton Lane I gave the throttle a cursory prod, bloody hell! she picked up her skirts and cannoned off at an unexpected rate. Slightly shocked, and mindful this was an expensive toy I proceeded to drive with caution from that point on.
Apart from the fact my hands could find the switches without looking, any similarity with my diesel ended there. Everything was so different, the ambience, the seats, the ride, directional response, brakes, the overall balance and of course the power. I’ve already written about my first impressions so to avoid repeating myself I’ll simply say when I returned my senses were somewhat enlivened.
I stood back and admired her, that oh so dark, metallic Sophisto Grey with Ivory white leather. Four shiny chrome exhaust tips together with humongous, spoked alloys created a presence of something almost regal. The spell was cast, I had to have her.

There followed a period of haggling. It’s amazing how many new friends you acquire when you’re about to spend a shed load of money. They ring you day and night enquiring after one’s wellbeing. Absolutely no pressure to take out finance, gap insurance or anything else in the dealerships portfolio that might raise commission then!
Anyway, the deal got done, in the middle of the pandemic. My wife accompanied me to the very minimal handover ceremony on a very dull wet Friday afternoon. I’ll give her fair dues, having listened to me droning endlessly about Alpina and performance cars in general for weeks she took it well. When her gaze first alighted upon the car, she hid her disappointment in the manner of a practised actress. “It looks just like Dieter” she said. (Dieter being the diesels pet name)
Once inside and belted down into the comfort seat she did begin to warm a little. “How much was it again?” she enquired, full in the knowledge enough money had been spent for us to ski every February for the next two decades. “The seats are nice anyway”
Slightly deflated and with a tinge of buyer’s remorse we set off for home. The rain lashed down; it was getting dark; the Nottingham rush hour traffic was its horrendous self but on steroids and, I’m now driving something that doesn’t behave quite like I’m used to. We arrived at the A46 slip, a long uphill two laner. By sheer chance there was an unusual absence of traffic. Turning in, straightening up and in 3rd I pressed the pedal towards the floor. The engine note dropped two octaves and before I knew it a shriek of “Slowdown!” filled the cabin. I refocused to the HUD and noted it was displaying 3 digits instead of the normal two. I clearly remember thinking, “strange, doesn’t seem that fast” whilst half the slip road still remained. Buyer’s remorse had just evaporated.

The next couple of weeks were spent getting familiar, optimising my driving position, figuring out what all the extra buttons and menus do, what the noises mean and generally getting used to. I didn’t touch the diesel for some 3 weeks but when I did, the relative lack of response was at once apparent. So different yet sharing the same bodyshell.
Having concluded, by scaring myself more than once, the B5s capabilities were far in excess of mine, it was obvious some advanced training and upskilling was sorely needed. I enrolled on a course at Millbrook consisting of one day on the proving ground and one day on open roads.
I’ve done a lot of miles in a lot of vehicles over the years, but nothing quite prepares you for living with 600+bhp day to day. It’s a quantum leap transitioning from 200hp or so. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have worked your way up the horsepower tree it becomes quite a responsibility at first.
The B5 is beguiling. It will lull you into an alternate reality where the speed limits are set too low, where there was once a bend in the road it is now straight, pock marked tarmac is billiard table flat. This can be dangerous if one succumbs to the spell without thinking. It took a long time to adjust my psyche from the “aggressive press on ignoramus” of 40 odd years to the new chilled out, let it be, type driver I’ve become.
Millbrook allowed me to safely explore what the car might be capable of. The mile straight, standing start no launch control, full sport mode. Terminal speed 176 point something, time taken just shy of 29 seconds. The car wanted to keep going, it took 300 metres to stop it. Mind boggling.
The wet handing circuit, charge on at 60, apply an armful of lock and whoa! Repeat same with and without DTC, very different results. Yes, believe me, you can drift a B5! It’s such a heavy car though; when it lets go at speed it stays gone. Forget 180 degrees, 480 is more like it. That said, DTC on, driving in circles slowly building speed, the degree of stability is remarkable.
Out on the road the following day, re-education about positioning and road domination, strict speed control in built up areas, hazard perception, etc, roadcraft taken to the nth degree. Mentally exhausting. It’s taken a lot of effort to incorporate those lessons into my daily driving.
Spring arrived; I entered a BMWCC track day at Cadwell Park. Being a car club event the hooligan element wasn’t present, the majority there using road cars. A few track specials, but overall, the name of the game was enjoyment and civility, not competition.
Cadwell proved to me B5s are built for the autobahn. No feeding back like an M car will, nor as agile. It won’t dart or flick at will like a playful kitten, it just goes where you point it. She says in a very relaxed but nonetheless business-like way, “Ok then, let’s do it”. Where B5s excel is in relentless grunt. Forget the gear change needed to keep the rev’s up, if over 3000 rpm you get instant, torque fuelled, eyeball squashing, ballistic acceleration to the red line.
From a timorous early morning start with pounding heart, butterflies, and sweaty palms I slowly morphed into an analytical, calculating, tunnel visioned jet jockey. I’d worked out where to brake, what gear to use, where to back off and found the unique lines needed to get a very heavy car early on the power and out of the corners.
Understeer is the B5s game. She’ll gradually start to nose out. As the steering inputs become less effective simply ease the power back very slightly to restore the intended line, no drama. The tail will shimmy under full power exiting bends, the Xdrive kicks in to send the torque forwards creating quite an interesting feel to the steering. Wheel spin, this car won’t.
What did I learn from this? For one, where the cars absolute limits are; three little no harm done grass excursions early on taught me that. I learned how stable a B5 is under duress and what a wondrously powerful and complete package it is. I learned it will quite happily out drag M3s, M4s and GT2 Porsches, plus just about everything else that day. I also discovered it will do 8mpg and totally destroy its front tyres.
A great experience, met with some wonderful folks, a highly recommended day out.

The year wore on, tyres wore out, miles went up. The service indicator suggested a service at 29K. Knowing we would be having a sojourn to Scotland shortly, I booked her into Sytner early. After that the problems started. Usually after a service one expects a better feel from a car, smoother, more economical, etc.
I got misfire, petrol smells and reduced mpg culminating in a dashboard cog of death display. Eventually all was resolved by fitment of a new engine, fortunately under warranty. The copy invoice for which makes interesting reading.
12 months on, slipping into the B5 is now like pulling on a favourite pair of jeans. Comfortable and totally familiar. I know what noises she makes at start up and shutdowns, what all the buttons do, how she will behave given the weather conditions.
The degree of comfort is unbelievable, I can drive for several hours without a break. My wife who usually is intolerant of unbroken journeys will now quite happily sit there enjoying the ride. Without this car, I don’t think I’d manage my lengthy daily commute. The loan car BMW supplied was a 320d Xdrive, stuffed with extras, running on OS7 with its enhanced features and connectivity. Quite comfortable and modern inside, good ergonomics too. Very economical, quiet at speed, excellent handling. No slouch either, yet somehow boring as cardboard, mundane, and characterless.
For driving pleasure and versatility a B5 touring is simply unmatched, it truly is. It can push your stomach into your spine, you can take bends at seemingly impossible speeds, a sofa, a bicycle or two go in the boot no problem, you can cross a continent thinking upon arrival, “hmm, that wasn’t far”. These beasts aren’t actually cars, they’re a form of teleportation. I cannot emphasise enough the ride quality you experience, RRs proceed, Bentleys glide, Alpina use maglev.

It’s amazing how many people comment on her when out. I’ve had random conversations in petrol stations, at traffic lights and car parks. I get the odd thumbs up and smiles from other drivers, rarely am I goaded. Owners of true performance cars might nod and go about their business, young men in pimped Audis, Fords & VWs will gawk but tend to not chance their luck. The offenders seem to be out on the M.Ways, they start by tailgating. However, 4th gear usually, cures the problem.
Bills wise? Shares in Shell & Esso of course. One paid for full service, one intermediate oil change on the old engine and one on the new. Brake fluid changed when the engine came out. Nothings yet fallen off, 3 sets of rears 2 sets of fronts, currently diving on winters. Driven sedately high 20s or 30+ on a trip, round town 23 ish, driven spiritedly high teens or less. Insurance isn’t the best and VED, well that’s taking the michael. Hoping the brakes make 40K as I believe all 4 is a two grand job. I have genuine front discs I “acquired” still in the box and reckon the originals will skim for future use as they’ve barely lipped. Wish I had the courage to change them myself, but I do like my indie to check over her undersides and rubbery bits between dealer visits.
Long term reliability, who knows? I suspect electrical gremlins and elastomer fails will be top of the list when the problems start. Whether that’s in the form of O rings disintegrating or suspension bush type fails I can only hope.
I really wish I’d had paint protection film applied at the outset; the nose is getting spotty. I’ve scuffed two wheels slightly because I’m a donkey and there is a carpark induced graze on the edge of the spoiler’s bottom lip. Apart from that, pretty good, washed, waxed, and inspected regularly. Interior is still mint, had a bespoke leather seat cover made for me because I get mucky, the original drivers floor mat is stored in the garage. I use a tacky aftermarket job that now looks like a moth-eaten hospital carpet, so proving its worth.
A couple of months back I did, briefly, consider an M5. A rather nice white CS with 6k on the clock came up in Derby. I have to say I got offered a very favourable trade in. I’ve no idea what a B5 touring might fetch privately, I suspect the market is limited but I don’t envisage myself parting anytime soon. She ticks every box, I’m heading towards retirement, so I guess eventually she’ll become a weekend toy. (Should I win the lottery, or my bond numbers come up, I would of course have to speak with Gary Lott)
Till then I’ll continue to cherish her and savour every second I spend behind the wheel of what must be one of the finest driving machines ever built.
Last edited by Grumpyjohn1957 on Sun Jan 02, 2022 1:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

2019 G31 B5 Biturbo Touring #336 - Sophisto Grey

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Re: A Year Living with a G31 B5

Post by jolls » Thu Dec 30, 2021 8:51 pm

That's a very enjoyable and interesting read. Thank you for sharing.
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Re: A Year Living with a G31 B5

Post by 440 » Thu Dec 30, 2021 9:46 pm

That's an interesting post! Loved it. I'd suggest you install PPF on it ASAP, it is amazing how well it protects the bodywork and you want to protect Brunhild, she will be grateful.

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Re: A Year Living with a G31 B5

Post by B10BRW » Fri Dec 31, 2021 7:28 pm

Great write up, just goes to prove how good Alpinas are :D , once you have had an Alpina anything else is 2nd rate :dance

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Re: A Year Living with a G31 B5

Post by ScooBeeFive » Sun Jan 02, 2022 11:32 pm

Fantastic John - thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts. They are monumental cars, I adore mine as well. They are the perfect all rounder.

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Re: A Year Living with a G31 B5

Post by Marc 76 » Sun Jan 09, 2022 12:22 pm

Fantastic write up John, thanks for taking the time.
For me the G31 B5 is the Alpina model i aspire to own one day in a world where i dont have to cover as many miles as i do these days!
I hope your happy relationship continues for many years to come.
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