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Headline:B10rn to runDate:29/09/2003   (Click Here for more details).Ourthoughts
Review:What better farewell to the B10 than to take the family on holiday. Two weeks and over a thousand miles later, the B10 shines as brightly as ever.

Although I hadn’t actually found another car, we had decided that it was about time to upgrade the B10 for a newer car with a warranty. Unfortunately, we hadn’t realised until too late that the extended warranty could only be taken out when the car was still within a valid warranty. With hindsight this is obvious, but when you’re tied up with a busy life, things slip. So we had been running the Alpina for two years without a warranty and whilst we had experience virtually no problems during that time, it was only a matter of time before something expensive would need replacing.

In addition, seemingly small issues like a couple of lines of the LED computer (display at the bottom of the dash) failing, turned out to be far more expensive than a standard BMW dash. For the record you need to replace the whole dash cluster – and this adds up, especially with labour.

The car is really part of our family, it is the only car we have and thus is used every day. The B10 also brought all 3 of our children back from the hospital, a point raised by my normally non-sentimental wife. The car has been fun, dependable, practical and cheap to run. Not bad for a 280bhp car that can do 163mph whilst still returning 27mpg.

Our holiday this year was chez-UK thanks to my young son, who at the time was only 7 months old. So we set off for sunny Dorset on the first weekend of the schools summer holiday – spot the problem? Well, we did not far down the M5… About the time we were making a lunch stop – the traffic stopped, and remained stopped long after our lunch finished. This meant two things: sitting in traffic and also some frantic map work from my other half (no sat nav on the B10).

Sitting in traffic is never much fun, in a manual car it is usually a pain. The B10 however, is quite placid, and whilst you do not relax in the same way you would in an automatic, you don’t get too fed up either.

The map maestro suggested a detour via Bristol with a cross country alternative to the blocked M5. Great news and the kids are asleep too.

The B10 never ceases to impress me in the way it copes with UK roads. Often you find that some very good cars fail to live up to the reality of British roads. One of the B10 greatest strengths is the suspension – giving great ride and at the same time total confidence to the driver. It really is the best car I have driven for combining the two so well. The engine is great too, providing lots of thrust and an enjoyable sound track.

The journey started at 9am and we arrived at just after 6pm, with two rest breaks this was quite a slog. But I immediately jump back in the car to get some food and stuff from the local supermarket. This is what the B10 does it makes driving effortless when you have to drive and fun when you want to drive.

Over the course of the next week, we make numerous trips and the B10 delivers the family to each in varying weather conditions. After my day at Donnington, my confidence in the B10 in the wet is good. Put simply the car has loads of grip, a point reinforced by my day with Don Palmer – who struggled to get the rear to drift on a dry Bruntingthorpe track. The car has the same footwear as the B10 V8 and its more recent variant the V8 s (235/35 ZR18 front and 265/30 ZR18 rears), which explains why the car has more than enough grip.

In the course of our time together the car has used one set of fronts and two sets of rears – roughly 40k miles on the front and 20k on the rears. Which is a good job considering the price of the shoes – the ‘list’ price of the rear tyres is £285 each – although Micheldever are able to reduce this price to a slightly more palatable £185 each.

When I announced I was having twins people quickly assumed we would be buying an MPV – not so. When we found about Harry we thought we might end up having to buy an MPV – not so. The E39 5-Series is quite an old design (introduced in 1996) and as a result has less rear legroom than it’s more recent rivals. The rear seat is however, capable of having 3 child seats across it and legroom is slightly N/A for 2 year olds and below. In fact I don’t think any 6ft passenger has ever complained either.

The boot is also amazingly capacious and has surprised me a number of times – including packing for this holiday. I was able to pack most of our stuff into the boot with the remainder fitting snugly into the rear foot wells. One of the best buys we made was the official BMW boot liner. This sturdy plastic liner, with high sides, has saved the boot from the battering of almost 3 years of lifting pushchairs in and out. If you have any car I seriously recommend getting one of these. The only downside is that it obscures the CD changer and as a result the CD collection in the car is slightly stale.

My only other advice is don’t have the drinks holders in the rear when you have small kids. The one in the B10 broke quite early into the twins life and despite much fiddling by me has never quite recovered. The wear on the rear seats seems ok too; the child seats rarely leave the car and so are putting constant pressure on the leather seats. On that rare occasion when the seats are taken out the dents soon disappear and it is hard to tell the abuse the seat has been subjected to. The seat belts have taken more of a battering and it is worth making sure they are not twisted when putting the child seats in.

One of the best parts of visiting attractions, is that quite often you must park in a field. Which provides a great place to play with rear wheel drift – even with the B10s grip the rear can be push out easily. Obviously this is not something the ‘family’ appreciates but the odd occasion won’t hurt anyone. A trip to Monkey world on a dismal rainy Wednesday proved very entertaining and apologies for the state of the grass on my exit.

On the whole the Alpina experience has been a private one. I had expected some amount of interest off car fans but never really witnessed any. The car is quite subtle but it is obviously not a standard 5 Series – the wheels alone signal that. There is often a confused look from the driver behind at traffic lights, or a sideways glance in traffic. But this is not something I experienced ever day.

On two occasions the car did get some unwanted attention. Both times the cars rear attracted the brunt of this and both times a costly respray was needed. Unfortunately, due to the policy excess, neither time was with insurance assistance. Not quite sure why people feel the need to vandalise nice cars, but needless to say we weren’t very pleased either time. I have always been a careful parker – ever since I had the front end on my Scirroco taken off by someone in a carpark. But when you only have one car you have to use it and just have to weigh up the risks as best you can when parking.

In fact a major part of the running costs has been down to the rear end – 2 resprays and a snapped spoiler:

Boot £1,193.9431%
Oil £175.44 4%
Servicing £892.40 23%
Tyres £1,271.39 33%
Addons £185.00 5%

Living in Nottingham gives you a warped Alpina experience – these cars are rare – only 239 B10 3.3 have been made worldwide and only 40 are in the UK. However Nottingham, being Alpina’s UK HQ has more than it’s share of the cars.

In that time I have only seen a couple B10 3.3s most of the cars are either B3s or B10 V8 / V8s the B10 V8 has sold over 1000 worldwide. Certainly whenever I travel elsewhere the number of Alpinas I see decreases rapidly.

The second week of the holiday brought with it lots of sunshine and record UK temperatures – even in the UK air conditioned is a mandatory accessory in a car. The B10 purred along all week and cover lots more miles.

The return journey was slightly better than the outward journey and the traffic on the M5 only once delayed our journey. Arriving home the B10 had covered 1215 miles and averaged 27.4mpg.

To sum up the running costs :

Costs per mile 9.77p/mile
including petrol 23.2p/mile
Depreciation 55p/mile
Total Cost per mile 78.2p/mile
or Cost per day 24.5p/mile

In the end it was just over a month later that I spotted my new car and our time with the B10 ended. Every time I have sold a car I have been choked-up. This time more than ever before. My head said sell my heart just didn’t want to. My heart is with Alpina and hopefully I will own another one sometime – although their move away from manual gearboxes may put a wedge between us. Hopefully not.

Cars:Alpina B10 3.3 (E39 (02/99-02/03))


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