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Shoot out: BMW M5 vs Alpina B5 - The power difference

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Shoot out: BMW M5 vs Alpina B5
The shout route
The power difference
The verdict
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Hold on tight and we're off. There's a bit of a chirp from the Contis and a wonderful bellow from the fantastic V10 accompanied by the click click from the paddles as I upshift as the head-up display flashes that I need to select the next cog. But something's not right. Instead of seeing the B5 gradually disappear in my mirrors it's actually pulling away. How can that be? Holtam's put no effort into it at all - he's not had to press switches and fiddle with the iDrive to get the perfect settings, he's simply planted his size ten firmly into the Alpina carpet and blown the M5 into the weeds. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get the picture - the M5's not going to have it all its own way.
We slow down and pull in further up the road and while snapper Fraser fiddles around with his gadgets and gizmos it gives Holtam and I a chance to discuss the differences in these two cars' power characteristics and to closely examine their styling.
We've both spent a serious amount of wheel time in the M5 and despite some pundits arguing that it looks too similar to the E60 Sport model we're both now aware that simply isn't true. It may be because of its colour, but as you're driving you can see the most unlikely-looking pedestrians swivelling their heads to get a closer look at BMW's ultimate 5 Series. With its aggressive stance, unique multispoke alloys, bespoke mirrors and front wing slats and meaty quad exhausts it shouts M5 to all and sundry - this is not a machine for shrinking violets or those who want to make discreet progress. The Alpina on the other hand looks far more normal, if a 500bhp saloon can ever be described as such. The trademark 19-inch alloys are available on any E60, while the front lip spoiler goes almost un-noticed, especially in Sapphire Black. The boot-lid spoiler and unfeasibly large pair of exhausts does single it out as something different, but most casual observers will probably have turned away before they've clocked them. If you prefer your über-saloon to be on the subtle side (and I do) then the Alpina is for you.


If they look different then the way they go about delivering their combined 1000bhp is even more pronounced. The M5's maximum torque of 520Nm (384lb ft) is quite simply shattered by the B5's supercharged V8. Not only does the B5 have 179Nm (132lb ft) more than the M5, but it's delivered at a real world useable 4250rpm. Want to go fast? Just plant it. In the M5 you need to have prepared for banzai acceleration and unless you've got over 6000rpm dialled in the B5 literally leaves it standing. BMW M have certainly made a pretty good fist of making the M5 hugely more flexible than the on-paper stats would suggest, but it'll never have the sheer usability of the B5.
When it comes to aural stimulation both power units sound absolutely glorious, but despite the M5 genuinely sounding like an F1 car when it's at full chat I'd go for the B5's V8 as being the more melodic unit. I'm afraid I'm just a sucker for a V8.
Holtam reckoned he couldn't hear the supercharger in the B5, but if you turn off the radio and listen closely you can hear it as it builds up boost, but once you've hit 2000rpm it's all but inaudible.


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