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Shoot out: BMW M5 vs Alpina B5 - The verdict

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Shoot out: BMW M5 vs Alpina B5
The shout route
The power difference
The verdict
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So in my book the B5's ahead by a nose and I can see that Holtam's itching to go for a blat up the B660 to demonstrate the chassis prowess of his chosen steed. Having already driven the roads in the opposite direction I know how well the M-car deals with the long sweepers, nadgety surface and offcamber late-tightening corners that make this road such a good test of a car's chassis. The M5's bodycontrol is just superb and you always know exactly what the car's going to do with its attitude adjusted delicately on the throttle. It handles and communicates like no big saloon has the right to do, but the flip side is a ride that borders on the unacceptable in my book. It obviously depends on which suspension setting you've selected, but in the Sport mode I've hit my head on the roof on several occasions.
The B5 isn't as composed on these roads when you really start to pile some speed on. It grips well enough, but the less aggressive suspension settings allow for more body roll when cornering and midcorner bumps that the M5 absorbs in its stride can upset the Alpina. The flip side of the coin is that the B5 exhibits the sort of ride quality that the M5 can only dream about. I could easily imagine crushing continents at a sitting in the B5 and emerging from the sumptuous gentleman's dub style interior utterly relaxed after a long day in the saddle.
Cruising back to Nottingham in the Alpina brings another B5 revelation - it's hugely more economical than the M5. At the typical British motorway speed that sees 14.1 l/100km (20mpg) from the M car the B5's showing an indicated 10.1 l/100km (28mpg), making it a far more practical (and less expensive) prospect. The last part of my journey is a cross-country A road blast and this is the B5's perfect playground. Gaps in the on-coming traffic are few and far between, but when one does come along it can blast past dawdlers in the blink of an eye. If it's a big gap just leave it in Drive, if it's a bit tighter push the gear lever over to the left to engage Sport mode with its quicker reflexes, and if it's a tiny gap dial in the right gear with the Switch-Tronic for the ultimate acceleration orgy. God, the B5 is fast.
Eye wateringly so - and I love it.


So which Five would sit in my garage? It's got to be the B5. If you accept that probably about 95 per cent of the everyday driving we do isn't of the balls-out maximum attack variety then the B5 just makes so much more sense than the M5. For that last five per cent the M5 is the better tool, but I'm older and wiser than Holtam and would sacrifice that five per cent for the brilliantly well-rounded charms of the B5


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