BMW Group Australia appears to be on the brink of introducing heart-stirring enhanced sports models from renowned German tuner Alpina.
The Australian distributor has applied for Australian Design Rule (ADR) certification for the 4 Series-based 301kW Alpina B4 Biturbo, apparently to be sold in parallel with the ‘standard’ M4 coupe, perhaps to create a two-pronged defence against arch rival Mercedes-Benz’s C63 AMG Coupe that is due in Australia mid-next year.
Bavarian-based Alpina has for 50 years produced re-engineered BMWs with factory blessing, reworking engines, transmissions, chassis and interiors for enthusiasts in a number of markets, particularly Europe.
The vehicles also get special exterior treatment, including Alpina’s famed multi-spoke alloy wheels that are highly prized by BMW fans.
And while the Alpina operation theoretically is at arm’s length from BMW AG and its M Division, Alpina-fettled cars are run down the same production lines as BMW’s own models.
So far, BMW Australia is tight-lipped on the program, with general manager corporate communications Lenore Fletcher telling GoAuto that Alpina had yet to be confirmed for Australia, and that the ADR application amounted to “an early look” at an Alpina for this market.
However, the very fact that BMW has gone to the trouble of seeking ADR approval for the Alpina B4 is indicative of its seriousness in expanding its range of excitement machines.
According to the ADR document, the Alpina B4’s six-cylinder 3.0-litre engine develops 301kW of power at 5000rpm – 16kW less than the M4.
However, the B4 generates 600Nm of torque – 50Nm more than the M4 – and, in automatic form, can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds, which 0.1s slower than the M4 automatic.
So far, only one Alpina model appears to be in the horizon, though the company – based in the German town of Buchloe, outside Munich – currently waves its magic wand over nine BMW models.
Although Alpina also makes a B4 convertible in Europe, the ADR document seen by GoAuto specifies only the coupe.
The 4 Series coupe is a logical starter for Alpina introduction to this market, potentially attracting the most buyers.
In the United Kingdom, the £58,950 ($A129,612) Alpina B4 commands a £1895 ($4166) premium over the £57,055 ($A125,446) M4.
In Australia, the M4 Coupe sells for $149,900 plus on-road costs after a recent price cut, meaning that if the UK formula is applied, the B4 might land here in the $155,000-$160,000 region.
Although the Alpina B4 resembles the M4 in some respects, it is not a tweaked M4. Alpina’s own engineers develop the vehicle from the 435i, adding sequential turbochargers and other go-fast bits to enhance power and torque.
This includes a unique exhaust system from an after-market European supplier.
They also strip back the chassis, adding bespoke springs, dampers, steering gear and wheels.
Whereas the M4 employs a choice of six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the B4 comes with a tweaked version of the standard 435i’s eight-speed ZF torque converter automatic.
Because so much of the B4 is altered, the coupe carries its own Alpina vehicle identification number, hence the need to apply for separate ADR certification.
Alpina is registered as a vehicle manufacturer in its own right in Europe, presumably meaning it must crash-test its vehicles to get type approval.
The ADR application has been made by BMW, indicating the factory will be responsible for Alpina distribution here.
Just four options are indicated for the B4 – sunroof, gas discharge or LED headlamps and front fog-lights.
Confusingly, another European manufacturer, Renault, appears to be on the brink of reviving the unrelated Alpine badge for at least one sports model, a two-door sportscar.
Like Alpina, Alpine once was a separate company, specialising in enhanced Renaults. However, Renault now owns Alpine and its factory at the northern French city of Dieppe where it makes hot Renault Sport (RS) variants.