BMW Alpina's bi-turbo diesel is limo and sporty sedan rolled into one luxurious package
Delectable D5 The BMW Alpina D5 is the first turbodiesel that behaves and sounds like a petrol model. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

There have been petrol engines that behaved and sounded like diesels. But the BMW Alpina D5 is the first turbodiesel that behaves and sounds like a petrol.

Sure, there are diesel cars that are exceptionally refined, with noise, vibration and harshness levels as suppressed as petrol equivalents. The finest examples so far are the Audi A6 and Jaguar XJ, whose oil-burning variants betray only a hint of diesel roughness.

But the Alpina D5 is in another league altogether. You cannot tell it is powered by a 3-litre bi-turbo diesel inline-six unless you have the ears of an elephant. Not even if you are outside the car, standing next to the engine compartment.

It is only if you pop the bonnet that you detect that familiar percussion that usually sets diesels apart from petrol power plants.

Inside the D5, the usual diesel giveaway signs are all but absent. In fact, I would go as far as to put the D5, which is based on the BMW 5-series, on the same pedestal as a six-cylinder 7-series in the refinement department.

It is certainly as luxuriously equipped, if not more. You do not need to slam the doors - servos pull them in gently and noiselessly. The car's central-locking system works with a touch of any door handle (and unlike some luxe models, the sensors work flawlessly every time).

Floor mats are thicker than the ones usually found in executive sedans, complete with woven Alpina insignias - very chi-chi. And the multi-function steering wheel pulls away when you are ready to exit the vehicle.

Admittedly, these are essentially frills and do not contribute to the actual refinement of a car's operation.

But surprise, surprise, the D5 has more "shiok and awe" up its sleeves. And you get a taste of that the moment you push the Start button.

When idling, the car is nearly as silent as a Lexus LS. Step on the gas and the engine makes a sound that might even qualify as "purring". I know, it is incredible. Alpina must have done something very right to make such a smooth diesel.

There is more. With 700Nm of torque available from 1,500rpm, the D5 undertakes most commuting chores with as much fuss as someone lifting a finger for a manicure. Many a time, its eighth gear is not even called upon.

But it is the way it picks up its pace when the road opens up that impresses more. Its engine is revvy and freebreathing, with more elasticity than most diesels, which, frankly, tend to come across as a little constipated through the gears.

This gives it the qualities of a muscular petrol power plant - aurally rich and mechanically creamy.

As you would expect, the D5 has lots of reserves and it is unlikely anyone would be able to tap its full potential on public roads here.

But the way it delivers its power is glorious, even when the task at hand is no more than a drive to the office. That makes it thoroughly enjoyable.

For green-conscious towkays, it is ideal because it offers big performance with a relatively small carbon footprint.

Folks who want to take the car to a race circuit might want to order it with a limited slip differential. But outside a track, the D5 is more than adequately tuned, with just the right mix of ride and handling capabilities.

It is insulated equally well against noise and vibration (whether from the engine or the road) and feels more at ease and cushy than a regular 5-series.

As mentioned earlier, it ranks on a par with a six-cylinder 7-series in terms of refinement. And naturally, that is reflected in its price.

CAR INFORMATION

BMW ALPINA D5 Bi-Turbo Saloon 3.0 (A)

Price

:$355,800

Engine Type

:

6-cylinder in-line Twin-Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

2,993 cc

Horsepower

:

350 bhp / 4,000 rpm

Torque

:

700 Nm / 3,000 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A) Switch-Tronic

Acceleration

:

5.1 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

278 km/h