If a great BMW is manual, straight-six, rear-wheel drive and wagon-shaped, then look no further…
By Matt Bird / Sunday, June 27, 2021 / Loading comments
Though the manual BMW is becoming ever more desirable in certain circles, it would be a stretch to call any of them truly satisfying transmissions. The pedals are typically offset, and the throw itself long-winded and rubbery against the best stick shifts. But then an average manual is better than an average automatic, and we all know plenty of those exist in the BMW back catalogue – find them under ‘SMG’. Which is why, when considering the BMW era when notchy manual and jerky automated manual fought for new buyers’ affections, those with the former are now more highly prized. If the shift is going to be less than perfect, you might as well be involved with it…
The E39 5 Series, which this Alpina B10 is an example of, was only ever offered with conventional manual or torque converter autos. The M5 flagship, of course, was famously manual-only, the last M5 sold only with a clutch ‘n’ stick combo, and its character arguably wouldn’t suit an auto that well. On the other hand, Alpinas tend to match better with an auto thanks to their more relaxed remits – especially as estates.
So this one is a proper curio. Not only is it a Touring with the 3.3 straight-six – lacking the torque of the B10 4.6 V8 that complements an estate’s load lugging ability – it also has the five-speed manual gearbox to really make you work for it. Oh yes, and fabric upholstery. If such a thing as a bare-bones Alpina can exist, this might be it. Or the purist special, to be more polite.
The Alpina E39 arrived not long after the BMW version, the B10 V8 making its debut in March 1997. It was launched alongside the 3.2 straight-six, which in turn was replaced with the 3.3 in 1999. According to the advert, this was derived from the S52 used in the US market M3; Alpina increased capacity to 3.3-litres, also adding its own cylinder head and lightweight internals, meaning 280hp and 247lb ft – not huge numbers nowadays, but enough to reach 62mph in 6.5 seconds and 160mph. With suspension upgrades carried over from the V8 – plus the benefit of having less weight over the front end – the six-cylinder Alpina E39 was a lovely car to drive as well. Largely because all of these 5 Series were, but also because of Alpina’s sympathetic, methodical work.
With the classic status of the E39 now assured, the rarity of Alpinas generally and the specific condition of this one – even the stickers look pristine after 22 years – it should come as little surprise that strong money is being asked. With 90,000 miles recorded, it probably was the everyday family holdall for at least one of the four owners – the first keeping it until 2016 – though it would seem wrong to subject it to that sort of treatment now. Mainly because of how well it’s been preserved, but also because this Alpina B10 Touring is for sale at £22k. And that’s a lot for a 1999 BMW 5 Series.
That said, with just 19 making it to the UK over four years – this is number three – it really is a case of find another as far as the six-cylinder Alpina E39 is concerned. Though the V8 is probably more fondly remembered, the 3.3 is easy to admire as a celebration of perhaps the greatest 5 Series and that timelessly appealing BMW combination of six inline cylinders and a manual gearbox. You’ll not care a jot about shift quality in an E39 as cool as this.
SPECIFICATION | ALPINA B10 3.3 TOURING (E39)
Engine: 3,300cc, straight six
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],100rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],300rpm
MPG: c. 23
CO2: a few
Year registered: 1999
Recorded mileage: 90,000
Price new: ‘Over £46k’
Yours for: £21,995
See the original advert here
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