The BMW E30 323i based Alpina B6 2.8/1 is one of those Alpina’s that are neither mentioned nor considered when looking for a special Alpina. Just as the Alpina B10 3.5 E34, E28 B9, E39 B10 3.2, it’s an almostly forgotten and certainly undervalued car. It was the predecessor to the Alpina B6 3.5 and 3.5s, which are more sought-after and better known nowadays. With the arrival of the 2.7 Alpina based on the small six, the 2.8 was discontinued.
Alpina basically utilised a C1 2.3 and added the BMW M30 2.8 out of the 528i. With the usual Alpina modifications, it made about 30 hp more and took 6.9 seconds to reach 100 km/h and topped out at 231 kph. Front brakes were upgraded, using Girling calipers.
So it could be said, that in retrospect, a B6 2.8 was the thing to have only before the 3.5 and 2.7 arrived. However, as can be seen with the Porsche 911 993, it’s often the cars that are at first questioned that prove pretty interesting 20-odd years later. Although the 2.7 had the weight benefit and the edge on paper, the 2.8 has some advantages over the succeeding Alpina C2 in real-life.
By using the M30, Alpina received an engine that arguably suites its brand character better than the 2.7 or 2.5 did. Our experience with both M20 engines, is that they have quite the high-rev personality, redlining above 6500 rpm. The agressive cam and engine management gave it more of a BMW M- feel rather than what we now consider Alpina-esque driveability. I usually think of Alpina as being much more a contender to AMG than to BMW M, with often-used wood trim (even on E30’s) and most models on offer with automatic gearbox too. The Z8 Alpina is a modern-day example of how Alpina feels that driveability prevails over having the highest numbers on power or acceleration. A Z8 is basically a Motorsport roadster, where Alpina put the emphasis on Roadster rather than Motorsport. With BMW introducing the M3, Alpina already had the B6 2.8 replaced by the C2 2.7, which means that the car shown here in the pictures has been the strongest and fastest E30 on sale since introduction in 1983.
Without knowing it, Alpina actually created the niche they operate in today even before it was a niche. This B6 2.8 was launched to be the fastest E30 on sale, but it was caught-up (in chronological order) by the Alpina B6 3.5, Alpina C2 2.7 and BMW E30 M3. So the car wandered into the territory most buyers seek in an Alpina these days, being a rare, very driveable, fast reliable car. It may have only been the fastest 3-series on the planet for 14 months, but it sure is one of the nicest to drive. The M30 gives plenty of torque and has an amazing sound, fitting the Alpina nomenclature better than the C2 2.5 or 2.7. If we look at todays Alpina’s, the same can be said. None of them tops the scales compared to their BMW M-models counterparts, but for the real connaisseurs, the prints on paper are only half the truth. A good B10 3.5 can outrun a mediocre E34 M5. A B10 3.2 is much more agile than a 540i. An E30 B6 2.8 will give any E30 M3 a run for its money.
People who get hung up on numbers will never be interested in Alpina’s, but the real drivers who care about real-world performance and seek just that little bit of exclusiveness and recognition by other real drivers, will be very pleased with this 2.8. A very suitable daily driver, that’s more real-life fast than an E30 M3 90% of the time. I like to think this isn’t the Alpina that became obsolete a year after its intro, but the Alpina that started the whole direction Alpina moved into the next three decades. Still a very clear direction, which is more than can be said of BMW Motorsport these days!
Car shown is a 1985 model, one of 259 cars.
Words by Wout, photography by Max Earey.