There’s obviously a lot of things changing in the car world these days, and with that, it’s no surprise that many good things also come to an end. Today we’ll look at two of those, and luckily we’ll do so before it’s too late so that should you take the wise decision to join in before the lights go out (so to say), in both cases that’s still possible!
The first piece of sad news reached us recently from Buchloe, the small German town made famous by Burkard Bovensiepen, founder of Alpina, a company today run by his two sons. If you missed my story on Alpina you can read it here, and unfortunately what the company communicated was that they have sold the rights to the Alpina name to BMW, effective end 2025. For BMW, the interest in the Alpina name apparently comes from the wish for a sub-brand to sit between BMW and Rolls-Royce, which BMW also owns, but if that becomes the case, the cars will be fully built by BMW with no involvement of what is currently Alpina.
You may of course ask why Alpina chooses to give up, especially when you hear that 2021 was their best year ever in terms of sales. The answer is that it costs Alpina somewhere between EUR 10-15m to develop a new model on the basis of the corresponding BMW, a cost that needs to be amortized over the coming 6-7 years. Unfortunately the general insecurity with regards to future drivetrains, regulations, penalty taxation in some markets etc. no longer affords Alpina (or for that matter, other small brands) enough planning security to make that a viable proposition. It’s indeed a sad although unintended consequence of the industry’s current development and will most probably lead to more brand concentration among non-EV brands.
The recently introduced Alpina B4/D4 S Gran Coupé is thus the last Alpina model we will see leaving Buchloe (and it will do so, along with the other current models, until 2025), but the Bovensiepens guarantee that until then, they will not turn down a single order for any of their current cars. They also don’t plan to go anywhere, but rather to continue their business under a different name. On one hand it’s about servicing and supplying parts for the 25.000 Alpina cars currently on the road, which for discerning Alpina clients often also means for example redoing a full interior. On the other, the future Alpina company will continue to work on some projects as they already do today, such as developing improved drivetrains, steering etc. for other manufacturers.
It takes around an hour and a half to drive from Buchloe to Ingolstadt, home of Audi and thereby also of one of the most discrete, polished, usable and reliable supercars in the world – the R8. It’s been with us since 2007, a very long time for any car these days and with very few design updates through the years, it still looks modern to this day. It will however be replaced next year and when it is, that will also mean good-bye to the last engine of its kind still produced. I’m of course talking about the wonderful, naturally aspirated V10 that these days is the only available power source for the R8. It is however on the way out as Audi have already confirmed that the new R8 coming out in 2024 will be fully electric. The same V10 is of course also in service in the far less discrete Lamborghini Hurracan, but here again the engine won’t be available in the new Hurracan set to come out in the same year as the R8, i.e. 2024. It’s not fully clear what will replace it, but current rumours point at some kind of hybrid combined with a no longer naturally aspirated V8.
The naturally aspirated engine in the R8 and Hurracan is thus the last V10 in production. There’s one naturally aspirated 12-cylinder engine still out there and it’s of course the sensational, 6.5-litre one in the Ferrari 612 Superfast, putting out a crazy 818 hp and revving all the way to 9500 rpm. Then we’re however down to eight cylinders and in terms of naturally aspirated ones, options are few and far between. There’s of course the very discrete and also not very inspiring Lexus LC500, and there’s various versions of the 5.7 or 6.2 litre V8 in various cars in the Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/RAM family of mostly trucks. But then there’s also the new Corvette where the top model features the 6.2 litre V8 putting out 482 hp. And that’s basically it.
It’s safe to say that we’re clearly well into the last straight as concerns natural aspiration in general, and for big cylinder engines in particular. Given this, buying a new R8 between now and 2024 could actually turn out to be a better deal than buying a new car usually is, as the last year of production is often sought after, especially if it features an engine that can then no longer be had. Of course that goes for the Hurracan as well. And if we forget about natural aspiration, it’s no doubt also true if you buy one of the last Alpinas!