2017 BMW Alpina B7 Review: The magnificent Seven
– Detroit, Michigan
You can’t buy an M7. Despite BMW’s want to M all the things, a proper M7 has never been in the cards. Yes, you’ll soon be able to buy an M760i with a biturbo V12 engine, but that’s not a real M7 – an M235i isn’t the same as an M2, after all. But I’m not worried about this lack of a hella-performance 7 Series. That’s because the very cool Alpina B7 exists, and it’s all the Super Seven you need.
Despite offering a number of different models in Europe and abroad, Alpina’s U.S. market products are limited to this B7 and the 6 Series Gran Coupe-based B6. You’ll know Alpina’s work by the unique front fascia, signature blue and green paint hues, and iconic 20-spoke wheels, all of which work well on the new 7 Series shape. But this is far more than just a style updo; there’s a tremendous amount of power to back up the sportier look. The end result is a truly exquisite 7 Series – not an M7 per se, but a range-topper all its own.
- The Alpina B7 uses the same biturbocharged 4.4-liter V8 as the 750i, but output is increased to 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque – huge gains of 155 hp and 111 lb-ft. Yes, the all-wheel-drive B7 weighs 200 pounds more than the 750i xDrive, but even so, 0-60 acceleration is 0.7 second quicker (3.6 seconds versus 4.3) and the Alpina will keep going all the way to 193 miles per hour. Or, look at it this way: The upcoming M760i uses a massive, 6.6-liter biturbo V12, but it only makes 10 more horsepower and no more torque than the B7; the Alpina is actually quicker in the 0-60 dash. Who says there’s no replacement for displacement?
- Rest assured, a huge dollop of power doesn’t compromise this car’s position as a superb luxury tourer. Powerful it may be, but the B7 is also smooth and comfortable, with a composed feeling of solidity from behind the wheel. Compared to the often crashy Audi S8 Plus I recently tested, the Alpina wins on chassis tuning. Of course, it helps that these 20-inch wheels have a bit more sidewall, too.
- The interior is fantastic. I love the look of the brown leather, and the intricate stitching and contrast piping is a visual treat. The Alpina B7 gets a thicker-rimmed steering wheel that feels great in my hands, and I love small details like the LED lighting integrated into the sunroof, fully digital gauge cluster, and million-way power-adjustable seats. This is a truly top-notch luxury experience, despite the sporting pretensions.
- Yes, the Alpina B7 is a wonderful luxury car, but it could stand to be a bit more assertive with its dynamics. Sure, it’s quick, but it handles like every other version of the 7 Series – solid in a straight line, sort of vague and floaty while cornering. There’s not a ton of feedback to the steering, though there’s a nice amount of weight built in. It’s not that the car isn’t good to drive, it’s just not as engaging as previous versions of the Alpina B7. The new car’s handling characteristics could certainly benefit from a bit more chutzpah.
- Gesture controls are cool in two situations: the very first time you use the car, and when you want to show off to your friends. Those instances aside, I never use them – why would I let go of the steering wheel with my right hand to make a circular motion to increase radio volume (which, by the way, just makes me look like a wizard casting a spell), when I can just move my thumb down about half an inch and use the +/- buttons? And while it’s a fun art of dismissal to be able to swat away incoming phone calls when I simply don’t have time, it just makes me look like I’m conducting an imaginary orchestra to other motorists. Honestly, the best thing about the gesture control feature is that you can turn it off.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com