The engineers at BMW's M Division take the company's existing models and make them faster and more track-capable. This leads to explosive performance often at the cost of comfort. But the M Division aren't the only ones to enhance BMW's standard models. A company called Alpina, a small, German outfit, has been building its own take on BMW cars since 1965. Alpina is so good, in fact, it now sells its cars through the BMW dealership network a bit like how Shelby cars are sold at Ford dealerships.
Unlike the M Division, Alpina is not concerned with how fast a car can lap the Nurburgring. Instead, Alpina designs its cars for pleasure on the public road, like Germany's famous autobahn. This leads to cars that are insanely fast but far more comfortable than an M car. Alpina doesn't sell many cars in the US but its flagship model, the Alpina B7, was just given an update for the 2020 model year. We had a chance to drive it at a recent BMW event and we quickly decided it is better than any M car sold today.
Like the rest of the 7 Series range, the 2020 Alpina B7 gets a totally revised look. The kidney grille is now 40 percent larger than before, but we would have believed BMW if they said it grew by 70 percent, so vast is this iconic styling feature. A new front bumper, an elevated hood, icon adaptive LED headlights, and a freshened-up rear-end are further changes. The B7 also gets a tech upgrade for 2020: Live Cockpit Professional with a 12.3-inch screen and navigation is added, along with Active Driving Assistant Professional, Parking Assistant Plus, and the Connect Package Professional. A CD player and the older digital instrument cluster are among the items to fall away. One new option has been added and it's a drive recorder at $200.
Thanks to an upgraded V8 engine, the 0-60 mph time has dropped from 3.6 to 3.5 seconds, while the top speed has increased from 194 mph to an unreal 205 mph.
See trim levels and configurations:
|Alpina B7 xDrive||
4.4L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
You've already decided if you like the 7 Series' dramatic new look or not. It's undeniable that the BMW gets you noticed more than before, though, so more conservative buyers in this segment will likely be more comfortable with an S-Class or Audi A8. But since an Alpina was never intended to fade into the background, the bespoke styling updates actually work rather well here. The 20-inch Alpina Classic alloy wheels look fantastic (21-inch items are also available), and they're matched by an Alpina signature exhaust system with quad tailpipes. There's also a unique front apron, rear diffuser, and rear spoiler. Icon adaptive LED headlights and programmable LED daytime running lights are fitted as standard.
The B7's dimensions are the same as the 750i xDrive on which it is based, but it is marginally taller. Length is 207.4 inches, width excluding the mirrors is 74.9 inches, and height is 58.7 inches (0.5 inches more than the 750i). The B7's wheelbase measures 126.4 inches. Curb weight is 4,866 pounds - this is 144 lbs heavier than the 750i but 293 lbs lighter than the V12-engined M760i.
A choice of ten shades is available for the B7. You don't need to pay extra for Alpine White or three metallic colors: Black Sapphire, Glacier Silver, and Mineral White. There's also no charge for the two Alpina-specific colors, namely, Alpina Green Metallic and Alpina Blue Metallic. The Alpina Blue is a particularly popular and striking choice.
If none of these speak to you, there are four additional metallic options at $1,950 each: Dravit Grey, Tanzanite Blue II, Azurite Black II, and Aventurin Red. All are gorgeous and add even more punch to the B7's appearance.
There's just one engine and transmission for the B7 and you honestly wouldn't want anything else. The 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 has always been a monster, but in this guise, it delivers 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Together with a recalibrated eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive, the B7 sees off the 0-60 mph run in a mere 3.5 seconds and will top out at 205 mph. That's quicker than BMW's own M760i and just a tenth of a second behind the Porsche Panamera Turbo and Mercedes-AMG S63. It's phenomenal performance from a heavyweight luxury sedan and, should the M7 badge ever see the light of day, these would be fitting performance figures.
Alpina has never been a company you'd call complacent, and even though they could have gone into 2020 with the B7's already powerful engine untouched, they've improved it even further. Besides the towering 600 hp underfoot, the peak torque of 590 lb-ft is now available from 2,000 rpm (previously 3,000 rpm) for even better responsiveness at lower engine speeds. An Alpina high-performance cooling system is used to ensure the thermodynamic stability of the V8 even under demanding conditions. The eight-speed's software has been reworked to deliver both improved shift times in Sport mode and comfortable cruising. Even with the M760i in the range, the Alpina B7's powertrain is one of the very best you'll find in a performance-oriented luxury sedan.
From the get-go, you'll notice that the Alpina B7 doesn't drive like an M car - it's much better. It floats over bumps in its comfort setting and still navigates them flawlessly in Sport mode. Alpina has fitted its own bespoke two-axle air suspension system and Dynamic Damper Control, which is self-leveling and creates a near-perfect ride. But when you want to get a lick on, the suspension tightens up to reduce body roll and rear-axle steering helps the car get around tight corners.
There's no getting around the fact that this is a large car but Alpina has managed to find the perfect balance between a supple limousine and a back road barnstormer. Your brain will struggle to absorb the sensations of comfort and speed being combined in the B7. When using launch control, for example, your head will be pinned back under the full brunt of the twin-turbo V8. But unlike an M car, which will be fitted with a stiff leather chair, the B7's seats are cushy and feature a pillow on the headrest. So when the car does throw you back into the seat, it feels like your body is being delicately shoved into a marshmallow.
If we had just one complaint with the B7 driving experience, it would Alpina's odd shifter buttons on the steering wheel. Instead of traditional wheel-mounted paddles, Alpina opts for small buttons behind the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions. But since this is an executive luxury limousine and the transmission works just fine when left in automatic mode, we'll give Alpina a free pass on this faux pas.
Despite the B7 being more powerful and heavier than the 750i, both return the same EPA-rated economy numbers of 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined. Fill up the 20.6-gallon gas tank with premium gasoline, and a combined cruising range of around 412 miles should be possible. The Mercedes-AMG S63 has exactly the same combined economy figure of 20 mpg.
With the same basic cabin architecture as the standard 7 Series, the Alpina B7's interior is a haven of expensive materials, cutting-edge technologies, and acres of space for front and rear passengers. It's not as adventurous a design as that updated grille, but the B7's tech is generally a lot easier to understand when compared to rivals like the Porsche Panamera. Alpina touches are everywhere, from the Piano Black trim to the Alpina production plate, the Alpina emblems in the doormats, and bespoke door-sill finishers. Not everyone loves BMW's counterclockwise tachometer as part of the Live Cockpit Professional, but it is certainly modern and brings the 7 Series in line with the competition.
Alpina B7 owners are treated to Nappa leather multifunctional comfort seats, which include heating, ventilation, and massage functions as standard. The front chairs are almost the most comfortable we've ever tested thanks in part to plush pillows on the headrests. As part of the $3,900 Luxury Rear Seating Package, the rear seats also feature heating, ventilation, and massage functions that are controlled via a Samsung tablet mounted in the center armrest.
That tablet also allows rear passengers to control the infotainment system, move the side and rear sunshades, and access the seat controls. Those rear seats offer an excellent 44.4 inches of legroom and if you are on the passenger side, the front seat can be moved forward for additional comfort. If you opt for the more expensive Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package for $5,750, you also get a footrest on the back of the passenger seat, two infotainment screens, and tray tables. As back seats go, the Alpina B7 has one of the best rear areas that money can buy.
Alpina buyers can choose from a number of leather colors and trim materials. Standard Nappa leather colors include Canberra Beige, Ivory White, Zagora Beige, Mocha, Cognac, and Black while extended leather interiors with quilting are available in Mocha or Cognac for $500. For an additional $4,000, Merino leather interior options include Amarone Brown/Black, Fiona Red/Black, Smoke White/Black, Cashmere Beige/Black, Black, and Tartufo.
If the leather options weren't extensive enough, there are 11 trim materials to choose from. The BMW options include Grey Poplar Wood, Chestnut Wood, Fineline High Gloss Wood, Fine Wood American Dark Oak, Fine Wood Poplar Grain, Fine Black Wood, Individual Piano Black Finish, Eucalyptus Smoke Brown Wood, and Ash Grain Black/Red Wood. There are also two Alpina-specific trims called Alpina Piano Black and Myrtle Wood (pictured in this review). The Myrtle Wood looks expensive, which is why we heavily recommend it.
Like the regular 7 Series, the Alpina B7 also has a large and practically shaped trunk. It has 18.2 cubic feet of space, making it one of the biggest trunks in a regular sedan. Three medium boxes, two smaller ones, and a couple of soft bags will be able to fit. A power hands-free opening and closing mechanism also takes the pain out of loading items when your hands are full. But since this car features power-adjustable rear seats, they do not fold into the cabin for more storage space.
There's also a decent amount of interior storage for smaller items. Door pockets, a locking glovebox, a fold-up rear-seat armrest, front seatback storage, and center console for front occupants provide enough options for stashing your belongings. Cupholders are also fitted front and rear.
Equipped to a high level, the Alpina B7 has an appealing mix of safety, comfort, and tech features fitted as standard. The multi-contour, massaging front seats are truly luxurious and get 20-way power adjustment with memory and four-way lumbar adjustment. Other standard highlights include a power-adjustable steering column, automatic four-zone climate control, a power panoramic moonroof, heated front and rear seats, soft-closing automatic doors, power sunshades for the rear window and rear-side windows, remote engine start, and an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror. An LED light carpet is a typical luxury car touch that makes approaching the B7 a grand experience - or, it's ostentatious, depending on your point of view. Overall, the Alpina B7 is fully loaded and should please the most discerning shopper.
The Alpina B7 features BMW's latest iDrive 7.0 infotainment system with the classic iDrive control, a touchscreen, intelligent voice command, and gesture controls. We find the gesture controls to be a bit finicky but the rest of the controls work well. BMW has also announced recently it will add Android Auto to its vehicles and eliminate its subscription model for Apple CarPlay. As of now, we don't know when these changes will affect the B7.
As standard, a Harman/Kardon surround sound system provides plenty of punch for your tunes. But if you fancy yourself an audio snob, the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System for $3,400 includes 16 speakers, 1,400 watts, and 10 fully active amplification channels.
The latest available J.D. power ratings for the 7 Series and Alpina B7 are all over 80 (out of a maximum 100), indicating that these are well-engineered vehicles with good ownership satisfaction - just as they should be. Although the 2020 BMW 7 Series has been subject to three recalls, none of these have directly involved the B7.
Should anything go wrong, the Alpina B7 is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, 12-year rust perforation with unlimited miles, and a roadside assistance program for four years with unlimited miles.
The Alpina B7, like the rest of the 7 Series range, hasn't been crash-tested by local authorities. Of course, since every available safety feature is fitted, we expect the sedan would perform brilliantly if tested. The 2019 BMW 5 Series is also an indicator of the brand's high safety standards - this model was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, and much of the platform and tech is shared with the 7 Series.
A full suite of front, side, and head airbags provide protection for occupants in the event of a collision. The B7 also gets programmable LED daytime running lights, adaptive LED headlights, automatic high beams, a rearview camera, active front headrests, and adaptive brake lights. There's a comprehensive list of standard driver aids as well. Standard equipment includes BMW's active protection system which can detect an imminent crash and prepare the car for it. There's also a Fatigue and Focus alert feature, active cruise control with stop & go, parking assistant plus with surround-view cameras, an active lane-keeping assistant with side collision avoidance, and extended traffic jam assistance. BMW's active driving assistant encompasses evasion assistant daytime pedestrian detection, frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, lane departure warning, active blind-spot detection, and front/rear cross-traffic alert. In summary, it's one of the most impressive safety specifications available on any car.
The 7 Series is not the freshest model in BMW's lineup, nor is it the most recent full-size German luxury sedan to receive a redesign. But the 2020 model year updates help keep the 7 competitive with its rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz and the Alpina variant leapfrogs it to be one of our favorites. Unlike M or AMG, Alpina recognizes that its owners aren't going to spend time at the racetrack, so the B7 doesn't feature any silly gimmicks to help it set faster lap times.
Alpina has instead crafted the ultimate road car, built to travel over 200 mph in perfect comfort. The M Division could learn a thing or two from Alpina, like how to tune a suspension for crappy American roads. In fact, we would have a B7 over any current M car. It combined sensational speed with unparalleled comfort, making it our favorite BMW model on sale today.
The 2020 BMW Alpina B7 carries an MSRP of $142,800. This positions it right in-between the 750i xDrive's $102,650 and the M760i's $157,700. The price excludes tax, licensing, registration, optional extras, and a destination fee of $995.
As usual, the limited-volume Alpina B7 is available in just a single trim. This ultimate 7 Series is powered by a fettled version of the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 which delivers 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, channeled to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The two-axle self-leveling air suspension gets Alpina tuning for sharper responses without compromising the B7's crushingly effective cruising ability.
Outside, B7 badging and those timeless 20-inch Alpina wheels immediately set this apart from any other 7 Series. Adaptive LED headlights and LED taillights are fitted as standard, and Alpina's quad exhaust outlets are what most other road users will see. The interior now gets BMW's Live Cockpit Professional, although the Alpina treatment sees this digital display take on a distinctive blue tinge. iDrive with its own touchscreen display takes care of infotainment functions and there's a quality 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. Seating is sumptuous and the front chairs have 20-way power adjustment, memory settings, and a massage feature. Seat heating is standard both front and rear. Four-zone automatic climate control, soft-closing doors, a power-adjustable steering column, and fine Nappa leather are all standard.
Despite the extensive standard specification, the B7 follows traditional BMW practice by being highly customizable. An Interior Design Package adds $1,800 to the base price by adding even more luxury to the cabin: an Alcantara headliner, wood-trimmed grab handles, luxury rear floor mats, and more wood trim for the rear seat belt cover and center console are included. For $3,900, the Luxury Rear Seating Package will tempt those who will often be driven around. Its features encompass rear massaging seats, rear comfort seats with ample power adjustment, and rear-seat ventilation. For $5,750, the Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package is appropriately named, because you get the indulgence of a rear-seat entertainment system, a reclining rear seat (with the ability to electrically move the front passenger seat forward), and a power-adjustable rear footrest.
These packages aside, there are also a number of individual options. Night vision with pedestrian detection is $2,300, the panoramic sky lounge LED roof goes for $900, laser lights are $1,000, and an upgraded Bowers and Wilkins surround-sound system with diamond dome tweeters will set you back to the lovely tune of $3,400.
Since there is just one trim level of the Alpina B7, most of your decisions will come down to colors and options packages. Our tester pretty much came exactly how we'd spec a B7. The signature Alpina Green Metallic paint is a no-cost option, as is the Ivory White Nappa leather interior with the lovely Alpina Myrtle Wood. Those optional interior options might be nice but we never felt like our tester was lacking a premium feel with the standard leather. We also loved the improved ride comfort of the 20-inch wheels and would hesitate to recommend the 21-inch wheels.
The Bowers & Wilkins audio ($3,400) is a must-add, as is the Panoramic Sky Lounge LED roof ($900), Drive Recorder ($200), and Luxury Rear Seating Package ($3,400). As-tested, you'll pay around $152,195 with destination.
These two behemoths will happily wrestle for the crown of the ultimate 7 Series all day long. The Alpina B7 is faster, but the M760i strikes back with the novelty of its supremely smooth V12. The B7 is cheaper and more exclusive, but the M760i has a V12. The B7 is faster by a hair, but the M760i has… a V12. You can see where we're going with this: the M760i's defining feature over the B7 is its torque-rich V12 engine. But even that doesn't translate into better performance. For less money, the Alpina B7 is faster, lighter, and more fun to drive. It also looks fantastic. If you are buying a 7 Series primarily to be chauffeured around, we could see why you'd go for the V12. But in almost every other area, the Alpina B7 feels and looks like the more special machine. It's the one we'd have.
Like the BMW M760i, the Porsche Panamera Turbo is more expensive than the Alpina B7. With launch control, the Panamera Turbo beats the B7 to 60 mph by a tenth of a second. Both are still monstrously fast super luxury sedans. On a twisty road, the Alpina B7 more than holds its own, but the Porsche is almost 300 pounds lighter and, together with a super-accurate steering system, remains the better driver's car. The B7 is a better luxury car, though, with a smoother ride, a bigger cabin (especially if you sometimes need to seat five) and a much better infotainment system. Porsche has been stingier with standard features, though - the B7 has more indulgent, widely adjustable seats and a superior list of standard safety equipment. If this were a standard 7 Series, we'd be tempted to go for the Porsche. But the Alpina B7 is just so cool - and backs it up with breathtaking ability - that it's our choice here.
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