by Gerhard Horn
The Alpina XB7 is an oddity, but a wonderful one at that. BMW itself doesn't bother making M versions of anything wearing a 7 badge, and for good reason: The 7 models are built for comfort, not performance. Sure, they're powerful, but the main aim is rather effortless speed as opposed to lap times. We've spent a lot of time in the BMW X7 M50i, and at no point did its 523 horsepower feel like it wasn't enough. We're talking about a seven-seater leviathan that can get to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. That's perfectly fine for the school run and for scaring some fairly capable sports cars.
Enter the Alpina XB7, which is aimed at people who like to sleep late. If you want to absolutely dominate the school run, you are the target market. This X7 comes with 612 horses and tops out at 180 mph. Thankfully, Alpina doesn't mess with the comfort. The plush interior and superb ride are two of the main reasons why you'd buy an X7, making it a worthy competitor to the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 and even the more prestigious Bentley Bentayga. You might be wondering why BMW allows both its M division and Alpina to exist? It's simple. BMW's M division turns everything related to a specific model up to 11. Alpina simply makes cars faster and more luxurious. Is the Alpina XB7 worth the additional $40,000 investment over the standard X7 M50i or the cheaper Mercedes rival mentioned above?
The BMW Alpina XB7 was a brand-new 2021 model and is now in its second year on the market in the USA. Very little is changing, except for wireless charging being dropped as a standard feature and the Bluetooth connectivity being enhanced for the new model year. Other than that, the sunshades on the rear side windows are now electrically operated and no longer manual. The extra-cost options have also been tweaked and some items removed.
See trim levels and configurations:
4.4L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
We'll let you decide whether the X7 is a handsome vehicle or not, and as far as the XB7 goes, it gets 21-inch alloy wheels from Alpina's side, while the brand's iconic multi-spoke 23-inch wheels are optional. The 2022 Alpina XB7 has a unique front fascia with Alpina lettering lower down. The rear view isn't much more aggressive than that of the X7 M50i, but it does feature unique quad exhaust tips. This is usually an M design characteristic, but BMW probably let it slide because it's a subtle performance hint and not outrageously OTT. The aerodynamics have been specially considered by Alpina, so the big brute gets a purposefully designed front spoiler, rear apron, and diffuser. The XB7 also gets a standard three-part panoramic glass moonroof, and LED headlights and fog lights. Overall, Alpina adds to the appeal of the X7, but it's a bit like painting an elephant gold. It's still an X7 underneath, which is not an easy thing to hide.
Alpina's XB7 is a big lump of a car, and the slab-sided styling doesn't do it any favors. The overall length is 203.3 inches. The width, including the side mirrors, is 87.3 inches, and it's 70.7 inches tall. Alpina lowered the XB7 to improve the center of gravity, but the ground clearance remains useful at 8.4 inches. The 122.2-inch wheelbase also means a lot of space inside, though the third row's placement above the rear wheels is worrying from a comfort point of view. The XB7's sheer size is reflected in the curb weight of 5,860 pounds.
The exterior paint palette for the 2022 BMW Alpina XB7 takes itself rather seriously, with somber, sophisticated colors available. Some of these are shared between the standard X7 and the XB7 for 2022. No-cost options include Alpine White, Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Phytonic Blue, Arctic Grey, and Alpina Blue, with Manhattan Green being added to this list this year. The more exclusive colors cost $1,950, but you may have to wait up to ten weeks before taking delivery if you select these. Options include Tanzanite Blue II, Ametrin, and Dravit Grey. The latter is a lovely metallic green-grey, which is traditionally the best color option on Alpina-branded cars.
The XB7 is based on the X7 M50i derivative. As the "M" in its name suggests, it's not a slouch. The standard car's twin-turbo V8 engine boasts specs of 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, and an all-wheel-drive system. This tremendous grunt gets the X7 M50i from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 130 mph. But, after Alpina is done with it, the 4.4L twin-turbo V8 produces 612 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. That's more or less on par with the 617 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque the M Division gets out of the same engine. Both engines deliver their maximum torque and power at similar points in the rev range, but the XB7's uniquely tuned V8 has a slightly different character.
The power delivery in the X5 M is comparatively frantic, while the Alpina's power delivery is more Bentley Bentayga-like. It's the difference between sweaty palms, and an incredible forward surge you feel in the pit of the stomach. Compared with the X7 M50i, the XB7's extra helping of power shaves half a second off the sprint time. The 0-60 mph sprint is down to four seconds dead, although the difference is harder to discern in reality. The X5 M is a bit faster, but it's also a smaller and lighter vehicle. As for other rivals, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is not only cheaper but nearly as quick - it needs just 4.1 seconds for the 0-60 run. Alpina increases the top speed of the XB7 to 180 mph.
To increase the power of the standard engine, Alpina optimized the turbochargers, cooling, and exhaust systems. Alpina adds its own specific cooling system upgrade, and the stock exhaust system is replaced with the same stainless-steel unit found in the B7 sedan. Alpina fettled the standard eight-speed automatic transmission and added model-specific mapping.
Like BMW, Alpina's focus with the XB7 was designing an engine suited to a luxury SUV. The standard 4.4-liter V8 from BMW produces 553 lb-ft from 1,800 rpm. This suits a large sports utility vehicle perfectly, as that low-down grunt gets the heavy body up to speed with little effort. A rev-happy engine simply wouldn't work in this application. Alpina increases the power output to 612 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. The latter figure is the most important, and all of it arrives at 2,000 rpm. Alpina also provides a torque diagram on its website, and it is beautiful to behold, albeit a bit nerdy. The full whack of torque arrives at 2,000 rpm and then it remains absolutely flat until 5,000 rpm before it starts tapering off.
The changes to the gearbox aren't noticeable. We suspect the changes Alpina made are in the interest of longevity, rather than reducing shift times. It does exactly what a gearbox should do in a car like this. It's forgettable, and that's not a criticism. In a luxury car, you want to engage drive and forget the wheels are driven by something as uncivilized as a box of cogs.
Alpina has made a few serious upgrades in this department. The Alpina sport suspension includes full air suspension, a new adaptive damping system, and a dome-bulkhead strut to increase rigidity. You also get Integral Active Steering with rear-axle steering, which does feel sharper and provides more feedback. This steering system offers three driving modes: Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. According to the marketing fluff, the XB7 sits 1.6 inches closer to the ground in its lowest, raciest setting. This means it has a lower center of gravity, which is a must in a performance car. Finally, it adds an electronically-variable active limited-slip differential and much bigger Brembo brake calipers.
We like the straight-line speed and the bigger brakes. An SUV (or SAV, as the X7 and XB7 prefer to be called) with this much power needs all the brakes. The rest is a bit like pasting a GTI badge to the rear of an elephant. Sure, you notice the differences when you push the limits, but the resulting speed and G-forces also happen to be the exact requirements needed to get a child blowing chunks like the Niagara falls. The lower center of gravity is a nice bragging point, but to us, it's like boasting about winning a street fight against a one-armed elderly bum. This is still a 5,860 lbs SUV, and you simply can't get around that.
Alpina's limited-slip differential can be useful in the right setting. During a bit of light off-roading, it might provide some assistance, but we can't see the BMW Alpina XB7 doing the kind of 4x4 obstacles that require this feature. And it's certainly not for sliding around. If you switch all of the nannies off, the XB7's default is nice and safe understeer. Try and counteract this with some throttle and the large body will do this sort of weird skipping thing. It doesn't feel dangerous, but it's also not pleasing. If it's sheer driving pleasure you're after, get an X7 xDrive40i. It gives you 335 hp and costs $74,900. You'll still have $66,400 left over, which you can spend on a BMW M2 Competition.
Despite all the serious performance hardware that allows a three-row SUV to corner at high speeds without toppling over, Alpina's mission has always been different from what BMW's M department does. BMW M does a full overhaul of a car, basically turning it into a track-ready weapon. Alpina adds speed, but retains the comfort associated with standard Bimmers. That's where the XB7 really shines. It's stupid fast, yet remains as comfortable as the standard X7.
Impressively, the XB7 has the exact EPA estimated figures as the standard M50i. Both should be capable of 15/21/17 mpg city/highway/combined. These figures will likely dip into single digits if you make use of the entire 612 horses at every opportunity, however.
Thanks to a sizable 21.9-gallon tank, the XB7 can theoretically do around 370 miles between refills.
Alpina is much more than just a stellar tuner of engines and suspensions - it also has a knack for creating wonderfully opulent interiors. You might be wondering how you can improve upon the luxury levels of a top-tier BMW model, but it's not mission impossible. Think of the Alpina as a midway point between the standard X7 and the Rolls Royce Cullinan. Alpina adds several features that aren't available on the standard X7. In addition to that, the XB7 comes with its own unique options list boasting a few features you'd typically only find on a Rolls Royce, like the panoramic sky lounge LED roof, which can illuminate more than 15,000 graphic patterns. Alpina also adds its own iDrive selector, illuminated shifter, and start/stop button, all made of glass, as well as an Alpina steering wheel, wood trim, and plaques.
Additionally, Alpina gives some flair to the digital instrument cluster, but the 12.3-inch infotainment system is carried over as-is from the standard X7, just with some Alpina graphics and features. Alpina's selection of wood trim is also stamped with a small badge if only to show that the owner didn't pick something from the standard X7's list.
Unlike BMW's M Division, Alpina makes go-faster cars while retaining comfort levels. In this case, the same seating arrangements apply to the Alpina XB7 as it does to the BMW SUV: It can be ordered in full seven-seater or six-seater configurations. The seven-seater gets a three-seat bench in the second-row, while the six-seater gets a set of captain's chairs instead of the bench.
The front and second row are quite spacious. Headroom is 41.9 inches in the front, 39.9 inches in the second row, and 36.6 inches in the third row. Front occupants get 39.8 inches of legroom, while second-row passengers get 37.6 inches. BMW doesn't provide a legroom figure for the third-row, and we don't know why. The legroom is ample for an average-sized adult, but six-footers will struggle to find space for their knees. It's not perfect back there, but BMW has done a much better job with the X7's seating configuration than most.
The standard X7 already has a stunningly finished interior but the XB7 takes it up another couple of notches. High-quality Merino leather is standard, and all nine color options come with an availability warning. Basically, if you want an XB7, you're going to have to wait a few weeks for it. Four of the nine options are available at no extra charge: Ivory White, Coffee, Black, and Tartufo. The $1,500 leather package ditches the remaining leatherette-covered surfaces completely and is available in the same colors mentioned above. An Ivory White and Night Blue blend is also available. The XB7 also features a hand-finished Alpina Lavalina leather steering wheel with signature blue and green stitching, and a crystal glass iDrive Controller.
The trim selection consists of eight options found on the standard X7 and the BMW Individual selection. The selection includes Brown-Metallic Ash Grain Wood, Piano Black, and Individual Fine Wood Ash Grain, to name just a few. Alpina's selection consists of Myrtle Wood, Piano Black, and Walnut Nature Black. These three Alpina options are available at no extra charge.
The XB7 is marketed as a seven-seater, with an available six-seater configuration. Considering the exterior dimensions and what other manufacturers offer, the XB7's cargo capacity figures are poor. In fact, BMW doesn't even mention the cargo capacity with all six/seven seats in place, most likely due to embarrassment. The XB7 has 12.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity with all seats in place, which is enough for two people but quite useless in a seven-seater. Fold the third row flat in a 50/50 split, and the cargo capacity increases to a useful 48.6 cubes. With the second-row folded forward, the cargo capacity increases to 90.4 cubes.
Interior storage is more impressive. The doors have large pockets, and front-row occupants get an armrest cubby and a sizable storage area hidden underneath a piece of wood trim located in front of the shifter. There are dual cupholders fore and aft, which are, naturally, heated and cooled.
The XB7 is essentially an X7 with the most important optional features included as standard. As such, it boasts 18-way power-adjustable heated front seats with memory function and 4-way lumbar settings, massaging front seats, heated rear seats, soft-close automatic doors, a two-piece panoramic glass moonroof, quad-zone climate control, a power-adjustable steering column, and heated/cooled cupholders. The power trunk lid has a hands-free opening function, too. A five-zone climate control system is rare, but it's optional in the XB7 and allows third-row passengers to control their own climate settings via a dedicated panel in the roof.
On the safety side, the XB7 comes standard with active blind spot assist, a parking assistant, lane keep assist, frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, active cruise control, and a surround-view camera system with 3D view. Steering and traffic jam assist, an evasion assistant and cross-traffic alert front and rear also form part of the package. A full color head-up display is standard.
Alpina doesn't change much when it comes to infotainment because BMW already did an excellent job. The Live Cockpit Professional setup makes use of two 12.3-inch displays and iDrive 7.0 software which is voice, touch, and touchpad operated. In the XB7, the infotainment system boasts Alpina-designed graphics, but not much else changes from the standard X7. The system is compatible with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM with 360L, and HD Radio. Connected navigation with traffic updates is also standard.
In terms of audio, there is a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system, but last year's Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound unit is no longer available as an option. A rear-seat entertainment system is another option and adds dual screens attached to the front seat backs.
When it comes to reliability, there have been two XB7-specific recalls in the US in 2021, and it concerns child seat tethers that are difficult to access and second-row head restraints that could detach in the event of a crash. The 2022 model has been recall-free so far.
Each Alpina model comes standard with a four-year/50,000-mile limited-coverage warranty. Roadside assistance runs for the first four years, rust perforation coverage runs for 12 years, and complimentary scheduled maintenance is included for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has conducted a safety review of the Alpina XB7, and given its scarce nature, it's doubtful they ever will. Unfortunately, we don't have a safety review for the standard BMW X7 either, as it's also too expensive to smash to bits. The good news is that BMW's SUVs have a history of performing well in crash tests, and it's highly unlikely the current jewel in its crown will be unsafe.
The XB7 comes standard with numerous airbags including dual front, front side, and side curtain. A surround-view camera and parallel park assist are included as well. In addition to that, Alpina also includes a full suite of driver assistance features under the Active Driving Assistant Professional suite - this includes frontal collision warning, active blind spot detection, lane departure warning, speed limit info, active cruise control with stop & go, an active lane keeping assistant with side collision avoidance, a steering and traffic jam assistant, automatic lane change, an evasion assistant & cross-traffic alert front and rear. Post-crash braking and a fatigue/focus alert function are standard as well, while you can keep your eyes on the road thanks to a standard color head-up display.
The only major benefit we can think of with the XB7 is bragging rights. If your neighbor has an X7 M50i and you want to upstage him, get one of these. Our main problem is that the X7 didn't need more power. We spent a reasonable amount of time behind the wheel of the M50i and at no point did it feel slow. Remember, this giant SUV uses a detuned version of the same 4.4-liter twin-turbo used in the M5. It's already hard to make a case for the existence of the X5 M, and once you add two additional seats and a bigger body, it just becomes too ridiculous. BMW will slap an M badge on just about anything these days, and the fact that it doesn't do a full-fat M version of the X7 should have been the first clue. Families simply don't need to get to 60 mph in less than five seconds. We acknowledge, however, that the XB7 is a fine piece of engineering, utterly luxurious, and feels more special than a regular X7.
However, if you need a seven-seater luxury SUV, we'd recommend the 40i model in our X7 road test. It has ample power, is a lot more affordable, and can tow 7,500 lbs. You get all of the must-have features, so it's not like you're losing anything other than a large amount of power that is completely unnecessary. We'd much rather get a base X7 and spend what's left on a real performance car like the M2 Competition.
The price of the 2022 BMW Alpina XB7 SUV starts at an MSRP of $141,450, excluding the destination charge of $995. We built our example, featuring Dravit Grey paint, 23-inch Alpina Classic wheels, a full black leather interior with Alpina Piano Black trim, and a few must-have standalone options. The total came to just over $155,000.
There's a single XB7 model in the 2022 lineup and it uses a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine with 612 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, sending the power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It is capable of sprinting to 60 mph in four seconds, on to a top speed of 180 mph.
On the outside, the XB7 is easily distinguishable by its 21-inch Alpina alloy wheels, quad exhaust tips, and different front and rear fascias. On the inside, bespoke Alpina parts are used for the headliner, steering wheel, and crystal-glass gear shifter and iDrive controller. Standard features include 18-way electrically adjustable front seats with heating, cooling, massaging, and memory functions, Merino leather upholstery, and quad-zone climate control. The infotainment system has a 12.3-inch screen and comes with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, HD Radio, and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
Standard-fit safety features include frontal-collision warning with city collision mitigation, lane-keep and blind-spot assist, a surround-view camera system, and a parking assistant, to name a few.
There are no optional packages available for the XB7, which is comprehensively outfitted as is. But a host of standalone features are available, and, considering the luxurious nature of the car, we'd add most of them. The panoramic Sky Lounge LED roof costs $750, while the five-zone climate control adds $800 to the price. Second-row captain's chairs ($850) are a must, as is the rear-seat entertainment system ($2,200).
There is only one model, but there are a few optional extras to throw on. We'd spec ours in Dravit Grey metallic with the Ivory White full-leather package. We'd have to add the spectacular Sky Lounge LED roof and the second-row captain's chairs. Since this is the epitome of luxury, we'd want the rear-seat entertainment system. As built, you're looking at a total of nearly $150,000 including destination, for the BMW Alpina XB7 SUV.
Mercedes-Benz offers the GLS in two flavors, both of which compete with the XB7. The Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is a sportier offering, while the Mercedes-Maybach GLS adds more comfort. We think the Maybach is closer in concept to the XB7, so that's what we'll use. The Maybach starts at $160,500, which is around $20,000 more than the XB7. It's not as clear-cut as that, however. The Maybach comes with luxury business-class rear seats as standard, though it can be converted back to a five-seater at no extra cost. It has more standard features, including a high-end sound system and a dedicated rear tablet from which occupants can control many functions, fitted from the factory floor. The XB7 is faster, however. Still, the Maybach also looks better to our eyes, even though it has a slight whiff of nouveau riche. We'll take the Maybach.
With an MSRP of $99,800, the X7 M50i is $41,650 cheaper than the XB7. While we appreciate all of the changes Alpina makes, we're not entirely convinced it's worth the money. The average driver won't notice the 0.5-second difference in the 0-60 mph time, and you'll get arrested if you attempt the 180-mph top speed. If you go for the M50i and add every option, the total still only comes to around $118,000 including destination. And the standard X7 is an already impressive product. BMW built a solid all-rounder that somehow manages to be eerily silent and comfortable on all road surfaces. It gets uncomfortably close to the Rolls Royce Cullinan in this department. We don't see why you need to pay $40,000 extra for the Alpina version.
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