Which will deliver the knockout blow?
The new BMW Alpina XB7 is essentially an X7 packing more power, updated styling, and creature comforts. It's closest three-row high-performance SUV rival comes in the form of the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, a three-row, full-size luxury SUV with the power to match the looks. Mercedes-AMG is known for building insane SUVs with spec sheets that look like they belong to a supercar. Has Alpina done enough with the XB7 to give the mighty Merc a run for its money?
Both cars have been designed to make a statement, and by that, we mean that both cars look like they'll be driven by high-ups in the Mexican drug cartel, or worse, professional UFC fighters. Up front, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 looks like its gasping for air through its massive front grille, which is miles bigger than the already substantial unit found on the nose of the XB7. The headlights on the XB7 are too slim for us, and the Mercedes look more cohesive in the front overall.
In the back, things swing in favor of the Alpina XB7. The Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 starts off strong in the front, but can't carry through the same impactful styling in the rear: it looks saggy and well, sad to be honest. The BMW, on the other hand, offers a tighter rear end with conscience lines, and we love the circular exhaust exits.
As with the exterior looks of these cars, the interior is a close call, and at the end quite subjective, as both cars sport impeccable build quality and a fine range of materials and features. Without having been inside the XB7, it's difficult to give a fair judgment, but from the pictures, we can tell that Alpina has gone the full nine yards with custom interior pieces, and we adore the steering wheel, which proudly displays the tuning house's white red and blue crest. In terms of interior space, the XB7 offers more room in the second and third rows and should prove to be the more comfortable car on long road trips.
The GLS 63 has a more stylish interior design: it feels special, and every time you enter the cabin, it feels like an occasion. Since the XB7 offers more practicality and the GLS 63 more design flair, we'll call this one a tie.
As Alpina's first SUV for the US market the XB7 needs to make a statement, and one way to do that is to cram as much power under the hood as possible. The XB7 is powered by an upgraded version of BMW's twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, which features an improved exhaust system adapted from the B7. Total power output is a massive 612 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. That's a power jump of 89 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque over the standard X7 M50i. With all that power rushing to all four corners, the XB7 should see a zero to sixty sprint time of four seconds flat, and continue on to a limited top speed of 180 mph.
The Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 48-volt electric system which Mercedes-AMG call called the EQ Boost starter-generator. This system adds an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to get the big GLS 63 to sixty in only 4.1 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 174 mph. The Alpina XB7 manages to win this one by a slight margin.
You're going to have to cough up a serious amount of extra cash for the privilege of getting behind the wheel of the new Alpina XB7. All those styling changes and increased performance figures mean that the XB7 will set you back a stiff $141,300. The standard X7 M50i goes for over $40,000 less at $99,600 but still offers strong performance and a long list of standard safety features. The mighty Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 also costs less at $132,100 but is only slightly off the pace of the XB7. You know what they say: you pay for exclusivity.
It seems that Alpina's first attempt at a high-performance SUV for the American market will prove successful, especially when compared to the brilliant Mercedes-AMG GLS 63. We dig its exterior styling, the interior looks like it will stand up to the competition, and the cabin, as with the standard X7, offers good space and excellent rear-seat comfort. In terms of performance, the XB7 manages to outdo the GLS 63 by a hair. Its 4.4-liter twin-turbo engine develops more power, and allows the big Bimmer to accelerate faster, and reach a higher, although limited, top speed. We're giving this one to the Alpina.