The Alpina B7 super-luxobarge makes a modicum of sense on Germany's derestricted autobahns, but not for the UK
What is it?
It’s Alpina new range-topper, in effect a BMW 7-series with a bit of extra grunt, a lot more torque, a bespoke interior and some very natty 21-inch alloy wheels that are no longer wrapped around runflat tyres.
This car is the first chance Alpina has had to tweak BMW’s 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 motor, hardly a weakling in its own right. But the revamp is a comprehensive one, even extending to different metals used in the block.
Alpina also remaps the ECU and adds a wide range of extra coolers - including four new ones behind the front valence alone - to keep the engine, intercoolers, hydraulics and transmission in check. There’s no word on the automatic gearbox’s specification, incidentally, but given the tweaked engine’s stats - 500bhp and 516lb ft - we’d be astonished if its internals were regular BMW kit.
The B7 weighs over two tonnes, so the brakes are uprated too; the spec is one often fitted to BMW’s ultra-heavy armoured vehicles.
What Alpina has really created is a rival for the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, a car that BMW itself seems reluctant to build. Performance is staggering, with 0-62mph in a claimed 4.7sec and a top speed - restricted, mind - of 174mph.
What’s it like?
Rapid. Really frighteningly rapid. Okay, so there might be the teeniest delay if you nail the throttle at idle. But by, say 1500rpm, a huge surge of torque is already propelling you way past the UK legal limit and onto speeds that are only of use on autobahns. It feels every bit as quick as the hot Merc - more so, I’d say, given the huge shove offered by the twin turbos.
It’s still a big car, mind you, so don’t think that you’re going to chuck it around like it doesn’t weigh two tonnes. The B7 has four chassis set-ups, but the two extremes - comfort and sport plus - feel unduly wafty and uncomfortably tail-happy respectively.
The two middle set-ups are more effective, but while the B7 feels agile, it feels like a big agile car. Don’t expect 5-series levels of chuckability. The steering is also a little vague around the straight ahead, although it does weight up nicely when you’re pushing on.
The ride is a triumph, however; sure, road noise is more pronounced from the 21-inch Alpina Classic alloys, but the switch from runflats to bespoke Michelins means that you can trundle around urban roads without much fear of being bounced off your (very comfortable) seat. the B7 is comfortable on worn motorways, too, even at more than 150mph.
Should I buy one?
The B7 exists because America and the Middle East love the concept of a huge, rapid executive limousine - and don’t care much about what damage it does to the environment. The new version will only enhance that appeal.
But even though it’s a bit more efficient than the outgoing model (an impressive achievement), and even though the ride is better than many a regular 7-series, it’s hard to recommend the B7 for British buyers. It’s difficult to think of an area of the British Isles big or empty enough for this car to really stretch its legs, so you’d always feel like you were using around 30 per cent of its performance. And at this price, that would be a sorry waste of pace, and cash. A D7, on the other hand...
That said, Alpina’s first take on the twin-turbo V8 petrol is extremely encouraging, given that this lump will almost certainly end up in the next B5. Bring it on.
All photos by Cliff Serna