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The new Alpina B7 is a slick, quick and elegant take on the super-fast luxury limo

Our Verdict

Alpina B7

The Alpina B7 super-luxobarge makes a modicum of sense on Germany's derestricted autobahns, but not for the UK

8 August 2016

What is it?

What’s the similarity between a fine wine, and a fine car? An odd question, perhaps, but to Andreas Bovensiepen, the CEO of Alpina, an apt one. Of course, you’ll be aware of Alpina’s car production, but did you know there’s an Alpina wine business, too? And to Bovensiepen, the esoteric art of blending and creating complex reds and whites has similarities to creating his bespoke cars, such as this new Alpina B7 Biturbo. 

So swap the raw ingredients of a Malbec or Grenache grape for the recently introduced BMW 7 Series. And instead of vintners refining taste, charge the 250-strong team of engineers and craftsmen, and women, at Alpina’s Buchloe base with delivering the ultimate automotive experience. 

But what kind of experience is that, exactly? The 7 Series is a great variety to choose from; sure, we’ve questioned the fact that it’s a little similar in design to BMW’s cheaper models, but there’s no doubting its technological prowess and superbly engineered chassis. But for Bovensiepen, there was plenty of scope to make it a better fit with his company’s philosophy: long-distance comfort, effortless performance and responsive dynamics.

So we find ourselves at Buchloe to discover if they’ve succeeded, but first let’s mull over the stats. The B7’s V8 engine shares the same basic architecture as the one used in the 750i, including its capacity of 4395cc and 90-degree vee angle. Two twin-scroll turbochargers still nestle in the vee, although thanks to bigger inlets and outlets and modified compressors, they now pump at up to 1.4bar. 

Larger intercoolers, which are flow-optimised to reduce any losses, help to keep this pressurised air cool and dense, before it’s primed with fuel. At this point it’s compressed further at a heady ratio of 10.0:1 by pistons developed by F1 supplier Mahle, then ignited by bespoke NGK plugs. 

The result is 600bhp and 590lb ft of torque. Yep, we know, that is a lot. Especially when you think that the monstrous torque-fest stretches from 3000 to 5000rpm, and if you think that still sounds a mite peaky, fear not: there’s a 494lb ft slab of it available from 2000rpm. Marvellous. 

Bovensiepen is a racer at heart, and a handy one at that, as his 1998 overall win at the Nürburgring 24 Hours proves, so he has a good feel for how a car should drive. He never wants an Alpina to be tricky on the limit, like arguably some BMW M models can be, but he dislikes understeer. In fact, he hates it.

He likes a neutral balance, so the B7 has some extra negative camber dialled in to the front wheels to give the tyres more bite. The 7 Series’ four-wheel steering has been retained, as has the air suspension, but with Alpina setting the parameters. This includes a Sport+ mode, which instantly drops the car’s ride height by 20mm to lower the centre of gravity. The same thing happens automatically once at speeds beyond 143mph. 

What's it like?

The B7 is quick - golly-gosh sort of quick. The version we tried was fitted with xDrive four-wheel drive, which manages the power well enough to launch it off the line and on to 62mph in 3.7sec. Annoyingly, BMW doesn’t do a right-hand-drive 750i xDrive for the UK, so all B7s sold here will be rear-wheel drive, and a touch slower as a result - by half a second, to be precise. It's still far from shabby, though.

The engine is surprisingly boosty, with a good second’s delay between the throttle pedal hitting the stop and your head hitting the headrest. This isn’t the problem you might imagine it to be, though. Most of the time, full throttle is unnecessary, thanks to the enormous level of torque that’s accessible even before full boost comes in. So when you are driving it at up to, say, sixth-tenths, it wafts along in an effortless fashion. The sublimely smooth gearchanges and the muffled eight-cylinder note lingering in the background add to the air of tranquillity. 

Then, when you give it the beans and the active baffles in the bespoke stainless exhausts open up, the pipes trumpet loud but thoroughly dignified woofles to you and any fortunate passersby. At the same time, the B7 sits back on its haunches and the bonnet rises by a few centimetres. Not in a lairy, intrusive way; it’s more subtle than that, and deeply satisfying. If the forces acting on your body weren’t enough of a pointer, this just reminds you of the prolific speed you are gathering with each passing moment. 

Join an autobahn at, let's say, 40mph, and if it’s clear, you’ll see 170mph showing on the Alpina-remodelled digital instruments in a time that feels like it would trouble a superbike. We didn’t test the theory that it’ll crack 205mph, but we don’t doubt for a moment that it would. We can tell you that at silly speeds, Alpina’s attention to aero detail has paid dividends; the B7 feels rock solid.

In Comfort mode, those air-filled balloons supporting you and the car absorb the cragginess of most roads. The only issue is that typical 'crash' you get from air-sprung cars, as the hollow bellows fail to stifle the noise, rather than the actual induced motion, from hitting sharp intrusions. There’s a bit of wind noise past 80mph, but road noise, even with the big 295-width rear tyres running across dimpled surfaces, is never an issue. 

Press on through corners and Comfort mode still manages the lean pretty ably. But Sport or even Sport+ are what you need to exploit fully the B7’s remarkable composure. The ride is firm in either of those modes - unnaturally so for a limo - but because of the grip and poise you have, it's quite tolerable; you can only admire the way this two-tonne car switches left to right on a B-road blat. Along with the tauter suspension come sharper manual shifts, operated by signature Alpina steering wheel buttons, rather than paddles. They're so urgent that occasionally, on a full-throttle upshift, you get a mild thwack in the back.

Our only major gripe is the steering. There’s vagueness around the straight-ahead and not enough weight build-up to give you absolute confidence in Comfort mode. Sportier modes dial back the assistance and throw in more feedback, but it’s still not progressive enough; if anything, it becomes too heavy. 

What about the cabin? Well, our car wasn’t that much different from a regular long-wheelbase 7 Series. It had the standard BMW interior, you see, and not the optional Alpina trim, with beautiful Lavalina leather stretched tightly over every surface. Regardless, it’s a smart place in which to sit while you play with the gesture controls, or adjust the style and ferocity of the seat massage facility. 

If you are a bigwig who's opted for a chauffeur to speed you home from a society ball, the rear is an agreeably palatial place. The art-deco-look main lights on the B-pillars are neat, the surrounding ambient lighting that bathes you is swish and the tablet that controls the various functions is entertaining. Personally, simply watching the outside world whizz by, while swaddled in the lap of luxury, was amusement enough.  

Should I buy one?

If you like pomp and ceremony, the Alpina B7 probably won’t appeal. It's simply not flashy in the mould of a Roll-Royce or Bentley, or even a Mercedes-AMG S 63. In fact, to my eyes, Alpinas are even more discreet than the BMWs on which they are based. When you see someone sitting behind the wheel of one, you know this is a person who knows his cars, and while he has the money to be meretricious, he chooses not to be. 

You can question the point of the B7. But then what's the point of any super-quick, luxurious car? Let's not go there, though; if we open up that Pandora's box, we'll all end up driving some modern-day Trabant. ​Instead, let's celebrate the B7 and the company the builds it. It's not perfect and probably only really makes sense if you live your life on autobahns. And I do think it's shame that we're going to be deprived of this four-wheel-drive version, because I can imagine the rear-drive car, which costs £115,000, could be a tad twitchy on a greasy road. Still, there's no doubting that the B7 is a highly capable and thoroughly lovely thing, built by enthusiasts, for (wealthy) enthusiasts.

The B7's greatest plaudit came from our snapper, John Bradshaw. I’ve never heard John say anything much about the cars he shoots. But today, after moseying around Bavaria together in the B7, he suddenly piped up: “I’d quite like one of these.” Believe me, that’s high praise indeed.

Alpina B7 Biturbo AWD

Location Germany; On sale Now (RWD only for UK); Price £126,224; Engine  V8, 4395cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 600bhp at 5750-6250rpm; Torque 590lb ft at 3000-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2110kg; 0-62mph 3.7sec; Top speed 205mph; Economy 27.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 242g/km, 37%; Rivals Mercedes-AMG S 63; Bentley Flying Spur

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Comments
6

8 August 2016
Very cool car. Looks fantastic.

8 August 2016
There's a buyer for every type of Car,whether that's true or not,i think this Car is a Continent crosser,not an Alpine switchback Car,you can hide the weight when on the twisty stuff,gravity still effects how it handles,so,if i spent a lot of time on Motorways and i could afford a Car like this:-(A)I would have a Driver,(B)i'd buy the 5 series version,that's about the right size.

Peter Cavellini.

8 August 2016
Very nice indeed, but why does it weigh as much as 2110kg? I thought with the use of carbon fiber and aluminium the new 7 series weighed under 1900kg (on average). Surely adding 4WD gear and the bigger engine don't add over 200kg, or do they?

8 August 2016
or about the same as an XC90.

10 August 2016
Did BMW save all the old Rover dog poo coloured upholstery when they sold it off.....that interior colour is vile in my eyes. Looks too much like the interior of a late 70's allegro

11 August 2016
inside_man wrote:

Did BMW save all the old Rover dog poo coloured upholstery when they sold it off.....that interior colour is vile in my eyes. Looks too much like the interior of a late 70's allegro

If your dog is dropping logs that colour you'd probably be well advised to take him/her to the vet pdq.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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