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.