An amazing achievement - but hard to recommend

Our Verdict

Alpina B7

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

27 May 2009

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.

John McIlroy

All photos by Cliff Serna

Join the debate

Comments
11

28 May 2009

Combined 23.7 mpg

Madness...

28 May 2009

I never thought I'd say this about any kind of new 7-series, but that car is stunningly good to look at. If I had the money.... If, if, if!

28 May 2009

I'm not sure people want to really stretch the legs of a car like this - the manic acceleration is just as entertaining in the 10 second burst when you can actually use it.

28 May 2009

".......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....."

BMW engineers take note. The 7-series has the potential to beat the S-class. It certainly handles and drives better, but it also needs a better to ride to become the superior luxury car. So take a leaf out of Alpina's book and ditch the runflats in favour of standard tyres until you are genuinely able to make them provide as good a ride and not a moment before.

28 May 2009

[quote Topkat]

Combined 23.7 mpg

Madness...

[/quote]

I don't actually think its that bad...maybe I just out of touch! Not much worse than a standard petrol car.

RMJ

28 May 2009

I agree, it is stunning.

I saw a high-spec 730d with cool alloys on a stand at Lisbon Airport in Jan and was smitten. I came home and read a review about the poor ride and was disappointed.

Why I worry about these things I don't know, I could never afford one. It's nice to know though that Alpina have sorted the ride out.

28 May 2009

what a brute! :))

28 May 2009

Great! Just what the world needs, a 2 tonne, 500bhp, 174mph behemoth.

28 May 2009

[quote blowerbentley]Great! Just what the world needs, a 2 tonne, 500bhp, 174mph behemoth.[/quote] says someone whos profile name is blowerbentley- loll,not many low calorie Bentleys about - but seriously its hardly like its going to be selling in large quantities- its a very low volume showcase of a car- its great BMW has someone like Alpina to tinker round with their products and make them better and wilder

29 May 2009

stunning upgrade from the 7-series, especially concerning the looks. and those alloys: oh my god. this is a piece of art, which are words quite unconnectable with the original bmw product

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