A BMW 7 Series on steroids. Preposterous?
Not when Alpina’s red-hot tech marries BMW’s punctilious elegance.
By Helmut Dostal
For more than 50 years, Alpina has got under the hood with BMW’s engineers to create automobiles that cater to a very special group of brand aficionados and journalists alike.
All in the family
The legend behind Alpina’s refined approach is industrialist Burkard Bovensiepen, who started the relationship in 1965 with the design and birth of the iconic Weber dual carburetor system. Since then, Burkard’s commitment to envelope-pushing technology and polished craftsmanship has earned Alpina models the respect of BMW’s engineers and matching factory warranties on their cars.
Alpina B7s earn their stripes with wicked customizations such as a high-punching drivetrain and advanced suspension geometry, muscular engine performance and chassis technology, and enhancements to a number of exterior and interior design elements. Indeed, the Alpina insignia on the steering wheel is truly a well-earned badge of honour.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
My test car was the BMW Alpina B7, a shiny blue, track-honed, 4.4-litre eight-cylinder Bi-Turbo boasting 600 hp and the xDrive all-wheel drive system. Its cheeky acceleration performance of 3.7 seconds from zero to 100 km/h and a top speed of 310 km/h is assertively speeding into Porsche territory.
True to their working relationship to date, the Alpina/BMW teams have packed a host of new technologies into this car. For starters, this baby’s been given a state-of-the-art carbon core body and their most advanced two-axle air suspension, which includes their trademark integral active rear-wheel steering system that turns the rear wheels as opposed to the front wheels, for improved maneuverability.
As needed, engineers have made sure that the Alpina B7’s ground clearance can be raised by 20 mm. At high speeds above 225 km/h, the ride height of the car is lowered by 20 mm.
Run flats be gone. My vehicle sports new 21-inch forged lightweight Alpina wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport high-performance tires. The considerable power of the eight-cylinder Bi-Turbo engine delivers maximum torque of 590 lb-ft from 3,000 rpm via the eight-speed sport automatic transmission with BMW Alpina Switch-tronic. This promises the driver split-second gear shift capabilities in manual mode for a highly spirited driving style. Now we’re talking.
As I would expect in a top-tier sedan, the BMW Alpina B7 is available with an exhaustive list of safety features, multiple cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar sensors that support the driving stability control systems. These include brake assist to boost braking force during an emergency stop, drive-off assist to prevent the vehicle from rolling back on an incline, and active protection for detecting critical driving situations. Also featured are rear-collision warning and activation-safety functions to close the windows and sunroof automatically if the system detects imminent danger. Side collision and blind-spot detection warnings (with steering intervention at speeds between 70 and 210 km/h) add to driver and passenger protection, as does lane departure warning with
vibrating steering wheel and steering intervention. Night vision with pedestrian and animal detection (using an infrared camera) and approach-control warning activates an audible alert and automatic brake activation.
The B7 does not just keep its driver and occupants safe—it also provides them with an ultra-luxurious interior environment. From Nappa-leather covered seats and instrument panel to soft-close doors, a panoramic glass sunroof and Bowers & Wilkins sound system, the serenity and performance inside the BMW Alpina B7 defies its remarkable power and top-notch performance. With the latest in connectivity, including Wi-Fi and the ability to control basic functions with hand gestures, which took me a bit of getting used to, this ground-breaking duo have themselves another clear winner.
No looking back for me.