BMW Alpina B7 is an insider’s secret
Cooley asks, Why have any 7 Series when you can have an Alpina?
An Alpina B7 is basically a 7 Series with a better pedigree, a class warrior among the high class. Its similarities to the M760Li are numerous: Long wheelbase, 600 or so HP, 590 lb-ft of torque, AWD and a virtually identical 0-60 time. The two diverge most heavily on base price, with the $139,000 V8-powered B7 being a bargain compared to the $157,000 V12-powered M760Li. But the real difference between them is personality.
BMW, in partnership with tuner Alpina, only makes a few hundred B7s for the US market in a given year. And where the M760Li has power rippling under every crease of its tautly-cut suit, the B7 needs to be coaxed more – then comes roaring out of hell. Its acts as though it has less to prove than its M cousin.
Front and rear air suspension are adaptive and can change height, squatting down 0.8″ when you hit 140 MPH. I didn’t get a chance to test that.
Alpina tunes in their own suspension and transmission feel along with a different power curve, much of that achieved by a revised intake, top-nested turbos, intercoolers and related plumbing to get better breathing from the N63B BMW 4.4 liter V8. Its all finished off with a unique aero kit along with color and trim choices that are flashier than the typical somber 7.
The instrument panel is mostly LCD, with distinctive Alpina colors, typography and presentation of the various drive modes.
Inside there’s the satisfying new iDrive system with a much more clear and digestible interface. And then there’s the remarkable – and pointless – gesture control. You’ll show it off once per each person who gets in your car the first time. Then you’re done.
CarPlay, yes, Android Auto, no. That’s annoying. We had optional BW audio in our car, but satellite radio still sounded pretty awful, so I’m on the fence about this $3,400 option.
Voice recognition is really good, a solid example of natural language, but strangled by its paucity of broad context and any real knowledge about me. Back to your phone and “OK, Google”.
The rear seat area can be equipped with the usual array of recline, massage, heating cooling, as well as a trick motorized tablet that ports most of the features of the front row head unit.
If you are in the market for a high performance 7 Series and want a unusual one that is something of a bargain and has its own elegant way of hammering down the road, the B7 is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, they’re probably all sold out by the time you read this.