2018 BMW Alpina B7 review: The de facto M7 – Roadshow
For as long as BMW has built the 7 Series, it has said it would not make a full-on M7. But that hasn’t stopped the German automaker from rolling out sporty versions with mammoth oomph, like the V12-powered M760i. The mythical M7 does exist, however, just under a different name. BMW tuner Alpina offers a top-thrill 7 Series in the form of its B7 sedan.
Hitting the gym
“B” might be far from “M” in the alphabet, but Alpina’s formula follows the BMW M playbook very closely. With the 750i as the starting point, Alpina extensively reworks the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with a freer flowing air intake, intercooler, turbochargers, stainless steel exhaust and cooling system improvements. Sending power to all four wheels is a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission with beefed up components and optimized shift points in Sport mode that will hold a gear even when it’s bouncing off the rev limiter.
All of that results in output of 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque — increases of 155 and 110, respectively, over the base 750i. This closely matches the M760i’s 601 ponies and 590 pound-feet, and both cars share a 3.6-second 0-60 time. One fact that B7 owners can rub in the face of M760i drivers is that the Alpina can be optioned to reach a top speed of 192 miles per hour, while the V12-powered car is limited to just 155.
Not that you’ll ever come close to 155 mph on public roads, even though the Alpina B7 certainly feels like it’d have no trouble reaching high-triple-digit territory. Dropping the hammer in Sport mode has the speedometer surpassing posted speed limits in no time with the exhaust giving off an ear-pleasing low growl. Power is available everywhere throughout the rev range, though feels beyond plentiful right around 3,000 rpm.
Don’t feel like rocketing away from every stop? Flip things to Comfort and everything simmers down with drivetrain providing smooth, gingerly launches, while returning an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Not shabby considering the car’s size and capabilities.
Alpina improves upon the 7 Series’ reflexes by adding unique suspension geometry, calibrations for the air springs and all-wheel drive system, and 255/40R20 front and 295/35R20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus tires. Combine that with rear-wheel steering and the big sedan hustles through bends and changes directions swiftly with impressive composure.
You won’t feel the urge to register for the next BMW Club track day with the B7, but you will have a descent time storming around back roads and slinging around expressway interchanges. Steering is responsive with crisp turn-in and good feedback through the wheel. The suspension gives way to a little lean before taking a set and tracking through with good grip.
Sure, the B7 is a sharper handler compared to the 750i, but it still mainly hangs its hat on the fact that it is a supreme cruiser. Comfort mode yields sensational ride behavior with the suspension gobbling up impacts from all but the most severe road imperfections. The cabin stays quiet with wind and tire noise never being issues.
A little extra style
Also with the B7’s extra performance comes specific visual touches to give it some extra pizzazz. Most noticeable are the awesome Alpina 20-spoke wheels joined by tasteful touches like an exclusive front lip, rear spoiler and diffuser. On the inside, there are specific graphics for the instrument cluster, center console production plate and an Alpina steering wheel. That steering wheel features Alpina-specific quick-shift buttons instead of paddles for manual gear changes, and while they work just fine, they’re really small. I prefer BMW’s standard paddle shifters.
The rest of the cabin is the standard 7 Series setup with every seat coddling passengers with soft leather surfaces and lots of head- and legroom. Front passengers have heated, cooled and massaging seats, while the folks in back have some serious legroom that I actually used to carry nine cases of Pergo flooring home from Lowe’s. There’s an additional 18.2 cubic-feet of useful space in the trunk.
Since it’s a BMW, the B7 comes with iDrive infotainment, using a 10.2-inch touchscreen with navigation (with over-the-air updates), a fantastic 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system and an always-handy Wi-Fi hotspot. The iDrive system is solid with an intuitive interface and quick response to commands, but for customers who prefer to hand infotainment controls over their smartphone, it can run AppleCarPlay as long as you are willing to pay BMW an extra $ 300 for the privilege. Android Auto users are still out of luck.
There’s certainly no shortage of safety technology available, including features like blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist and a great adaptive cruise control system with stop-and-go. To help keep all the corners of the B7 clean in parking lots, a surround view camera and parking sensors are also offered, though many of these are bundled within different option groups.
How I’d spec it
I usually take a conservative approach when building my ideal cars, but with the B7, I’m going to splurge. After all, if a car already starts at $ 139,795, what’s a few thousand bucks more, right?
I would begin with an Alpina Blue Metallic paint job and then add the $ 900 Driver Assistance Package mainly for the blind-spot monitor and the $ 700 Parking Assistance Package for the 360-degree camera and parking sensors to make situations in lots less stressful. Then I’d add the $ 3,400 Bowers & Wilkins audio system because it sounds that good and the $ 1,050 Alcantara headliner to have my B7 sticker for $ 145,845, which includes $ 995 destination. That’s still more reasonable than my $ 153,095 test car.
Compared to the M760i which begins at about $ 159,000, the 2018 BMW Alpina B7 can be looked at as sort of a bargain. To some, the B7 won’t have quite the cool factor of the M760i without a V12 under the hood, but arguably the Alpina offers a more distinctive look and nearly similar performance.
As for the competition, the Mercedes-AMG S63 presents a problem for the B7 and M760i with its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 outmuscling them with 603 horsepower, 664 pound-feet of torque and quicker 3.4-second 60 mph time. The B7 still does hold a cost advantage over the $ 148,495 AMG, though.
In reality, people cross shopping a B7, M760i and S63 will be hard pressed to be truly disappointed by any of them. But the Alpina treatment makes this car look and feel a bit more special. It’s not a true M7, but it’s not too far off, either.