Today, the BMW ALPINA B7 made its North American debut at the Chicago International Auto Show and will go on sale at authorized BMW Centers in Spring of 2010. While the car presents no surprises to most of us, seeing it person and having a chance to experience the philosophy and design ideas behind the ultra-sporty and luxurious 7-based B7 is something we were looking forward to.
At 5 units per day, the ALPINA B7 is far from a production volume seller and this is where it starts to differentiates itself from the high-end 760 models. The customer base is also quite different. While the 760Li and 760i models represent luxury, comfort and straightline performance, the B7 has a different core base, a customer that is looking for the ultimate customization in their car, uniqueness as some may call it, but also looking to enjoy one of the sportiest ultra-luxurious sedans and to overtake the curvy roads with a full confidence given by the dynamic and performance of the B7.
ALPINA the tuner company or the ALPINA the car company?
Yes, we know, we have made that mistake before, but corrected it in time. ALPINA is actually a stand alone car manufacturer with approximately 200 employees, mostly engineers and production people. It is a family owned business that works in close co-operation with BMW, therefore an ALPINA can be bought and serviced at local BMW dealerships, and covered if there is a warranty issue.
The B7 production process starts on the BMW assembly line at Dingolfing, but it gets transferred to ALPINA at some point in the process. The ALPINA designers and engineers are involved in the development process from its inception and despite the parts sharing between the two companies, some design elements and software are custom built by ALPINA, rather than improved or modified. Here is where ALPINA moves away from its “tuner company” label.
History and connection to the U.S. market
ALPINA made its entrance into the U.S. market back in 2003 with a special edition of the Z8 that was sold directly through BMW dealerships, marking a first for Alpina, whose cars had never been sold through retail channels in the USA.
Previously 7 Series-based E65 B7 was only available in North America as a limited edition in 2007 and 2008.
The New B7
B7 is powered by a 4.4 liter V8 twin-turbocharged engine, a powerplant based on the one found in the 750 models which has gone through an ALPINA treatment. From the custom software to the different turbos (the two turbochargers operate in parallel, with generously-dimensioned turbine vanes measuring 44mm in diameter), the B7 engine is an art within itself and it offers a performance that many of us only get to dream of: 500 (373kW) horsepower and 516 lb-ft (700Nm) of torque. At 115hp (85kW) per liter and with a maximum average compression of 20.1 bar, the B7’s engineers have truly sets a benchmark even amongst established sports cars.
This rear-wheel drive performance/luxury Sedan achieves 0-60 mph in 4.5 sec and ALPINA claims even less on a perfect track with a great driver. With maximum torque available across an unusually broad engine range, from 3,000 to 4,750 rpm, the B7 accelerates effortlessly from virtually any speed up to the electronically limited maximum speed of 174mph.
Keeping all that power at normal temperature levels is achieved through several cooling solutions implemented across the front-end, especially through the two air openings integrated into the front-bumper. The low-temperature intercooler integrates into the radiator package.
The six-speed sport automatic ALPINA SWITCH-TRONIC transmission offers several settings for all the different drivers out there, from Sport, Sport+ to Manual model. To manually select the gears, the driver may use buttons found on the back of the ALPINA custom steering wheel, an opposite approach to BMW’s shift paddles.
The car features an unique ALPINA electronically-adjustable suspension with Active Roll Stabilization and it sits on custom made, aerodynamic, ALPINA trademarked 20-spoke 21 inches wheels. The light-weight 21″ wheels are wrapped around by custom made wheels developed specifically for the B7 by the french tire-maker MICHELIN – 245/35 R21 front and 285/30 R21 rear. B7’s are equipped with conventional tires, just another thing why we fell in love with it instantly.
To cope with its enhanced power and to achieve the perfect 50-50 balance, the car keep “its nose” closer to the ground, due to the larger tires at the rear and the different suspensions.
Inside, ALPINA leaves their trademark again, from the illuminated B7 badge on the door sill trims, the ALPINA logo on the dashboard and ALPINA hand-stitched Lavalina leather steering wheel, to the Black-Panel LCD screen instrument cluster branded with ALPINA Alcantara headliner. If we were to sum up the interior in one phrase, it would be “luxury at its finest”.
For the first time in the B7, the customer will have a wide range of selection when it comes to exterior paint. The full complement of BMW 7 Series exterior colors remains available, in addition to the signature ALPINA Blau metallic paint. Inside, customers can also choose from the BMW trim available for the 7 Series.
In the US, the 2011 BMW ALPINA B7 sedan will retail for $122,875 (standard wheelbase) and $126,775 (extended wheelbase). Both prices include $875 Destination & Handling.
In the next few days, we will have a second episode on the ALPINA B7 with unique information related to the car and the brand, so stay tuned!
[Photo Credit: Shawn Molnar]