A little over six months after its debut in the US, the new ALPINA B7 gets more press and publicity from several automotive magazines. First drives took place last year in New Jersey where we spent some time with the car as well.
In a new event that took place in California, InsideLine shares with us their driving impressions and the some bits from ALPINA’s history.
“We are in Sonoma, California, to spend a little more time with the 2011 BMW Alpina B7 than we were able to get at the Monticello Motor Club for our First Drive. Alpina has long been the BMW equivalent of Mercedes-AMG, but it has been more like an engineering company than a purveyor of flashy wheels. Now the Bavarian company is finally getting serious about the U.S. market and it will import 1,000 examples of the BMW Alpina B7 between 2010 and 2011 through BMW dealers.
Driving in the Real World
As we drove across the northern fringe of Sonoma county out to the rugged Pacific coast, the B7 really didn’t feel much different from a conventional 7 Series. But as Bovensiepen points out, this is much harder to accomplish than it seems, since the B7 wears 21-inch examples of Alpina’s famously lightweight, 20-spoke wheels (which also incorporate the air valve into a space beneath the center cap). By dispensing with run-flat tires, he says, the B7 is able to deliver the steering response of a high-performance car with its 21-inch Michelins, yet maintain the ride comfort of a 7 Series on 18-inch tires.
Doing That Track Thing
And of course the next day, we’re hammering this car around Infineon Raceway and it hardly seems like a luxury car at all. Once you dial the chassis calibration to Sport+, the transmission shifts so quick and hard that it can be unpleasant, while the chassis maintains an evenly balanced poise even when the Michelin PS2s get hot, something you really notice in the Turn 1-Turn 3 combination, which sloshes you this way and that as if you were the only cocktail olive in a very large jar.
Bovensiepen is keen to point out that the car’s goodness comes from engineering the mechanical package first, then overlaying it with the electronic safety net that everyday drivers expect. For example, the Alpina-calibrated stability control lets you skate the tires around as long as your inputs are smooth, but as soon as something happens abruptly, the electronics pull your leash short. It’s a very sophisticated approach, one that encompasses the whole car.”