Regrettably, Laguna Seca’s back straight is about as straight as Richard Simmons, runs uphill, and is far too short. There was no top-speed run to be had – this is not Monza, nor is it the Nevada salt flats. But much like Jeep buyers, I suspect ALPINA buyers are drawn to the fact that they could – not that they necessarily would.
194 mph is a very impressive number; it sits squarely in super car territory. Could a 4-door saloon have its wits about it to top out that kind of pace, and deliver in the twisty bits too? Could this 7 series based executive limo be, gulp, track worthy?
We decided to test its metal around Laguna Seca, one of the greatest racetracks this side of the Atlantic. Laguna Seca’s technical corners, elevation changes and heavy braking zones made for an ideal test bed to decipher the B7’s true performance.
They made it faster?
Since I drove the B7 last, it has gained another 40 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque, now showing a tour-de-force 540 hp and 538 ft-lb of torque. It hardly needed it. I recall the last thing I thought the B7 needed was more power. But I’m not complaining.
This additional spin and twist brings the speedometer to new found territories on the gauge. It also gets from 0-60 in a staggering 4.3 seconds – we suspect that with a backwind, warm tires, and a small prayer, the B7 will reach 60 mph even quicker than the stated figures.
What about the possibility of executive first-class flight?
Thanks to wind-tunnel tuned aero, the B7 achieves near 0-lift at speed. This allows all 4,655 lbs to push the sticky Michelin rubber deep into the pavement while you’re ripping through the atmosphere beyond Learjet take-off rotation speeds.
All of the above is possible thanks to a few key technical enhancements. Under the hood, larger turbos have been added to increase boost pressure, and the engine now features BMW’s throttle-less “Valvetronic” valvetrain technology for better throttle response and improved fuel economy. If my memory from the press launch serves me correctly, the additional performance does not come at the consequence of increased emissions – these figures remain the same.
A new 8-speed transmission makes its way onto the B7 for 2013, and this transmission is excellent in every measurable and tactile way. It is quick-shifting, smooth and positive in feel. Another benefit is further increased fuel economy and range thanks to the added gear. I lament that the B7 lacks flappy paddles for manual shifting – it resorts to buttons on the back of the steering wheel, a very poor alternative when you’re on track.
Strapping in with none other than ALPINA proprietor, Andreas Bovensiepen by my side (also a distinguished racer of yore, Andreas has won the 24 hours of Nurburgring among other notable wins and championships in his racing career), I set off for a warm-up lap to bring the tires and brakes up to temperature. During this fast but still restrained lap, it felt like we could be on our way to get groceries. Even eclipsing highly illegal speeds, the B7 feels sedate, quiet, refined.
To really unleash the B7’s performance potential, you must positively spank it. Nothing less than 10/10ths even feels fast in this saloon – so quiet and relaxed is its demeanor. But push it to its very limits and it will reward you with a wicked sports car ride that feels raw and truly unleashed.
I was wise to have saved the B7 until the end of the day, after I had many laps under my belt – Laguna Seca is not a track one can learn in a handful of laps. After finding a good line, however, I was able to step into the B7 and appreciate a few key attributes. To my mind, the B7’s greatest strength is not found under hood, but rather in its handling.
The balance, steering, feel and immediacy of this car is staggering. I have driven it back to back with the M3 on track and felt that it has more neutral handling – it is very happy to rotate where the M3 will show mild understeer and must be provoked to rotate. Of course, you feel its weight, but not its full measure. This sedan weighs 4,655 lumps of butter, but melts the lard away. It is decidedly obvious that the B7’s handling was tuned and perfected at the hand of none other than Andreas himself – a decorated racer.
The B7’s weakness is in its brakes; after several hard laps they were making groaning noises (not the pleasurable sort) and ultimately fading away in power. This car would stand to benefit more from BMW’s new carbon compound brakes than any other car in the stable.
Another stand-out weakness: the absence of a proper limited slip differential. On a car of this performance, power, and price point, I would have expected ALPINA to add one. It certainly needs it; adding power after apex, the inside wheel will spin up, making plenty of smoke and wasting precious accelerative force.
So: add flappy paddles, carbon compound brakes and an LSD, and the B7 will be ready to embarrass sports cars all day long – your whole family waving as you brake deep into a corner and sneak past on the inside. Or you could wait until the back straight, and lay waste with 194 mph showing on the speedometer. What a car.
Pricing starts at 127,600 USD, and climbs from there with the addition of all-wheel drive, and a long wheelbase option. Less is far more in this case – stick with the short wheelbase rear wheel drive version for the best handling. Competition comes from the likes of the Porsche Panamera Turbo, Aston Martin Rapide, and the like. Good relative value, hand finished assembly and highly exclusive production numbers will draw buyers to the super car of Buchloe.