TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW ALPINA B7 xDrive

Test Drives | August 29th, 2016 by 9
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Last year, BMW launched a new era of the luxury sedan with the all-new G12 7 Series. With its revolutionary lightweight Carbon Core reducing the …

Last year, BMW launched a new era of the luxury sedan with the all-new G12 7 Series. With its revolutionary lightweight Carbon Core reducing the weight from the previous generation and improving the stiffness, many enthusiasts have been wondering if BMW M would create the Ultimate Driving “Luxury” Machine. There is no need to wonder though, as ALPINA has stepped in and created it themselves, but instead of an M7, they call it the B7.

ALPINA is a family owned and operated company with just 230 employees that started over 50 years ago by offering a Weber dual carburetor kit for the BMW 1500. Since then they have been creating unique automobiles together with BMW for customers seeking high-performance drivetrains with a focus on torque which provides smooth and effortless power delivery from a low rpm. But they aren’t just about power as they look to also provide balanced suspension set-ups, with pronounced dynamic capabilities but uncompromising ride quality.

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THE ENGINE

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The 2017 BMW ALPINA B7 is the third generation of tuned 7 Series from the performance tuner and they invited BMWBLOG out to Monterey, California to drive it on some of California’s best driving roads, including a couple sessions on the famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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ALPINA strives for continuous evolution, and this new B7 is one of their biggest leaps in evolution yet. The new 4.4-liter V8 features new ALPINA specific twin-scroll turbochargers with larger diameter turbines that can create up to 20 psi of boost pressure. Compared to the previous generation B7, the 2017 model produces 600 bhp (up 12%) and 590 lbs-ft (up 10%) of torque which can accelerate the 4820 pound car from 0 to 60 in just 3.6 seconds!

To help generate that power, ALPINA specially constructed a new air intake system with larger diameter intake ducts, optimized air filter housings, and manifolds leading to the turbochargers. With the additional increase in intercooler volume by 70% over the previous generation, these modifications result in maximum air throughput with reduced intake air temperatures. Plus they make an amazing sound as you get on the throttle.

The transmission got an upgrade as well, as the B7 comes with an 8-speed ZF sport automatic transmission with a strengthened torque converter allowing for shifts to be completed in just 100 milliseconds. ALPINA’s Switch-Tronic software has also optimized the transmission for multiple downshifts and adds in launch control—allowing you to show supercar owners that you can have your cake and eat it too.

All that power means nothing if you can’t apply it to the road, so ALPINA has focused heavily on creating a suspension and drivetrain that can handle the speed that the B7 produces. Equipped with an air suspension on both axles, the B7 provides a supple ride in comfort mode. Yet when Sport+ mode is activated, the ride height lowers by 0.8 inches and becomes just responsive enough without any sense of harshness. Add in active roll stabilization and you have a package that makes the large vehicle do things that you might think are impossible.

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DAILY DRIVING

One of the key things that you quickly notice is that the B7, although based on the long wheelbase of the 750i, can feel quite nimble on tight backroads. Driving down Carmel Valley Road in the foothills of Monterey I had no problem carving the car around the 90 degree switchbacks with ease. This is in part due to the new Integral Active Steering which combines a variable ratio electric steering system at the front axle with active steering on the rear axle whereby the wheels can turn a maximum of 3 degrees.

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Top this all off with the ALPINA performance oriented calibration of BMW xDrive system that has up to 90% rear-wheel bias depending on driving situations and mode, and you have a package that makes the B7 not just a 198 mph Bavarian autobahn bomber, but a great canyon carver as well!

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And it wouldn’t be an ALPINA, unless it was rolling on a set of their classic multi-spoke wheels. Available in both 20” and 21”, these forged alloy wheels save up to 8.8 pounds per corner versus cast wheels. And since ALPINA has partnered with Michelin since 1985, the B7 comes with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires in 255 millimeters up front and a meaty 295 millimeters out back. Tucked under those beautiful wheels you’ll find 15.5-inch front rotors with 4-piston fixed calipers and 14.5-inch rear rotors with 2-piston floating calipers.

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In the cockpit, ALPINA has added some nice touches to the already fantastic 7 Series interior with blue illuminated door sills, plush floor mats with ALPINA inscription, and a production plaque on the center console with your option of Piano lacquer or Myrtle luxury wood.

When you place your hands on the hand-finished LAVALINA leather steering wheel with blue and green stitching and press the start button, you’ll see the gauges light up in beautiful blue. Toggle the driving mode to Sport or Sport+ and the blue fades to black with green drag indicator needles and your speed and gear clearly visible in the middle of each gauge.

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My drive started on the east side of the Monterey foothills where I was able to open up the B7 on a long, flowing two lane road that showed that although ALPINA made quite a few performance improvements, it’s still a luxurious 7 Series underneath and could provide a smooth, comfortable ride on even a broken up surface. The power was effortless and the B7 seemed to become more at home as the speed increased—which it does with ease!

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Before I knew it, I had covered over 45 miles and was making my way up into the Monterey foothills. The tight road wasn’t much wider than the B7, yet it felt like it belonged there as the active steering helped the big car carve the twisty corners. The exhaust from the twin-turbocharged V8 produced a great off-throttle burble that bounced off the canyon walls as I dove into the corners making me forget that this was a luxury sedan.

ON THE TRACK

Though most would be content after that thoroughly enjoyable jaunt along such a great driving road, no tour of the Monterey Peninsula is complete without a stop at world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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As BMW Performance Center lead instructor Mike Renner lead us out of the pits in an M3 for our warm-up lap, I dialed the driving mode to Sport+, flipped to manual shifting mode, and cinched down my seat belt as I prepared to have to push the B7’s 4800 pounds hard to keep up with him. I quickly realized that wouldn’t be an issue as the large Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires gripped the racing surface extremely well as we went through the first few low grip corners where I didn’t lose any time. And as we stormed up the Rahal Straight, I put the full 600 horsepower to use and quickly gained ground on the M3 and ultimately had to let up as we approached the Corkscrew!

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ALPINA claims that the B7’s brakes are on par with carbon ceramic offerings with lower cost and higher comfort. On the track though is where carbon brakes really shine, but the big steel binders had no problem stopping consistently without overheating or fading. With that kind of performance, it only seems right to paint them blue and label them ALPINA in contrasting white.

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The 2017 BMW ALPINA B7 is priced at $137,000—a $40,000 premium over the 750i xDrive. When you consider that Alpina was able to take a full-size sedan and make it handle roads and perform on track as if it were an M car, but still retain the luxury that embodies the new G12 7 Series, the price seems right on point. And though some day BMW may fill in the M lineup with an M7, it’ll be very hard to sway people away from the fantastic B7. Especially since you won’t be able to get it in ALPINA Green!

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