Not only an extraordinary athlete, but quite a head turner.
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Our paths crossed for the first time in May 2010 when BMWBLOG’s Road Test Editor Shawn Molnar and the new ALPINA B7 spent some quality time at New Jersey Motorsports Park race track. “An epitome of power, luxury and exclusivity” were our first impressions of the B7, therefore, a year later, decided to see if the B7 lives up to its hype in an urban setting.
And what a better place to take such an exclusive and unique vehicle than the sunny and exquisite beaches of South Florida. On a beautiful day surrounded by palms and luxurious automobiles, I find myself behind the wheel of a 2011 F01 B7 BiTurbo, ALPINA’s latest and greatest creation that marks the return of the German automaker to the North American market. Built on BMW’s current 7 Series platform, the B7 comes in four different flavors: rear-wheel drive and xDrive, both available on the short or long-wheelbase platforms.
The sportiest offering is the rear-wheel drive, short-wheelbase F01 B7, a variant that many say mimics the abilities and performance of a theoretical BMW M7.
The “heart of the car” comes from BMW’s 750i – N63 4.4 liter V8 Twin-Turbo engine that has undergone special ALPINA treatment to achieve the power needed to move the 4,686 sedan with ease. From custom software to different turbos – the two turbochargers operate in parallel, with generously-dimensioned turbine vanes measuring 44mm in diameter – the B7’s engine is artwork within itself and offers a performance that many of us only dream of in a BMW: 500 horsepower (373kW) and 516 lb-ft (700Nm) of torque. These numbers are just a bit shy of the power you’d get in a 6.0 liter V12 BMW 760Li and about 100 horsepower and 66 lb-ft of torque better than the “stock” 4.4-liter, V8-powered 750i.
At 115hp (85kW) per liter and with a maximum average compression of 20.1 bar, the B7′s engineers have truly set a benchmark even amongst the realm well established sports cars. 500 horsepower is achieved at 5,500 rpm and full torque comes on from 3,000 to 4,750 RPM. Redline stops at 6,550, more than enough even for an aggressive driver like myself.
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.
To further set apart from the 750i, ALPINA uses a SWITCH-TRONIC gearbox, essentially a modified ZF wet six-speed automatic that offers different settings for all drivers out there: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+.
The Looks Of A True Gentlemen.
First impressions of the B7 gave me mixed feelings, but luckily, all in a positive way. The ALPINA BLAU trademarked paint, a color available on no other BMW in America, gives the car the exclusive and unique look one expects from a high-end automobile. The next item that stood out was its “nose” that sits closer to the ground, due to the larger tires at the rear and the different suspensions, a setup used in the B7 to cope with its enhanced power and in order to achieve a fairly balanced weight distribution 51.4:48.6 front-to-rear.
Observing from the side, one can see the lower stance of the B7. The car features a unique ALPINA electronically-adjustable suspension with Active Roll Stabilization with spring rates stiffened by 20 percent and the front and rear ride heights reduced by 0.6 and 0.4 inch, respectively. But its true sporty figure comes from the custom made, aerodynamic, ALPINA trademarked 20-spoke, 21 inches wheels. The light-weight 21″ wheels are wrapped around by custom made tires developed specifically for the B7 by the french tire-maker MICHELIN – 245/35 R21 front and 285/30 R21 rear. The massive brakes not only look better, but are also more effective in stopping the quite-heavy “gentlemen.” BMW says the brakes are sourced from the 7 Series Security model and measure 14.72 inches in diameter up front and 14.57 inches in the rear.
From the front, the B7 looks more aggressive and imposing than any photos can describe. The specially designed front spoiler and larger air intake show the sporty DNA expected from an ALPINA. Other exterior changes are the usual oval exhaust tips, a different rear valance and trunk spoiler. ALPINA says the subtle rear deck-lid spoiler reduces lift by 15 percent at 87 mph.
Even in South Florida, a setting surrounded by high-end sports cars and ultra-luxurious automobiles, the B7 hardly went unnoticed. The car was an instant head turner and attraction, even for those drivers sitting behind the wheel of a Ferrari, Aston Martin or Lamborghini; some of the most popular and flashy vehicles seen around the area. Its uniqueness was noticed by many who did not shy away from stopping me to ask about the car. While not as extravagant and tacky as other high-end vehicles, the ALPINA B7 showcases the allure and moves of a gentlemen, a confident vehicle that goes from the ultimate luxurious limousine to a fearless beast in a split second.
Combining the test drive with live “tweeting” put me in touch with one of our long-time readers, Chuck, the proud owner of another ALPINA BLAU B7 from the previous generation E65. A comparison photoshoot was in order and the location chosen was the famous Miznar Park in Boca Raton, Florida. Placing the two B7s side-by-side showed us how little the previous generation aged and what a stunning vehicle it still is a few years later.
The Car To Fall In Love With From Inside-Out As Well
It is often said that “it’s love at first sight” and this cannot be more true when it comes to cars. The first thing you lay your eyes on is the exterior design, but quoting Marc Girard, Head of BMW Interior Design, it’s the inside cabin that keeps the love affair going. And the ALPINA B7 takes the already luxurious 7 Series interior to a new level. ALPINA showcases again their core elements, from the illuminated B7 badge on the door sill trims, to 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 I were to sum up the interior in one phrase, it would be “luxury at its finest.”
The ALPINA plaque mounted on the inside roof panel reminds you once again how special you are to be in the B7. The typical BMW driver-oriented setting just wraps around you and the comfort level is more than adequate for long-distance traveling.
Behind The Wheel Driving In The Real World
The focus of this test drive was to take the ALPINA B7 out in the “real world”, a typical scenario for 99% of the B7 owners. But allow me a few seconds to remind you how the B7 performed on the race track. Full article available here.
Shawn Molnar, BMWBLOG Road Test Editor:
I was left dumbfounded by the B7′s handling, this was easily one of the most balanced cars I’ve ever driven; overall weight in this case is less important, it is the distribution of weight and suspension set-up that determines how a car carves through corners.
But in Germany, ALPINA is thought of as executive transportation for long-distance commuting and that idea is built into the core values of the B7. I sampled the car on road and can report that the B7 is without a doubt way sportier than any of the 7 Series models out there, as it should be. While the car doesn’t feel like usual ///M cars built for Nurburgring cornering, the B7 can hold its own.
Starting the engine one would expect a growling sound, an exhaust note that would make any BMW owner proud, but unfortunately, the engine settles to a calming idle. Looking for more thrill? Nothing simpler than pushing down on the accelerator pedal and this is where the B7 makes its presence known.
And now I’m ready to roll down the street and soon onto the open road, as open as it gets in a busy area like South Florida. Placed the B7 in Sport+ mode, meaning all these fancy stability control features come off and the suspension tightens, switched to Manual mode and began shifting. One cool feature in the B7 is shifting by pushing buttons rather than usual paddle shifters seen on other BMWs. Push the left button for downshifts, then right for up. Shifts occur almost instantly, smooth and precise. It takes a while to get used to the shifting buttons and at the moment, I tend to favor more the paddles. With the stability system off, it’s possible to get some oversteer moments, but in general the car still handles itself well.
After 30 minutes of “getting to know each other”, I was ready to take it to the next level. In other words, moving onto the highway. This is when the 500 horsepower and specially tuned engine show us what the B7 is made of. The engine pulls like mad and getting to 70, 80 or 90 mph is just a matter of seconds. The only thing stopping me from pushing it further are the police cars clocking people left and right. This is a time when I wish I was on the Autobahn….
Even at high speeds, the car was glued to the pavement and steering felt precise and most importantly, safe. Compared to the 750i I test-drove, there’s less initial understeer and cornering is achieved with a more neutral stance.
But enough with the sporty side of the B7. I was mostly curious how the car handles itself in the softer Comfort mode. All traction control features switched back on and the B7 transformed itself into the ultimate commuter. Throughout my entire week of test driving, I certainly appreciated being able to punch up some chassis and powertrain sportiness, taking the car through some light cornering, and then tone it back down to one of the softer modes. The difference between the four modes is noticeable and ALPINA took this into account when preparing the car. For most driving scenarios, 516 lb-of torque is over-kill, but knowing what the car can do in difficult situations is definitely appreciated by the driver. Turbo lag? Similar to the 750i, it’s there, but hardly noticeable.
An /// M button would have been ideal though for those of us looking for the ultimate driving experience.
The braking system handles as expected and provides the much needed confidence to bring to a vehicle of this size to a stop.
Stop-and-go traffic feels less painful when riding in the B7, the car was built for both driving experience and interior comfort. To kill time and make the ride even more pleasant, one can either connect their iPod or iPhone to the navigation system and enjoy some tunes.
Acceleration in a straight line is impressive, I tested the car in a secluded area by doing a few 0 to 60 mph runs. While not officially clocking the results, the B7 is agile, athletic and certainly faster than any other 7 Series out there. Other magazines report 4.5 seconds from standstill to 60 mph, in my opinion, an impressive figure for a car that weighs close to 4,700 lbs. Even the almighty M3 Coupe reports similar times.
Why would you buy one?
Because this is the closest you will get to a BMW M7. If you’re one of those customers looking for sportier versions of the luxury liners, including the high-end AMG variants from Mercedes, then the 2011 ALPINA B7 is a strong contender for a place in your garage. I have said it earlier as well; this is a high-end luxury vehicle that usually caters to car collectors and buyers that understand the brand and the status it comes with. The 2011 B7 starts at $124,175 USD, including gas-guzzler tax, but with many of the optional packages, the price can jump to over $130,000; in the end, still cheaper than the 760Li.
So if you’re looking for a tasteful, high-end luxury vehicle with a pinch of BMW “M-ness”, and your philosophy aligns with ALPINA’s – “I have the simplest tastes, I’m always satisfied with the best” – then the B7 provides this balance in a single package.
The manufacturer provided BMWBLOG this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos by Szilard Pop | ThePopFoto.com
On-car cameras: GoPro HD Motorsports Hero