Seat time Horsepower. Sweet, hilarious, addictive horsepower. The 2011 Alpina B7 seems to have an almost bottomless well of it. Just pressing the throttle opens up the gateway to a sensory playground where the engine note just starts to intrude upon the hearing, in a good way, and the eyes struggle to keep pace with the rate of movement beyond the windshield.
In the real world, zero-to-60 times don't really mean much; going from 50 mph to 70 is a better indication of an engine's muscle. This one, a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 fettled to develop 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque (from just 3000 rpm) doesn't seem to be bothered by the body's considerable 4,564-pound curb weight. It just keeps pummeling away, the speedo needle traveling around the dial from 130 upwards as fast it did from 30 mph up. It's epic.
Top speed is quoted as 170 mph. There's not much doubt this thing can reach it, in a really short time as well. Even the 4.5-second sprint to 60 mph is good for a BMW 7 Series.
Yes, this is a 7 Series sedan after a trip to the Alpina facility, one set of high-efficiency pistons, a new exhaust system, 100 hp and 66 lb-ft better off. For anyone unaware of Alpina, it's a tuning company affiliated with BMW, like AMG before Mercedes-Benz bought it. Although BMW has its M division, Alpina goes further, to the Nth degree, so to speak.
All the fancy stuff in a stock 7-like Dynamic Damping Control, Dynamic Stability Control, and the range of suspension settings from Comfort to Sport Plus-are recalibrated by Alpina. The springs have been changed to shorter, specially made versions that drop the ride height by 0.6 of an inch at the front and 0.4 of an inch at the rear.
The body gets an aerodynamic package that reduces lift by 30 percent at the front end and by 15 percent out back. The front lip also helps an improved cooling system. And note those classic 20-spoke Alpina wheels; they're 21-inchers here.
A B7 with the optional charcoal Alcantara cabin headliner will have something of a racecar ambience, and it also makes the large interior feel more cosy. There are blue dials in the binnacle and blue illuminated door sill trims. As much as a BMW 7 Series feels special to sit in, this feels even more so.
A standard 7 now has electric power steering assistance, which works well enough to maintain BMW's driver-centric reputation. But Alpina has gone with a conventional hydraulic system, and it does make a difference. Subtle, but perceptible nonetheless. Even getting in the car for the first time and reversing out of a parking spot, the B7 has a vibe about it, a sense of sinew beneath the skin; the suspension and the steering all contribute to this vibe. And the way this beast can get around corners is almost shocking.
Selecting the six forward gears can be as easy as leaving it in D, shifting the lever over to S, or tapping the plus and minus buttons on the steering wheel. Regardless of the method, the result is always satisfying, and there's not a hint of turbo lag.
Driven with gusto, it might be a good idea to develop a left-foot braking technique (by the way, the brakes are the same as those on armored versions of the 7, so they're plenty beefy). It's a big car and by braking with the left foot, and keeping the revs up, the weight is balanced out a little better. Yet the car is not all about gung-ho, tarmac-wrinkling speed. The B7 can be utterly civilized. Alpina even offers the options of a long wheelbase and all-wheel drive.
Naturally, something this magnificent doesn't come cheap. The B7 starts at $122,875. And then there will be a few must-have options that could easily see the final tally push toward $130,000. But since this is one of the few Alpinas (Alpinae?) that have ever been available in North America and given that the driving experience is really off the scale, a buyer with this kind of budget wouldn't be disappointed.
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.4-liter turbocharged V8, dohc, 32-valve
Peak Power: 500 hp @ 5500 rpm
Peak Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.5 sec.
Top Speed: 170 mph
Fuel Economy: 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg combined
Price as tested: $125,775
From the Hip