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2013 BMW Alpina B7 LWB - First Drive

BMW's luxury sedan conquers Laguna Seca.

Greg Emmerson
Jan 14, 2013
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Epcp 1212 01+2013 BMW alpina B7 LWB+rear view Photo 1/7   |   2013 BMW Alpina B7 LWB - First Drive

There aren’t many executive sedans you’d want to take around Laguna Seca’s high-speed crests and turns, but the Alpina B7 certainly isn’t your average luxury car.

Finding an exclusive niche as a tuner car sold through an international dealer network with a full factory warranty and servicing support, the B7 is remarkable in so many ways. Admittedly, they don’t want to be called a tuner since Alpina is a certified manufacturer in Germany, but you know what we mean…

Epcp 1212 02_2013 BMW alpina B7 LWB_front view Photo 2/7   |   2013 BMW Alpina B7 LWB - First Drive

The B7 is the M7 that BMW never built.
It has a 540hp twin-turbo V8 with a sports suspension, special transmission, bigger brakes, aerodynamics, interior trim – what else would it need?

At 4810 lb (LWB RWD), you’d expect this barge to lumber through turns but in the hands of its creator, Andreas Bovensiepen, a skilled racing driver with victories at the Nürburgring, he made it feel like a 3 Series.

Able to stretch its legs on the track, you could immediately appreciate the 538 lb-ft of torque from the Alpina-tuned 4.4L V8. All new B7 variants get BMW’s excellent eight-speed auto as well, complete with steering wheel-mounted Alpina Switch Tronic button shifters to help keep this silky-smooth V8 in the sweet spot.

Sitting on enormous and optional 21" Alpina Classic wheels, the company works closely with Michelin to develop (non-run flat) Pilot Sport tires for this application. Alpina also re-valves the dampers, lowers the front springs, reprograms the rear airbags and alters the control software on the EDC, DTC and Active Roll Stabilization systems. The result is a limousine with an aggressive ride height yet one of the most comfortable rides we’ve ever experienced. Even in Sport+ mode, our coilover-accustomed bottoms felt none of the road imperfections when we took the B7 onto the twisting roads around Monterey. Yet it didn’t suffer a wallowing ride in Comfort mode either.

Epcp 1212 05_2013 BMW alpina B7 LWB_alpina final assembly room Photo 3/7   |   Alpina's final assembly room and emissions cell

At very high speeds, the B7 remained stoically composed, so it was no surprise we weren’t sliding around the seats during our fast laps of the track. But we did crunch into the seatbelts when Andreas hammered on the larger brakes lifted from the 760iL.

This second-generation B7 for the US market boasts 40hp and 22 lb-ft more than the previous model thanks to the addition of Valvetronic technology and refined software tuning. Yet it’s delivered without fuss or bother, exhibiting a refinement more akin to a Rolls-Royce than a modified sedan.

Our road trip found us behind slower traffic on several occasions, but a gentle stroke of the accelerator pedal dispatched cars in groups of three or four in mere seconds. You had to glance down to see whether another gear was needed and what speed you’d exceeded. Zero to 60mph in 4.3sec is impressive whatever you’re driving, but almost unnerving from the comfort of the Alpina armchair.

The B7 is serene like a silk handgrenade, exploding on demand without disturbing its occupants. Although other drivers might not have felt the same way as this leviathan left them swaying in its wake.

Epcp 1212 06_2013 BMW alpina B7 LWB_emissions cell Photo 4/7   |   2013 BMW Alpina B7 LWB - First Drive

We recently had the opportunity to visit Alpina’s legendary facility in Buchloe, Germany to witness the measures it must take to achieve BMW’s approval. We saw the emissions test room, cold weather cell and one of five engine dyno cells, with everything tested to exacting OE standards.

Although still privately owned by the Bovensiepen family (members of whom continue to live within the grounds and still produce quality wine), Alpina’s integration into the BMW production process is equally seamless and impressive.

The B7 is built alongside regular 7 Series on the Dingolfing production line, with the Alpina parts fitted as required. For the V8 this includes 10:1 Mahle pistons, NGK plugs, modified turbos, reprogrammed ECU, exhaust system and enormous seven-piece cooling package that allows the car to maintain its (drag-limited) top speed of 194mph on the autobahn – you can’t sell anything in Germany that won’t sustain high speed and the heat it generates.

The transmission gets its own internal hardware, torque converter, shift software, driveshafts and 2.81:1 diff. The chassis receives Alpina-tuned springs, air bags, electronic dampers, dedicated DSC/DTC software plus wheels and tires. The brakes are easy because they’re larger BMW parts.

Epcp 1212 03_2013 BMW alpina B7 LWB_interior Photo 5/7   |   2013 BMW Alpina B7 LWB - First Drive

Once built, the cars return to Alpina’s facility for final assembly, including the front and rear spoilers (that reduce lift by 75 and 95% respectively) plus some interior pieces before a final test drive.

The cars can be ordered from any BMW dealer in North America, with the popular LWB RWD model costing $131k, but the range starts with the $127600 SWB and goes up to $134500 for the LWB with xDrive for anybody who needs all-wheel drive. There’s also a SWB xDrive for $130k and European Delivery is available.

If you’re looking for M5 performance, SUV interior space and Rolls-Royce serenity, there don’t appear to be many alternatives to the B7. The X6M, Cayenne Turbo or Mercedes S65 AMG are hooligans in comparison, while the Bentley Flying Spur or Rolls-Royce Ghost are almost twice the price.

Driving the Alpina B7 grants you access to a very exclusive club for discerning motorists who appreciate what a specialist builder can do.

Although less than 450 examples will be sold this year, we can easily identify you by the characteristic Alpina front spoiler and optional matte Alpina Blue paintwork that further differentiates this machine from almost everything else on the road.

2013 Alpina B7 LWB

Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

Epcp 1212 04_2013 BMW alpina B7 LWB_alpina tuned V8 engine Photo 6/7   |   2013 BMW Alpina B7 LWB - First Drive

Engine
4.4-liter V8 32v N63B44O1 Alpina twin-turbo, reverse-flow manifold, Valvetronic, VANOS, direct injection

Transmission
8HP70 Alpina eight-speed automatic

Brakes
Single-piston calipers, 14.7" rotors f, 14.6" r

Wheels & Tires
21x8.5" f, 21x10" r Alpina Classic wheels (optional), 245/35 R21 f, 285/30 R21 r Michelin Pilot Sport tires

MSRP: $131500

Performance

Peak Power: 540hp at 5200-6250rpm

Peak Torque: 538 lb-ft at 2800-5000rpm

0-60mph: 4.5sec

Top speed: 194mph (drag restricted)

Weight: 4810 lb

Economy: 16/24/19mpg city/highway/combined (est)

Epcp 1212 07+2013 BMW alpina B7 LWB+andreas bovensiepen Photo 7/7   |   Andreas Bovensiepen, Alpina's head of sales and marketing, accomplished racing driver and son of the company founder.
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By Greg Emmerson
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