Posted Tuesday, Nov. 06, 2012
One might assume that even the most discriminating big-sedan buyer could find satisfaction from one of the nine versions of BMW's Flagship 7-Series. One would be incorrect. For that ultra-discerning person, there's the BMW Alpina B7: more power, more athletic handling, more exterior styling, more cabin cosseting and, with only 2,000 produced per year, more exclusivity.
Alpina, a limited vehicle production company in its own right, has been partnering with BMW for 40 years to make already exceptional vehicles even better. (BMW M, a corporate subsidiary, does much the same but focuses primarily on performance.) The B7 is the latest Alpina collaboration, based on BMW's refreshed 750i and 750Li (the long-wheelbase version) with either rear- or all-wheel drive.
Available by special order through your local BMW dealer, pricing starts at $128,495 for the short-wheelbase,
rear-drive B7, while the long-wheelbase version runs $132,395. All-wheel drive (xDrive) adds $3,000. Delivery takes
about 12 weeks, maybe longer -- there's
no rushing art.
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Alpina starts its magical B7 transformation by tuning up the 4.4-liter V-8 with bigger turbos, intercoolers, high-performance pistons and cylinder heads that result in 540 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque, well above the 750i's 445 hp and 480 lb-ft. The B7 roars from zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds and boasts a top speed of 194 mph with rear-wheel drive (193 mph for all-wheel-drive models). The Alpina-enhanced ZF eight-speed transmission puts all that power to the ground with undetectable, lightning-fast gear changes, while massive brakes bring all that whoa to a halt in a hurry.
But Alpina B7 drivers demand more than just power; they want an incomparably elegant, understated package with harmonious handling, style and elegance. And that's what the B7 delivers. Control and drivability are paramount in the B7, which, after all, is a big, heavy (around 5,000 pounds) land yacht that nevertheless feels solid and sporty while carving up curves and turns without breaking a sweat.
In terms of looks, the exterior emphasis is about elegance. The sporty front bumper and rear spoiler don't elicit dramatic visual responses, nor do the four exhaust pipes. Even the stunning 21-inch wheels (with Alpina's signature 20-spoke design) seem demure. The overall effect, however, is pleasingly aggressive without being overly dramatic.
The cabin is equally well thought out and much more dramatic than the exterior. We've all become so inured to the use of interior plastic, even in high-end vehicles, that its absence is startling. In the B7, everything is covered in leather, most all of it hand-stitched, all of it called "Alpina Lavalina." The company boasts that it's "not commonly found in automobile interiors because it is deemed too luxurious."
Sounds like hype until you feel it, and then you're all "Mmm-hmm."
Customization options are mind-boggling, and wood trim options include myrtle burl wood (found only on the U.S. Pacific coast) or optional piano lacquer trim with contrasting diagonal insets.
And seriously, is there an audio system better than a Bang & Olufsen? Crank up The Sound of Music and yodel your way along life's highways and byways.
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