Advertisement2011 BMW Alpina B7 xDrive - Short Take Road TestThis time, all four of the gorgeous wheels receive power.BY JON YANCA, PHOTOGRAPHY BY PATRICK M. HOEY
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What Is It?
Something like an M7, if one were to exist. Like an M car, the Alpina-tuned B7 isn’t solely focused on increasing power—as BMW does within the 7-series lineup in moving from the V-8 750 to the V-12 760—instead delivering a rich mix of cosseting luxury, rocket-ship thrust, and even-more-athletic handling. And now the B7 is available with xDrive all-wheel drive.
In the case of our test car, the transformation began with a short-wheelbase 750i xDrive. (Rear-drive and long-wheelbase 750s also can become B7s.) Under the hood, the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 is massaged to produce 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, 100 hp and 66 lb-ft more than a run-of-the-mill 750. Those considerable numbers are achieved using bigger and boostier (14.5 psi) turbos, larger intercoolers, high-performance pistons, stronger cylinder heads, and a uniquely tuned ECU. Alpina then enhances temperature management by adding an engine-oil cooler, a transmission cooler for the beefed-up six-speed automatic, and a larger radiator. The driveshaft, half-shafts, and differential housing also are upgraded in order to handle the increased twist.
The upfitting continues with the suspension. The springs are stiffened by about 20 percent, and the Alpina sits lower than an equivalent 7er by 0.6 inch in front and 0.4 inch in the rear. The B7 also gets its own traction- and stability-control programming.
Next comes the makeup, starting with Alpina’s gorgeous 20-spoke, 21-inch wheels. If you can persuade your eyes to move on from the rolling stock, you’ll notice a unique front fascia, a trunk-mounted spoiler, and special exhaust finishers resting below a new rear valance. Inside, there are handsome blue-faced gauges, an Alpina-specific steering wheel with gearshift buttons on the back, cushy-soft nappa leather upholstery, a numbered Alpina plaque on the overhead console, and Alpina logos scattered throughout.
How Does It Drive?
You might think a 4886-pound luxury liner riding on a set of wagon wheels would be as stiff as a stagecoach—and turn like one, too. But the B7 really hits the sweet spot, offering a luxurious ride and near-trackworthy handling no matter which of the four chassis settings you choose. It’s obviously a bit cushier in Comfort mode and tighter in the Sport and Sport Plus modes—where a touchier throttle, more aggressive gearbox programming, and weightier steering liven things up—but it never gets wallowy or overly harsh. The no-compromises chassis combines with BMW’s excellent xDrive AWD system to deliver a performance/luxury machine perfect for any weather and all occasions. The xDrive system functions just as it does in the 7-series xDrive and 5-series xDrive models, but it’s said to have been retuned for Alpina duty due to the B7’s output increase. It works well; when we tossed this bruiser into a corner, initial understeer was quickly mitigated by the system shifting torque rearward, keeping us on our intended path.
How Does It Stack Up?
It fared nearly identically to the rear-drive B7 at the test track. The xDrive model totes an additional 176 pounds, but its extra traction off the line helped it match the RWD model’s 4.3-second 60-mph and 12.8-second quarter-mile times. It was 2 mph slower at the trap, still recording a credible 111 mph. Braking was again remarkable for such a big car, tallying 163 feet from 70 mph, just one foot longer than the rear-drive B7. The xDrive, as you might expect, clung to the skidpad with a bit more tenacity, riding the same Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 rubber to 0.88 g, an increase of 0.03.
What’s the Cost?
We had two complaints about this B7: We’d like a little more growl from the exhaust, and we can’t afford to buy one. The B7 xDrive’s premium over its short-wheelbase rear-drive sibling is $3000, so it starts at $127,175, including a $1300 gas-guzzler tax. Our test vehicle packed on about 10 grand in options, including a rear- and side-view camera package ($1200); a Driver Assistance package that nabs auto high-beams, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot detection ($1350); a rear entertainment setup ($2200); an annoying active cruise-control system ($2400); and night vision ($2600), among a few other bits. We’d definitely skip the active cruise, and probably leave out night vision, too.
If the planets aligned, the cow jumped over the moon, and we won the lottery, this Alpina B7 would be among our top picks to fill the big-ticket luxury-sled slot in our garage. Back in reality, we had to give this one back—but not before picking up a few Powerball tickets for good measure.Specifications
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $137,725 (base price: $127,175)
ENGINE TYPE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 268 cu in, 4395 cc
Power (SAE net): 500 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 516 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 120.9 in Length: 200.2 in
Width: 74.9 in Height: 58.4 in
Curb weight: 4886 lb
Zero to 60 mph: 4.3 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 10.4 sec
Zero to 150 mph: 26.4 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph: 4.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 12.8 sec @ 111 mph
Top speed (governor limited, mfr’s claim): 175 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 163 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
EPA city/highway driving: 14/20 mpg
C/D observed: 15 mpg
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