What's New for 2007
The 2007 BMW Alpina B7 is a new high-performance version of the 7 Series. Created by longtime BMW tuning firm Alpina, the B7 is powered by a supercharged version of BMW's 4.4-liter V8 making 500 horsepower. Available in the standard-wheelbase 7 Series body only, the Alpina B7 nonetheless comes standard with most of the 760Li's high-end luxury equipment. Also included is a unique body kit, a sport-tuned suspension, bigger wheels, more powerful brakes and special interior appointments.
The folks at BMW's M division have standards -- they won't turn any old thing with a spinning blue propeller badge into a hair-raising, more-than-ultimate driving machine. The X5 and X3 are excluded from M transformation by their high center of gravity and general SUV-ness, while the 7 Series seems to have been disqualified because it lacks a console-mounted shifter. According to BMW, M vehicles must have manual or sequential-manual (SMG) transmissions, which wouldn't work too well with the 7's odd steering-column-mounted gear selector. There is nevertheless a market for high-performance executive sedans like the Audi S8 and Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG, so BMW turned to an old friend to plug this hole in its lineup. The result is the 2007 BMW Alpina B7.
Alpina has been creating tuner versions of BMW vehicles since 1961 when it created a special dual carburetor for the BMW 1500 sedan. Located in Buchloe, Germany, about 50 miles west of BMW's Munich headquarters, Alpina has maintained a close relationship with its Bavarian comrades, creating official high-performance versions of BMW vehicles complete with full factory warranties. Until now, though, the only Alpina to show up on this side of the Atlantic was the Roadster V8. Based on the Z8, it was sold to only 450 lucky customers from 2002-'03. A similarly low number of Alpina B7s will find their way into American garages, making it an attractive choice for those seeking an even more exclusive sedan than an S65 AMG, S8 or Maserati Quattroporte.
The 2007 BMW Alpina B7 differs the most from its 7 Series brethren in the engine bay, where a supercharged version of the old 745i's 4.4-liter V8 churns out a guttural 500 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. That's more than the S8's 450 hp, but falls short of the S65's monstrous 604 hp and 738 lb-ft. We found that the B7 accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds, which is 1.4 seconds faster than the last 750i we tested and 0.4 second faster than BMW's best time in the V12-powered 760Li. And unlike those regular 7 Series models, the B7 is not hobbled with a speed governor, allowing it to achieve a top mark of 186 mph.
A tasteful body kit further differentiates the Alpina B7, and to our eyes improves the big Bimmer's often derided styling. This is particularly true at the rear, where a spoiler neatly integrates into the controversial trunk lid. Twenty-spoke, 21-inch wheels resemble the fan blades of a jet engine and further impart a more athletic impression than the stock 7 Series does. Plus, the two round holes in the front airdam that house the active cruise control radar and night vision sensor make the B7 look like it has been outfitted with Stinger missile launchers from Q branch.
The 2007 BMW Alpina B7 looks the part of a high-performance executive sedan and has the supercharged V8 to match. True, it's not a real BMW M product, and those hoping for it to mimic the M5's high-revving thrills shouldn't get their hopes up. The Alpina B7 is the next best thing, though. As a propeller-badged alternative to more established vehicles like the Audi S8, Jaguar XJR, Maserati Quattroporte or Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG,, the Alpina B7 should work out nicely.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 BMW Alpina B7 is a high-performance version of BMW's 7 Series luxury sedan. It is available in the 7's standard wheelbase only. Special Alpina features include 21-inch wheels, a body kit with integrated rear spoiler, an Alpina-badged three-spoke steering wheel with Switch-Tronic automanual buttons, unique blue-background gauges and an Alcantara headliner. Other standard equipment is consistent with the 760Li, including xenon adaptive headlamps, enhanced windshield sealing to eliminate wind noise at high speeds, parking assist, a sunroof, 20-way heated and ventilated power front seats with memory, heated rear seats, automatic front and rear climate control, a navigation system with iDrive, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a Logic 7 13-speaker stereo with six-CD changer and satellite radio.
The Rear Entertainment Package adds a six-DVD changer with color monitor and two headphone jacks, and gives rear seat passengers the ability to control certain entertainment functions with their own iDrive controller. BMW Night Vision, Active Cruise Control, high-definition radio and rear side airbags are also optional.
Powertrains and Performance
The BMW Alpina B7 is powered by a supercharged 4.4-liter V8, pumping out 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. BMW describes the B7 as powerful, but not extreme. Alpina's new radial supercharger (the first of its type installed in an automobile) has been specially engineered to work with the V8's variable valve timing, further broadening the engine's power band. A six-speed automatic with Switch-Tronic wheel-mounted automanual buttons is the only transmission available. BMW says the B7 is capable of going from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds, and should reach an ungoverned top speed of 186 mph.
Standard safety features on the 2007 BMW Alpina B7 include antilock disc brakes, stability control, a tire-pressure monitor, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, driver's knee airbag, front and rear parking sensors and a four-year subscription to BMW Assist telematics. Rear-seat side airbags are optional, as is the Night Vision system, which uses an infrared camera to monitor obstacles nearly 1,000 feet ahead of the B7.
Interior Design and Special Features
It takes a keen eye to spot the differences between the stock 7 Series and the Alpina B7. Most notable are the blue-background instruments, a special three-spoke steering wheel with Alpina badge and Switch-Tronic buttons. Otherwise, accommodations are consistent with the 760Li. The dashboard has a clean layout, with relatively few buttons courtesy of the much-maligned iDrive. The mouselike controller and its accompanying LCD screen have been improved over the years, but it's still confusing and draws attention away from driving. In a car capable of 186 mph, that's not exactly a good thing.
Materials are generally very high in quality, as you'd expect in this class, but there are a few plastics here and there that seem out of place in a high-performance executive sedan. Backseat passengers will be just as comfortable as those in front, as the rear seatback contours perfectly to support your lower back and shoulders, while headroom and legroom are abundant.
While the regular 7 Series is arguably the most entertaining full-size luxury sedan, Alpina's delicate touch has turned it into an even more adept canyon-carving weapon. Steering feel and response are practically telepathic for such a large car. Just eye a line and the B7 perfectly responds to your inputs. The ride, while firm with its huge 21-inch wheels and aggressive Michelin rubber, won't punish passengers on pockmarked city roads. The 2007 Alpina B7 is not quite up to M5 standards, but it accelerates with impressive gusto for a 4,700-pound sedan. Its jumpy throttle response can make daily driving a bit of a chore, though, as the supercharger can kick in with massive authority when you're not quite expecting it to. Should something unexpected happen outside the car, the B7 is capable of stopping in a no-nonsense 114 feet (on par with the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Porsche Cayman) with a solid and consistent pedal feel.