Full 2011 BMW ALPINA B7 Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 BMW Alpina B7 is an all-new model based on the BMW 7 Series.
Since the mid-1960s, the German tuning firm Alpina has taken a variety of BMW vehicles and added its own special touch of high performance, earning a reputation for fast cars with a different kind of luxury. Now Alpina has entered into an official partnership with BMW to distribute its vehicles in the U.S. through BMW dealers. The first of these is the 2011 BMW Alpina B7.
Based on the BMW 750i, the BMW Alpina B7 begins with performance, notably a 500-horsepower version of the 750's 400-hp twin-turbo V8. To cope with the significant boost in power, a more robust transmission has been added, while the suspension and brakes have also been upgraded. On the outside, the distinctive blue of Alpina's signature color catches the eye, as do 21-inch versions of the classic Alpina wheel and front and rear spoilers. The cabin becomes more distinctive as well, with gauges backlit in blue, a special steering wheel, unique wood trim and even illuminated door sills.
Compared to the V12-powered BMW 760Li, a long-wheelbase version of the Alpina B7 will actually save you over $10,000 and get you slightly better performance. Along these lines, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S63 and Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG are also worthy of consideration, though the latter breaks the $200,000 mark. The 2011 Jaguar XFR will save you a hefty chunk of change, but you'll be sacrificing some handling performance in the process. The 2011 Porsche Panamera Turbo offers up truly mind-boggling performance and a stately cabin that is as good as any of the competition. The good news is that with all these high-performance luxury sedans, there is no loser in the mix.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 BMW Alpina B7 is offered in either short- or long-wheelbase versions as well as rear- or all-wheel drive, all of which are equally well appointed.
Standard features include 21-inch wheels, xenon headlamps, a power trunk lid, sunroof, heated steering wheel, keyless ignition/entry, front and rear parking sensors, a power rear sunshade, rear side sunshades (powered in RWD models), auto-dimming mirrors, four-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated power front seats, heated rear seats, wood interior trim, a head-up display, a navigation system with real-time traffic and voice activation, the BMW iDrive telematics interface, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker audio system with a six-CD/DVD changer, 12GB music server, satellite radio and iPod and USB input jacks.
The optional Camera package adds a rear-, side- and top-view camera system to expedite parking. The Driver Assistance package includes automatic high beams, a lane-departure warning system and active blind-spot detection. The Rear Seating package adds power-adjustable ventilated rear seats with massage functions. Stand-alone options include a rear-seat entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, smartphone integration and night vision with pedestrian detection.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2011 BMW Alpina B7 is a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 that produces an impressive 500 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque, thanks to a pair of more aggressive turbochargers from Alpina complemented by enhanced cooling. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available and includes manual shift control via buttons mounted on the steering wheel. In standard form, the B7 comes in a rear-wheel-drive configuration, but an AWD version is also available.
BMW estimates the B7 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in a scant 4.5 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 177 mph. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 14 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined for RWD models, while AWD versions make slightly less at 14/20/16 mpg.
Standard safety features on the Alpina B7 include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and side curtain airbags. Optional safety features include adaptive cruise control with a front collision warning system, a lane-departure warning system, active blind-spot detection, rear- and sideview cameras, and infrared night vision with pedestrian detection that displays the images either in the main dash display or in the head-up display (if so equipped).
Interior Design and Special Features
Besides some subtle differences, the 2011 Alpina B7's interior is identical to that of the BMW 7 Series, featuring a heady mix of luxury, comfort and cutting-edge technology. Supple leather and rich trim accents adorn almost every surface and the "multicontour" front seats ensure comfort for virtually any body type.
The rear seats are similarly accommodating for taller adults, and the extended-wheelbase versions offer even more legroom (by about 6 inches) and slightly increased headroom. Available rear-seat heating and even a massage feature should satisfy the most demanding of passengers.
The B7 also adds tasteful Alpina badging and some myrtle-burl wood trim to set this car apart from the standard BMW 7 Series. Blue backlit gauges and illuminated scuff plates further add to the Alpina's unique character. Like the 7 Series, the Alpina B7 features the BMW iDrive telematics interface, which seems daunting at first but quickly becomes intuitive.
With 500 hp under the hood, the 2011 BMW Alpina B7 is one of the most exhilarating luxury sedans available. All 516 lb-ft of torque is available very early in the power band, between 3,000 and 4,750 rpm for acceleration that can pin every passenger to their seatbacks. But even with such impressive power, the B7 is remarkably well mannered when driven conservatively. Gearshifts are fired off quickly and smoothly, with steering-wheel-mounted buttons to allow the driver to manually control the shifting.
The 2011 BMW Alpina B7 rides lower than the standard BMW 7 Series and features larger 21-inch wheels, yet comfort is not sacrificed. The various dynamic driving control settings noticeably change the demeanor of the car, from throttle response to suspension stiffness. Alpina's retuned, dual-stage dynamic traction control is also notable, with Stage One intervening immediately when wheel slip is detected and Stage Two permitting a degree of driving enthusiasm.