Full 2014 BMW ALPINA B7 Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 BMW Alpina B7 gets an updated iDrive controller with handwriting recognition, and smartphone app integration and BMW Online Internet-based services are now standard. In addition, the optional frontal collision mitigation system gains a pedestrian detection feature, and the adaptive cruise control system can now bring the car to a complete stop in traffic and then automatically resume the set speed.
If you can imagine living in the largest and most fabulous house in your neighborhood (the one with the indoor pool and manicured grass tennis court), then you've got an idea of what it's like to own a 2014 BMW Alpina B7. It's a unique offering at the top of the BMW 7 Series range, but rather than stunning ocean views or a well-stocked wine cellar, it has one of the most luxurious interiors of any car on the road today, a wickedly powerful turbocharged V8 engine and unusually athletic handling for a full-size luxury sedan. The fact that the B7 is a relatively rare sight on U.S. roads will only make it more desirable for buyers drawn to its impressive list of attributes.
Although the B7 starts life on the 7 Series assembly line, it gets some extra attention from Alpina, a German company that specializes in tuning BMWs. The Alpina crew makes several key upgrades to the car. The V8 engine receives new pistons, turbochargers and intercoolers that help it to 540 horsepower (up from 445 on the BMW 750i), while the suspension is retuned for better handling, and lightweight 21-inch wheels and summer performance tires are fitted. Inside, Alpina installs a new steering wheel and wood inlays sourced from its own forestland. As a result, you get a more capable and exclusive version of a sedan that was pretty fantastic to begin with.
Whether you choose the standard-length Alpina B7 sedan or opt for the longer-wheelbase version, things are seriously comfortable on the inside. Headroom and legroom are abundant and will accommodate drivers and passengers of all sizes. Of course, if you go with the long-wheelbase B7 and add all-wheel drive (in lieu of the standard rear-drive layout), and then add some options and customize the paint and interior, things can get fairly expensive, but such is the reality of elite sedan ownership. Other than the price of admission, there really isn't much to complain about, though the shift quality can get a little harsh in the B7's most aggressive Sport+ driving mode, while storage and trunk space are not exactly plentiful for a sedan of this size.
In your search for supreme luxury, you'll find a few competitors that offer similar levels of performance and exclusivity. The S63 AMG version of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class should be considered, as it has one of the best blends of luxury and technology currently available. Alternatively, the Turbo versions of the 2014 Porsche Panamera might prove more rewarding for drivers who spend a lot of time on twisty back roads. The 2014 Audi S8 and 2014 Jaguar XJR are also impressive, with excellent driving dynamics and prices much lower than the B7. While the 2014 BMW Alpina B7 is the ultimate expression of the 7 Series' potential, we'd advise looking at all the options in this staggeringly capable class of sedans before making your choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 BMW Alpina B7 is a performance-themed version of the 7 Series full-size luxury sedan. It's offered in both short- and long-wheelbase versions, with either rear- or all-wheel drive.
Standard features include 21-inch wheels with summer performance tires, adaptive xenon headlamps, a power trunk lid, front and rear parking sensors, heated exterior mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, a sunroof, a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, manual rear side sunshades, auto-dimming mirrors, four-zone automatic climate control, premium leather upholstery, 14-way heated and ventilated power front seats, driver memory settings, heated rear seats and wood interior trim. Also standard are a head-up display, a rearview camera, the BMW iDrive electronics interface, voice control, a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, smartphone app integration, BMW Assist emergency communications, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a six-disc CD/DVD changer, satellite radio and iPod and USB input jacks.
The Alpina B7 offers a handful of stand-alone options and packages. The optional Driver Assistance Plus package adds side and top camera views, lane departure and blind-spot warning systems, and a frontal collision warning and mitigation system with pedestrian detection. Available only on long-wheelbase models, the Luxury Rear Seating package adds two rear power-adjustable and ventilated rear seats with massage functions, dropping the car's total seating capacity to four. A rear-seat entertainment package adds two color screens to the front seatbacks, which can be operated independently and controlled by a rear iDrive controller. Stand-alone options include LED headlights with automatic high-beam control, adaptive cruise control, a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system and a night vision system with pedestrian detection.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 BMW Alpina B7 is powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 that produces 540 hp and 538 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission available and it includes manual shift control via steering-wheel-mounted buttons. In standard form, the B7 comes in a rear-wheel-drive configuration, but all-wheel drive (also known as xDrive) is available.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 19 mpg combined (16 city/25 highway) for RWD models, while AWD versions drop 1 mpg off the highway rating.
Standard safety features on the Alpina B7 include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear parking sensors, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and active front head restraints. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency response button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle recovery.
Multiple parking cameras, a blind-spot warning system, a lane-departure warning system, a night vision system and a frontal collision warning and mitigation system (which can detect both cars and pedestrians and apply the brakes to help avoid a collision) are available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Subtle differences aside, the 2014 Alpina B7's interior is much like the executive-class luxury, comfort and cutting-edge technology found in the BMW 7 Series. Supple leather and rich wood accents adorn almost every surface, and the front seats provide exceptional comfort for virtually any body type.
The rear seats similarly accommodate taller adults, and the extended-wheelbase versions offer even more legroom (by about 6 inches) and slightly increased headroom. Optional rear seats that can recline, heat, cool and even massage occupants should satisfy even the most demanding riders.
The B7 also adds tasteful Alpina badging, a unique steering wheel and optional wood trims that include ash, myrtle and walnut (and gloss or matte finishes), in addition to classic piano black trim, to distinguish it 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 is pretty easy to use, thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times. But compared to some rival systems, it often requires a few more twirls and clicks to get what you want.
Storage space is our only real gripe with this interior. The center console and glovebox are rather small, and as on the regular 7 Series, trunk capacity is only 14.0 cubic feet. The standard rear bench folds to provide additional space when needed, however.
With 540 hp under the hood, the 2014 BMW Alpina B7 is one of the most powerful luxury sedans available. Indeed, there's enough power on tap to pin passengers to their seatbacks at any time, as the B7 leaps away from the starting line effortlessly and seems to accelerate harder the faster it goes. But even with such impressive performance, the B7 is remarkably well-mannered when driven conservatively. Gearshifts are fired off quickly and smoothly, and steering-wheel-mounted buttons allow the driver to control the shifting manually when the mood strikes.
Compared with the regular 7 Series, the B7 Alpina has a lowered suspension and larger 21-inch wheels and low-profile tires (which, unlike on the regular 7, are not run-flats), so the ride stiffens up a bit, but only marginally. This is still an incredibly comfortable and enjoyable sedan for long-distance travel, yet it feels far more athletic than a 750i when you're going around tight turns. There are various dynamic settings to adjust engine and transmission response and suspension stiffness, and these have a noticeable effect on the car's attitude. In the B7's sportiest setting, though, the transmission's shifts are so quick and hard that they become unpleasant.