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If you're lucky enough to have taken a recent BMW 7 Series luxury sedan for a spin, you'll know that BMW's trademark driving dynamics and performance are largely intact despite the car's ample dimensions and heft. Nonetheless, there were still those well-heeled enthusiasts for whom the "regular" 7 Series just wasn?t enough. That's why the BMW Alpina B7 -- a high-performance 7 Series variant -- appeared on the scene.
Although BMW's iconic M division is normally a leader in factory performance tuning, there has never been an M7, as the engineers felt that the 7 Series just wasn't sporty enough to warrant the full-on M treatment. So the company turned to Alpina, a German aftermarket tuner that has enjoyed a close domestic relationship with BMW for decades but is largely unknown to the American consumer.
The BMW Alpina B7 was the fruit of Alpina's labor. Put simply, it was (and is) a BMW 7 series with big wheels, better brakes, firmer suspension settings and -- oh yeah -- a beastly engine. There have been two generations for the B7 now, the first with a supercharged V8 and the second with a twin-turbo V8. Both, however, crank out 500 horsepower. With the exception of the mandatory conventional automatic transmission, the Alpina B7 is essentially an M7 by another name.
Current BMW Alpina B7
Back after a two-year hiatus, the BMW Alpina B7 is once again based on the BMW 7 Series, which was completely redesigned for 2010. Now, however, in addition to the standard-wheelbase 750i, the B7 treatment is also available on the long-wheelbase (750Li) version as well as the all-wheel-drive versions ("xDrive") of each.
The B7's body tweaks over the standard 7 are similar to before, as a unique front airdam, rear spoiler and 21-inch wheels are again fitted. The cabin likewise has minor yet noticeable changes such as different wood accents, blue gauges with red needles and a less beefy steering wheel rim covered in silken leather. It comes loaded; standard feature highlights include keyless ignition/entry, quad-zone automatic climate control, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors and a navigation system.
As with the 750, The BMW Alpina B7 boasts a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, but thanks mostly to a pair of more aggressive turbochargers from Alpina it cranks out considerably more power in this application -- 500 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. Running through a six-speed automatic (with manual shift capability), this powerhouse vaults the B7 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, according to BMW. Of course the chassis is upgraded as well, with recalibrated suspension and even more powerful brakes.
During our seat time, we rather liked the BMW Alpina B7's split personality. Depending on the trip at hand, your mood and road conditions, the B7 is equally adept at providing smooth, quiet and relaxing luxury transport as it is at giving a competent pilot some back-roads thrills where it can make short work of curving asphalt.
Used BMW Alpina B7 Series Models
Produced from 2007-'08, the first BMW Alpina B7 super sport luxury sedan was based on the shorter-wheelbase version of the previous fourth-generation 7 Series. The Alpina B7 was fitted with 21-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, a body kit with integrated rear spoiler, steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons and a few aesthetic upgrades in the cabin. Other standard equipment was identical with that on the ultra-luxurious 760Li, which meant just about every sumptuous and high-tech feature that BMW could find in its bag of tricks.
The biggest difference was under the hood, where a radial supercharger -- the first of its kind in any production car -- bumped the output of BMW's 4.4-liter V8 to 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, a huge increase from the stock 325 hp and 330 lb-ft. The sole available transmission was a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. Although the B7 wasn't the swiftest car in its segment (a distinction that belonged to the mind-numbingly rapid Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG), its estimated 0-60 mph sprint of 5.0 seconds still put it in very rare company and its projected top speed of 186 mph meant it could outrun all but the fastest sports cars.
The styling of the previous-generation 7 Series was not exactly well-received, but Alpina did its best with the controversial design, adding a tasteful body kit that mitigated some of the more egregious stylistic offenses. Inside, the B7 was similar to the flagship 760Li, mostly a good thing. It also had an older generation of iDrive, of course, which could prove irksome even to those familiar with the system's labyrinthine menus. Beyond that, it was hard to complain about a cabin designed to coddle occupants like no previous BMW.
In performance testing, our editors were duly impressed with Alpina's transformation of the 7 Series. Handling was a relative concept for a near-2.5-ton vehicle, but the B7 was nonetheless a legitimate sport sedan. No, it wasn't exactly tossable, but thanks to Alpina's suspension tweaks, brake upgrades and the meaty 21-inch rubber, the B7 felt responsive and utterly composed in virtually every situation.
Used first-generation BMW Alpina B7s will be few and far between, and interested parties should keep in mind that there were no changes made during its short life.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new BMW ALPINA B7 page.