Used 2011 BMW ALPINA B7 Sedan
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2011 BMW Alpina B7 proves that power, luxury, performance and comfort can live together harmoniously in one very impressive sedan.
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.
trim levels & features
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.
performance & mpg
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).
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.
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.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
So Andreas Bovensiepen, the guy who runs Alpina, is wheeling the 2011 BMW Alpina B7 and he's just finished telling us that this car is all about luxury.
In the next moment we're hurtling into Turn One at Infineon Raceway in 4th gear, bending left up the hill and under the bridge and then straightening the car out for the short braking zone before the right-hander at the crest. Now we start sliding to the right, crossing the crest at Turn Three where the big curb can pitch the car out into the dirt bank beyond.
We're doing this in a 4,686-pound sedan with laurel-wood trim on the dash, you understand. Right then it becomes clear that Alpina's idea of luxury might be a little different from what you might think appropriate — or even possible.
Getting Serious About America
We are in Sonoma, California, to spend a little more time with the 2011 BMW Alpina B7 than we were able to get at the Monticello Motor Club for our First Drive. Alpina has long been the BMW equivalent of Mercedes-AMG, but it has been more like an engineering company than a purveyor of flashy wheels. Now the Bavarian company is finally getting serious about the U.S. market and it will import 1,000 examples of the BMW Alpina B7 between 2010 and 2011 through BMW dealers.
Burkhard Bovensiepen put Alpina on the map clear back in 1961 when he slapped a dual-carburetor setup from Weber on the BMW 1500 sedan. Soon enthusiasts were lining up at the door and Alpina became BMW's partner for specialty motorsports projects, like the 1972 BMW CSL 3.0 racecar. It's never looked back since.
Alpina Burkhard Bovensiepen GmbH is still in Buchloe, a little town far out in the Bavarian countryside southwest of Munich, where the girls still keep a traditional dirndl in the closet for special occasions. The corporate mailbox even remains in the original typewriter factory of the 1930s, though it's surrounded now by buildings where 180 people engineer the 1,000-1,500 Alpinas that are produced at its factory every year. But ever since Andreas Bovensiepen returned from seven years spent as an engineer with BMW to lead his father's company, Alpina has been relentlessly modernizing.
Andreas Bovensiepen is particularly proud of the three transient dynamometer cells that have been created, which he hopes will help his company keep up with the rapid changes in air emissions regulations. The twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 under the 2011 BMW Alpina B7's hood is a point of pride with him, as it's a 500-horsepower representation of what his company can do. This is no quick-and-dirty hot-rod motor with a reflashed ECU. After all, these are German engineers — relentlessly methodical.
The Pressure To Perform
The Alpina recipe for the B7's V8 starts with Mahle pistons that deliver a compression ratio of 9.2:1 and a pair of Garrett turbos with larger 44mm outlets. With 14.7 psi of boost, the engine now delivers 500 hp at 5,500 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque at 3,000-4,750 rpm. Alpina's typically meticulous engineering includes new intercoolers with 35 percent more surface area, plus an additional radiator so the car can withstand the higher temperatures of the Mideast. Bovensiepen is also proud to note that the engine (like the car itself) is built right on the BMW assembly line in Dingolfing, which helps keep down the cost.
This engine certainly does the business on the Edmunds test track. The 2011 BMW Alpina B7 gets to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds with the traction control disengaged (4.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip), and the quarter-mile comes up in 12.7 seconds at 111.6 mph. It gets away from the starting line effortlessly and seems to accelerate harder the faster it goes. To cope with the power, the B7 carries the transmission of the BMW 760i.
The brakes from the 760i are also onboard, and the combination of their huge thermal capacity plus the enormous Michelin PS2 tires (245/35R21 in front and 285/30R21 in the rear) makes for prodigious stopping power. The B7 just shrugs off each stop with complete fade-resistance, coming to a halt from 60 mph in an amazing 107 feet.
Driving in the Real World
As we drove across the northern fringe of Sonoma county out to the rugged Pacific coast, the B7 really didn't feel much different from a conventional 7 Series. But as Bovensiepen points out, this is much harder to accomplish than it seems, since the B7 wears 21-inch examples of Alpina's famously lightweight, 20-spoke wheels (which also incorporate the air valve into a space beneath the center cap). By dispensing with run-flat tires, he says, the B7 is able to deliver the steering response of a high-performance car with its 21-inch Michelins, yet maintain the ride comfort of a 7 Series on 18-inch tires.
The B7 certainly doesn't feel like the usual motorsports monstrosity developed on the Nürburgring, yet Bovensiepen notes that his experience there as a racing driver (he won the Nürburgring 24 Hours overall in 1998 and has been a class winner three other times) has taught him that tires do their best work when they're on the pavement, not in the air. That's why he prefers progressive suspension rates, something he learned as a suspension engineer while developing the BMW Z8.
In Germany, an Alpina is thought of as executive transportation for long-distance commuting, so it must maintain its civilized nature. The fact that the B7 is available with all-wheel drive just like the new-generation 7 Series is part of this car's programming for real-world travel. No wonder our drive to Nick's Cove in Inverness, right on the shore of the long bay that defines the Point Reyes National Seashore, seemed so undramatic — aside from having 500 hp at our command, of course.
Doing That Track Thing
And of course the next day, we're hammering this car around Infineon Raceway and it hardly seems like a luxury car at all. Once you dial the chassis calibration to Sport+, the transmission shifts so quick and hard that it can be unpleasant, while the chassis maintains an evenly balanced poise even when the Michelin PS2s get hot, something you really notice in the Turn 1-Turn 3 combination, which sloshes you this way and that as if you were the only cocktail olive in a very large jar.
Bovensiepen is keen to point out that the car's goodness comes from engineering the mechanical package first, then overlaying it with the electronic safety net that everyday drivers expect. For example, the Alpina-calibrated stability control lets you skate the tires around as long as your inputs are smooth, but as soon as something happens abruptly, the electronics pull your leash short. It's a very sophisticated approach, one that encompasses the whole car.
The 2011 BMW Alpina B7 certainly puts up good handling numbers on the Edmunds test track. Around the skid pad, the B7 grips to the tune of 0.90g, plus its Alpina-tuned stability control lets it achieve this number with the stability control engaged. Nearly the same thing is possible in the slalom, where the car does 68.5 mph with the stability control disengaged and 68.1 mph with the system engaged.
Racing to Success in America
Alpina has been a long time coming to the U.S. While Burkhard Bovensiepen of Alpina and Hans-Werner Aufrecht of AMG are contemporaries (Bovensiepen's BMW 2800CS Alpina won the European touring car championship in 1970, while Aufrecht's AMG-prepared Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 made his company's reputation by winning the 1971 touring car event at Spa-Francorchamps), AMG has had far greater commercial success in the ensuing decades.
Apparently Alpina was reluctant to commit to the quantity of cars that BMW dealers in the U.S.A. were eager to get and didn't want to undertake the expensive transformation of the company that would have been required. And it's useful to remember that AMG only acquired its sizable influence after Mercedes bought into the company in 1990, and then only because it lacked the equivalent of BMW's M Division.
Now that BMW can back up Alpina with its own distribution, financing and warranty, the Buchloe company's fortunes might be changing. And with the 2011 BMW Alpina B7, it has created something unique — a fast car that delivers the pinch of BMW M cars with an exquisite sense of balance and poise. It's not just more power; it's more of everything.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of this evaluation.
Used 2011 BMW ALPINA B7 Sedan Overview
The Used 2011 BMW ALPINA B7 Sedan is offered in the following styles: SWB 4dr Sedan (4.4L 8cyl Turbo 6A), LWB 4dr Sedan (4.4L 8cyl Turbo 6A), LWB xDrive 4dr Sedan AWD (4.4L 8cyl Turbo 6A), and SWB xDrive 4dr Sedan AWD (4.4L 8cyl Turbo 6A).
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