What Is It?
2020 BMW Alpina B7 First Drive
The Strong Silent Type
The performance-oriented 2020 BMW Alpina B7 is based on BMW's 7 Series flagship luxury sedan, which is an accomplished vehicle in its own right. Pricing starts at $143,795, which is about $40,000 more than the base 750i sedan yet $15,000 less than the M760i with its unique V12 engine.
The Alpina B7 follows the refreshed 2020 BMW 7 Series to market with many of the same updates and additions, including the exaggerated twin-kidney grille. The 750i's basic powertrain architecture of a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission carries over. But the Alpina increases output to 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, compared to the 750i's 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. Curiously, the B7's output is identical to that of the more expensive V12-powered M760i, though the M760i does introduce maximum torque a few hundred rpm earlier.
So far, the B7's super-sedan credentials may not seem all that impressive, but the plot thickens as you dig deeper. The lower air suspension with adaptive dampers is tuned for greater high-speed stability, as are the subtle exterior aerodynamic enhancements. Thanks in part to non-run-flat performance tires that have been specifically developed for the B7, the top speed climbs to an astonishing 205 mph, compared to the 155-mph limit on other 7 Series models. Acceleration to 60 mph is estimated at 3.5 seconds, which is 0.4 second quicker than the 750i and 0.1 second quicker than the M760i.
Why Does It Matter?
In the large premium luxury sedan class, shoppers expect a refined and comfortable interior, all of the latest technology and higher-than-average performance. The 2020 BMW Alpina B7 exceeds these expectations by a considerable margin. Alpina vehicles are also relatively rare, which plays into the target demographic's desire for something exclusive.
What Does It Compete With?
There aren't a lot of sedans that compete on the same level as the 2020 BMW Alpina B7. The Mercedes-Benz AMG S 63 and Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive come to mind, but even in this exceptional company, the B7 leaves you feeling just a bit more special.
How Does It Drive?
On derestricted sections of the German autobahn, we managed to reach 160 mph before having to accommodate slower traffic, and the B7 attained it with no more drama than a typical car reaching 80 mph. Wind noise builds noticeably, and the fuel gauge drops at a higher rate. But otherwise, there's little else to indicate the rapid pace. The standard all-wheel steering system allows the B7 to track more confidently through the gentle highway bends, while body roll is essentially nonexistent.
On tight, meandering Bavarian mountain roads, the B7 sliced through switchbacks with astounding athleticism. You can still feel the Alpina's considerable 5,000-plus pounds of mass shifting to and fro, but in Sport mode, the dampers stiffen to minimize the perception of weight. Pushing harder into hairpin turns, you can hear all four tires begin to howl, but the big sedan stays wonderfully neutral the whole time. When you need to slow down, the upgraded brakes are up to the task with an appropriately firm pedal and no detectable fade after persistent use. At no point does the B7 feel overpowered for its chassis. It's exceptionally balanced in every sense.
What's the Interior Like?
Despite all of the Alpina B7's performance capabilities, we struggled to find any sacrifice in regard to comfort or refinement. The ride quality ranges from perfect tautness in Sport mode to cushioned compliance in Comfort mode. That's even more impressive when you consider that we rode on supersize 21-inch wheels. The interior mimics that of the "regular" 7 Series, benefitting from a simple horizontal layout, plenty of new tech features and outstanding overall comfort.
You get all of the same premium leather choices, too, but that unearths a rather significant missing element from the B7's formula. American models lack the top-of-the-line Lavalina leather upholstery that every other market receives. This hide is of such irreproachable quality that Rolls-Royce recently added it to its selection. The fine graining and strength make it a standout from the first touch. For now, U.S. owners only get a Lavalina leather-wrapped steering wheel. Armed with the knowledge that this leather exists, we'd try to persuade BMW to add it via special order. It's that good.
How Practical Is It?
The Alpina B7's cabin has plenty of space for four adults to travel long distances in the lap of luxury. Getting in and out is as easy as in any other large sedan thanks to large door openings and a moderately low ride height. In terms of interior storage, the bins, pockets and cupholders are adequate for holding your personal effects, but they're not what we consider generous. The 18.2-cubic-foot trunk is marginally bigger than the trunks of the competing Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera. It can accommodate larger suitcases and golf bags with ease.
Despite its long-wheelbase footprint, the B7 is easy to drive in any setting, thanks to the standard all-wheel steering that allows it to maneuver in tight spaces without seeming oversized or awkward.
What Else Should I Know?
At present, Alpina produces between 1,500 and 1,700 vehicles annually and remains a family-owned company that exclusively embellishes BMW vehicles. The full Alpina lineup includes the 3, 4 and 5 Series as well as some crossovers. Sadly, only the B7 is imported to the U.S., with an allotment of a few hundred vehicles per year that ensures exclusivity.
Alpina's signature is an understated excellence that whispers into the ears of those in the know rather than audaciously announcing its arrival. The B7 is a perfect fit for shoppers who value subtlety without skimping on performance or luxury.