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|2011 BMW Alpina B7
|2011 BMW Alpina B7
By contributing editor David Colman
- Exotic but factory warranted
- Limited production
- Stable and comfortable
- Still large and heavy
- Taxed as gas guzzler
The beauty of attending the Western Automotive Journalists’ Media Days is that it gives members of the group an opportunity to sample exotic steeds unavailable from press fleets. Case in point: in 27 years of reviewing cars, I have never before had the chance to drive an Alpina tweaked BMW. But here was a splendidly royal metallic blue example of the breed, a 7-Series Bimmer done out in Oyster and Black Nappa Leather to the tune of $127,225. Now the 7 is a brilliant piece of engineering, just the tool for transporting you to a spot of desk thumping at the Bundesministerium. But few would consider this 4,433 pound sedan to be much of a GT runner. The standard V8 engine BMW provides for the 7 makes 400hp that provides adequate, but not scintillating performance. Also available is a monstrous V12, good for 512hp and pitiful fuel mileage. But there is a better compromise in the offing this year. Alpina will massage the twin turbo V8 to produce almost as much output as the V12, but without the big motor’s excessive fuel thirst. In fact, the Alpina B7 produces 500hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque and still manages to return 14MPG in city driving and 22MPG on the freeway.
Best of all, the Alpina B7 is fully covered by BMW’s 4 year, 50,000 mile warranty, which includes a full maintenance program. So what constitutes an Alpina upgrade? In addition to that rocket booster of a motor, Alpina also revamps the 7’s suspension system with stiffer springs and more dynamic damping control to augment the 7’s effective anti-roll stabilization. The tuner also adds a handsome aerokit which enhances the lines and diminishes the size of the sedan. The Alpina kit is available on the short wheelbase version of the 7 rather than the limousine length stretch 7. The B7 is one of the quickest cars on the road, regardless of size, weight or power. While we had no opportunity to time a 0-60mph run, the Alpina 7 feels every bit as fast as a 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL 550 which packs 518 lb.-ft. of torque. In other words, nothing will run away from this stonking sedan on a freeway or a back road.
But the B7 is very much a velvet hammer, thanks to the extravagant detailing and comfort level of the cabin. Little Alpina niceties abound. The steering wheel hub contains the regal Alpina crest which consists of a vertical crankshaft logo. Matching cloisonné center hubs identify the special Alpina turbine-design road wheels. A discreet plaque located just in front of the power 2-way moonroof alerts you to the fact that this limited edition 7 was specially crafted by Alpina majordomo Burkhard Bovensiepen. No detail is too small to overlook in the transformation of this car. Even the cover of the owner’s manual is redone by Alpina with a delicately pebbled green and purple hide so soft it could double as a lens brush.
Although the hulking B7 looked decidedly out of place in the pits at Laguna Seca Raceway, on track it proved appearances can be misleading. The Alpina was not only one of the fastest cars on the street, but also one of the fastest cars at Laguna Seca’s Media Days. Bear in mind that the car count that day included staunch contenders like the Mercedes Benz gullwing SLS, the Cadillac CTS-V, the Lexus IS-F, the Porsche Spyder Boxster, and the BMW Z4. Normally, you’d think any of these would flat run away from a BMW 7, but not when the 7 has been transformed by Bovensiepen and honed to the kind of bright, sharp edge you need at a knife fight.
2011 BMW ALPINA B7 SWB:
- ENGINE: aluminum 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V-8 with High Precision Direct Injection
- HORSEPOWER: 500hp
- TORQUE: 516 lb.-ft.
- TRANSMISSION: 6-speed ALPINA SWITCH-TRONIC Automatic Transmission
- FUEL CONSUMPTION: 14 City MPG/22 Highway MPG
- PRICE AS TESTED: $127,225
- 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds
2011 BMW Alpina B7 Specs
|The official BMW of North America website – www.bmwusa.com|