Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 BMW Alpina B7 xDrive

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I imagine it began like this: One day, some Alpina or BMW executive was flying business class on Lufthansa or Air Canada. Maybe he booked the ticket, maybe he was upgraded because of his kind German smile. But somewhere, during the flight, this mad genius surveyed his business class pod, and thought “Hey, this would work nicely in a car!”

The Alpina B7 is so over the top it makes Ru Paul blush.

So, given that they had the means and power, they then bolted an exact replica of that pod into the back seat of the  2017 BMW 7 Series. There’s an airplane tray table, fold-flat seat, footrest – heck, there’s even a tablet for you to use while en route. The panoramic sunroof? That’s the $1,000 Sky Lounge option. Sky Lounge. Need I say more?

And then, because they’d spent the whole flight watching Jason Statham movies, they also bolted an enormous, preposterous, over-the-top, ridiculous bloody engine into it.

This is a special 7 Series. One that is plucked off the line early in its embryonic cycle, shuttled off to the lunatics at Alpina and then massaged heavily into the 2017 BMW Alpina B7.

Trying to describe this car and do it justice is difficult. For example, if the aforementioned Jason Statham was a car, I reckon he’d be an Alpina B7. Sure, he doesn’t drive one in any of the Transporter films (though he does drive a lower-tune 735i briefly in the first one), but it fits.

For one, the B7 is all business. For two, it has a chiseled, perfectly defined jawline, courtesy of that old-school front splitter. And for three, it has over 600 horsepower, mother-hugger.

The Alpina B7 is so over the top it makes Ru Paul blush.

Want curb appeal? The brilliant blue BMW snaps necks so hard a chiropractor could buy one, and use it to drum up business.

If you put a grape on the dashboard, open your mouth and mash the accelerator – you will eat the grape.

The B7 exudes cool. From the Alpina Blue paint on the exterior, to the “so ugly it works” brown leather on the inside, the B7 is gloriously ostentatious. Even obnoxious. And so it should be. Parking at my uncle’s house in a well-to-do part of Mississauga, Ontario, led to an impromptu car show as his neighbours and their kids swarmed. They were in awe of the B7 even before they took a look at the interior.

But the Alpina B7 is about far more than style. At its core, literally, is a lump of BMW-sculpted carbon fibre. Added to that, Alpina-tuned suspension, including adjusted hard points in the chassis for a purely Alpina geometry. This is not a 7 Series with some go-fast bolt-ons, it’s essentially its own unique model.

That BMW allows this level of control to be wielded by Alpina is testament to the strength of a 50-year partnership.

Drivers are rewarded with a 4.4L bi-turbo V8 good for 600 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. The 5,250mm long, 1,902 mm wide B7 will hit 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, and decimate the Autobahn at 310 km/h. That engine is more subdued than you might expect, until you tiptoe out past the first detent in the pedal and slam your passenger’s head back into the headrest. Then, the B7 rushes onward with all the power of a flash flood, sweeping you toward license trouble in a cascading rush.

That will have you prodding frantically at the brake pedal, which fortunately is connected ultimately to four-piston 395 mm front rotors and 370 mm rotors up the back. Use too much pressure here and that grape from earlier might well make its way back to the dash.

The eight-speed automatic from ZF is equipped with launch control, and changes are effected not with the ubiquitous flappy paddles, but with buttons mounted on the back of the steering wheel. Through this eight-speed, power is channeled to all four wheels and doled out with precision by an army of processors and sensors.

Putting the B7 in Sport Mode enables launch control. Using launch control in public enables lawyer mode – either because the police find your behaviour objectionable, or because your spouse does. I’m afraid of both parties, so I left launch control alone.

Sport+ Mode drops the ride height by 20 mm, which in turn increases the front camber, improving turn-in. Sport+ increased firmness in the air suspension, as well as opening up throttle response, transmission response, and steering weight. You can also activate the lower ride height by hitting 225 km/h. I used the button.

The ride height can also be increased by 20 mm for clearing speed humps and exiting driveways. Because splitter.

Integral Active Steering makes low-speed turning easier courtesy of up to three degrees of steering angle on the rear axle – rear wheels turn in the opposite direction as the front to decrease steering radius. At high speed, the back wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts for increased stability, making lane changes feel more effortless and comfortable. The brochure touts this as a performance attribute, but I feel like it does more for just ride comfort and stability on the highway than it does for cornering performance.

Which is not to say the B7 needs any improvement in the handling performance area. It is a thoroughly enjoyable car to hustle and never gives away its 2,110 kg curb weight. Instead of feeling like the great hulking luxury sedan it is based on, the B7 feels like a heavy-weight martial artist wrapped in a sleek suit.

The infotainment system is equipped with gesture control. Like most of you, my first thought was, “What a silly gimmick” – then I remembered my daughter was in the car right as Momma Said Knock You Out came on the radio. A flick of my wrist, volume at zero. Problem solved. Except Maddie can read, and the title was up on the screen. And she had the tablet. And she turned the song back up. That’s how I learned you can lock out the infotainment from the back seat, so the driver can’t use it. Fortunately, it goes the other way too.

The BMW display key is the best I’ve ever seen. The little fob allows you to connect to your car to remote start it, set the climate control, lock individual doors, roll up the window, etc., all with a gorgeously rendered touch display. On other 7 Series models the display key will even let you pull your car out of a parking spot (though only in a straight line).

The sheer volume of tricks, gadgets, and trinkets, not to mention the blistering performance and opulence of the Alpina B7 make the $185,445 as-tested price tag much easier to swallow. One example: ceramic controls. For $600, BMW takes all the iDrive switchgear and replaces it with ceramic, finished with a black glaze.

That, and a host of add-ons were included on this tester. After the base $155,900, BMW added $5,500 for the Alpina Executive Package. That gave us climate-comfort laminated glass all around, side sunshades (power operated), ventilated seats, leather instrument panel, massaging front seats, surround-view parking camera and Sirius XM.

Throw in another $10,000 to get the Executive Lounge Tier 2 with ventilated rear seats, Executive Lounge seating and rear console, heat comfort package, massaging rear seats, rear entertainment, BMW Touch Command and the four-seat configuration (as opposed to a bench rear).

The $4,900 Alpina BMW Individual Package added the Anthracite Alcantara roof liner, piano-black finish wood trim and the BMW Individual Caramel Full Merino Leather. If you were in a frugal mood, this is the package you might leave off. If you were in a frugal mood, though, you wouldn’t have read this far into the review.

To borrow the words of the greatest all-time baller, Ferris Bueller: The 2017 BMW Alpina B7 is so choice, if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Engine Displacement 4.4L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 608 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Peak Torque 590 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel Economy 14.7/9.7/12.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 515 L
Model Tested 2017 BMW Alpina B7
Base Price $155,900
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,145
Price as Tested $185,545
Optional Equipment
$27,400 – Alpine Executive Package $5,500; Executive Lounge Tier 2 $10,000; Alpina BMW Individual Package $4,900; Ambient Air Package $500; Ceramic Controls $600; Sky Lounge Panoramic Glass $1,000; Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Sound System $4,900