2020 BMW Alpina B7 first drive review: Big, bad, Bavarian ‘bahn-burner – CNET

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2020 BMW Alpina B7 first drive review: Big, bad, Bavarian 'bahn-burner


180 miles per hour doesn’t feel that fast in a big luxury sedan on an unrestricted section of German autobahn. But when the slow-moving Volkswagen Passat decides to merge into your lane when it clearly shouldn’t, 180 mph feels like warp speed as you’re standing on the brakes to avoid imminent disaster.

Thankfully, the 2020 BMW Alpina B7 is a sedan capable of not only comfortably achieving crazy cruising speeds, but bringing them to a halt without a hint of drama. And what do you know, it’s a hoot off the highway, as well.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this refreshed B7, let’s talk about Alpina and its relationship with BMW. In Germany, Alpina is an independently owned and operated automaker, but it works exclusively with BMW. The company tunes everything from the 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series sedans to the X3 and X4
SUVs, and sells them with Alpina-specific VINs. It’s even got a nice side hustle in the high-end wine distribution business. (If you’re ever in Buchloe, go check out the wine cellar.)

Here in the US, Alpina sells its cars through BMW’s network, and in addition to the B7, recently offered the 6 Series Gran Coupe-based B6 sedan. The Alpina B7 gets all of the fancy new accoutrements of the updated 2020 7 Series sedan, and with the 6 Series Gran Coupe no longer in the picture, the German tuning house is already looking at the 8 Series coupe for its next US offering.

BMW’s new 7 Series has been widely criticized for its 2020 model year redesign — specifically, that big ol’ grille. I actually think those enlarged kidneys look their best here on the B7, nicely blending in with the 7’s slimmer headlamps, redesigned lower fascia and Alpina-spec lower lip. Around back, you’ll find a small decklid spoiler, quad-tip exhausts and a new diffuser.

BMW will sell you a B7 in a number of different colors, but you’d be loony not to order yours in Alpina-exclusive shades of blue or green — both of which, by the way, are no-cost options. Thankfully, even if you do go off the menu and order a standard-issue BMW color, every B7 rolls on Alpina’s supercool 20-spoke wheels, available in 20- and 21-inch sizes.


Alpina

Step inside and the B7 feels like any other fully loaded 7 Series, meaning it borders on being downright opulent. Nappa leather is standard, and you can have it quilted for an additional $500. Merino leather kicks it all up a notch (and withdraws $4,000 from your bank account), and if you’re really going for that sugar daddy lifestyle, be sure to spec the $5,750 rear executive lounge seating package, for the reclining seat with footrest, lounge center console, plush rear buckets and individual entertainment systems. A slightly less fancy version of this pack can be had in the $3,900 luxury rear seating option, which doesn’t offer two individual thrones, but still ups the back-seat passenger comfort game quite a bit. Oddly, you’ll have to order one of these rear-seat packages if you want the heated steering wheel and front armrests, too.

B7-specific interior touches are limited to a placard on the center console Alpina’s button-style fingertip gear selectors on the steering wheel, which the company has always fitted in place of conventional paddles (and quite frankly, I hate using them). Otherwise, the B7 is as comfortable and quiet as any other top-shelf 7 Series, with cushy, supportive seats, beautifully crafted materials and more than enough room for even the tallest, widest passengers.

Cabin tech carries over from the other 2020 7 Series models, too, meaning the B7 gets BMW’s iDrive 7 multimedia interface is housed on a 10.2-inch touchscreen. Navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless smartphone charging, Apple CarPlay compatibility and those silly gesture controls are all part of the package, and the 7’s digital instrument cluster gets an Alpina-style reskin, with a blue-and-green color scheme and different speedometer and tachometer fonts. Opt for one of the aforementioned premium rear-seating options and your riders in back will have a 7-inch iDrive command tablet at their disposal, so they can override your choice of music, select their own ambient lighting colors or change your navigation route to include a stop at Taco Bell because, hey, we all crave a Crunchwrap every now and then.


Alpina

Thankfully, Alpina doesn’t nickel-and-dime you on driver-assistance technology; the 7 Series’ whole kit and caboodle is standard. Every B7 comes with adaptive LED lighting, BMW’s adaptive cruise control with Adaptive Driving Assistant, parking assist, a head-up display, surround-view camera, lane-keeping assist and so on.

Alpina says it tries to create products that fill niche gaps in BMW’s portfolio. In other words, since BMW doesn’t make a full-fledged M7, Alpina builds the B7. And considering how good the B7 is, BMW honestly doesn’t need an M7. (I’d probably prefer the look of the Alpina, anyway.)

Power comes from the same 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 that you’ll find in the BMW 750i, but with an additional 77 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of torque, for a grand total of 600 hp and 590 lb-ft. That puts the B7’s output just shy of the V12-powered M760i (600 hp, 627 lb-ft), though interestingly, at 3.5 seconds, the Alpina is one-tenth of a second quicker in the 0-60 mile-per-hour dash.

But the B7 is far more than just a boosted 7 Series. This car feels like it’s absolutely unstoppable, whether gobbling up long stretches of German autobahn or while winding along backroads through Bavaria’s lush forests.


Alpina

Alpina touched all the performance hardware that underpins the 7 Series; the B7’s rear-axle steering, air suspension, dynamic dampers and all-wheel-drive system were retuned to account for the stiffer chassis, new wheel/tire setup and more powerful engine. Bigger braking hardware is fitted, too, with four-piston, fixed calipers up front, clamping down on 15.5-inch discs. At the rear, floating calipers work with 15.6-inch discs. Alpina intentionally uses steel bakes instead of more expensive carbon-ceramic stoppers — company representatives tell me it doesn’t make that big of a difference. And after repeated hard stops at triple-digit speeds, I can confirm that brake fade is hardly an issue.

The B7 exhibits a lot of athleticism. Along ribbons of smooth German pavement, the Alpina is definitely sharper than an equivalent 750i, and doesn’t feel as cumbersome as the brutish M760i. The steering has a wonderful weight and directness to its action, which helps with overall agility. Of course, this is a car that’s 17 feet long and 6 feet wide and weighs 4,855 pounds, so it’s not exactly what I’d call nimble. It’ll take a corner with less body roll than a Mercedes-AMG S63, but it’s still a handful in tight hairpins.

That said, get this thing out on lazy, winding roads or open expanses of freeway, and it absolutely goes like hell. You can really feel the immense power under your right foot, the eight-speed automatic transmission smoothly switching between gears as needed, with superquick shifts in its more aggressive Sport and Sport+ modes. I find the best way to drive this car is to use its Adaptive setting, which adjusts the powertrain and chassis characteristics to your demeanor. Comfort mode is a little too floaty for my tastes, and digging into the two Sport programs feels a little out of character for what is, at the end of the day, a massive luxury barge.


Alpina

Alpina says the B7 will do 205 mph flat-out, and while I only (only!) reached 180 mph on my unrestricted run, it’s obvious this car has a lot more to give. Where some luxury sedans can feel a bit unhinged at the top end of their performance register, the Alpina almost feels reserved by comparison. The fact that this car so effortlessly cruises at nearly 200 mph is a truly amazing feat. No car I’ve tested in recent memory covers great distances with such great speed as easily and unflappably as the Alpina B7.

The 2020 BMW Alpina B7 starts at $142,800, not including $995 for destination. And if I’m honest, it’s kind of a bargain — relatively speaking, natch. Yes, it’s a full $40,150 more expensive than a base 750i xDrive, but it comes with a lot more standard kit, not to mention a boatload of power. On the other hand, the Alpina B7 is $6,750 less than a Mercedes-AMG S63, or more to the point, $14,900 less than BMW’s own M760i. I guess I get the allure of having a V12 engine under your hood, but park the B7 next to an M760i and tell me you wouldn’t pick the Alpina every time.

Really, my only issues with the Alpina B7 are that I don’t earn a salary large enough to afford one, and that I don’t have a delimited stretch of road anywhere near my home. But if you can, and if you do, the B7 is a hell of a car. Just remember: You absolutely want it in blue.


Alpina

Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this feature were covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it’s far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. While Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews, all scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.





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