2013 BMW Alpina B7 xDrive review : Large, comfortable and real quick

The interior features sport/race-inspired touches and features, such as the seats and steering wheel Photo by Alpina Automobiles.

Uh huh. I thought so. I thought this thing weighed almost as much as a Chevrolet Tahoe. Driving it before looking at the specs, it feels like it. That’s not a complaint, just an observation.

I like the way the car looks, especially the wheels, though I could probably live without the rear-deck spoiler. I love this honkin’ V8. Combined with the silky eight-speed auto, the powertrain is silky like a turbine with all 538 lb-ft of torque coming on smoothly with imperceptible shifts. I found myself just loving to boot the throttle — this beauty feels almost supercar quick. Pick a gear, any gear, and the acceleration is instant.

Back to that weight: it’s really most noticeable around town where the steering is really light and the car feels a little wafty. Basically you have to call up some speed before the steering and chassis settle in. As speeds go up the car feels almost tossable. The ride isn’t too bad — less harsh than I thought it would be in the comfort setting. Normal and sport are actually fine, too. Again, better than it thought they’d be.

At $146k it ain’t cheap, but arguably worth it. True you’ll spend less on an Audi S8, but the Alpina B7 is cheaper than a Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG.

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Along with the rest of the BMW 7-series lineup, the Alpina B7 got a bit of a freshening for the 2013 model year. There’s an additional 40 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque coming from the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 and an eight-speed automatic gearbox helping to get the power to the wheels. If you happen to have access to an abandoned air strip or test track top speed is now 193 mph on the xDrive models, which is up from 175. Alpina says the long-wheelbase xDrive B7 gets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and that’s kind of crazy considering this things tips the scales at over 5,000 pounds.

There are some changes on the outside like the new kidney grille, adaptive front headlights, LED fog lights and rear light fixtures. Of course, the B7 is covered in a coat of Alpina blue metallic paint and rides on a slick set of wheels.

Like Wes, I found the drivetrain to be smooth with hammer performance everywhere in the rev band. It is quite alarming at how quick the speedometer shoots towards triple digits again considering this car’s large footprint and heft. There are no peaks in the powerband and the car seems like it will build speed until you run out of nerve or when your brain tells you that you’re an idiot and that you should back off. The eight-speed automatic performs imperceptible upshifts and downshifts are also immediate when you need them.

However, like all the other BMW 7-series that I have driven with the turbo V8, throttle tip-in remains my one major gripe. When I start getting into the pedal, I want/prefer more immediate response, but even in this B7 there’s a lull before things get going. Sure, when this baby gets going it flies forward like it’s nobody’s business, but that delay at throttle tip-in just bugs me.

I wasn’t throwing this around very hard on my weekend with it, but instead just cruised around most of the time shuttling people here and there. There were zero complaints from backseat passengers who enjoyed the extra legroom afforded by the long wheelbase and everything commented on silky the ride was. Even large bumps and potholes weren’t felt too much in the cabin and the front seats were cushy and comfortable.

From behind the wheel, steering is lightly weighted to make for an easy, comfortable drive. Brake performance is strong to make slowing this big guy down a drama-free experience. For a few turns I did take with a little speed, there’s certainly body roll to speak of, but I didn’t think the B7 felt sloppy or overly soft.

Obviously, the Alpina B7 is not a corner carver. Instead it offers brutal straight-line performance that can be enjoyed by you and three or four of your friends at the same time in supreme comfort.

2013 BMW Alpina B7 xDrive LWB

Base Price: $135,395

As-Tested Price: $146,845

Drivetrain: 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8; AWD, eight-speed automatic

Output: 540 hp @ 5,200-6,250 rpm, 538 lb-ft @ 2,800-5,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 5,050 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 16/24/19 mpg

AW Observed Fuel Economy: 16.2 mpg

Options: Luxury rear-seating package including rear ventilated seats, rear comfort seats and massaging rear seats ($3,700); Bang & Olufsen sound system ($3,700); driver assistance package including active blind spot detection and side- and top-view cameras ($1,900); full LED lights ($1,900); BMW apps ($895)

Leave a Reply