Satch was right: the next Alpina model for the U.S. market is an X7. It only makes sense, doesn’t it? Starting for the 2007 model, North American BMW dealerships began selling the Alpina B7, then powered by a supercharged V8 producing 500 horsepower. We’re now two generations of 7 Series removed from the days of the E65, and the BMW lineup has evolved significantly over that time, with SAV and SAC sales taking a bite out of conventional delivery volume.
Although the 7 Series remains the undisputed flagship, with a V12 producing roughly 600 horsepower and even more torque, the M760Li’s days appear to be numbered, thus priming the model portfolio for a pair of Alpina models with more power and luxury than most will ever require. Joining the current Alpina B7 is the Alpina XB7, based on the largest BMW model ever made, the X7.
Slotting against the 7 Series but in SAV form, but the X7 has catered to the luxury buyer since it was unveiled a few years ago. Once BMW began selling them last year, deliveries quickly took off, demonstrating the pent-up demand for a BMW with standard three-row seating. Even with an incredibly strong SAV and SAC portfolio, with huge volume sellers like the X3 and X5, the X7 has proven itself to a be desired model that more than a few have seen fit to add to their stable.
Although BMW claims the new XB7 can sprint to 60 mph in just four seconds flat, Car and Driver’s testing of the current X7 M50i revealed that the 523-horsepower V8-equipped model can achieve the same speed in just 4.1 seconds. In real-world testing, just like plenty of other BMW models both past and present, we expect the XB7 to outperform its factory rated capability. The XB7 is also said to have a top speed of 180 mph, according to BMW.
How does the XB7 manage that kind of staggering performance? 612 horsepower available from 5,500 rpm to 6,500, along with 590 pound-feet of torque which peaks from 2,000 to 5,000 rpm should explain part of it. For those keeping track, that’s not far off from BMW’s current M Performance V12, which develops 600 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque—enough to move the M760li from zero to 60 in just over three and a half seconds. The gains in output (90 additional horsepower from the same underlying engine design) are achieved by way of enlarged twin-scroll turbochargers (mounted between the V, of course), along with supporting cooling componentry such as additional water coolers, an upsized transmission cooler, Alpina’s own intercoolers, and finally, a stainless steel model-specific exhaust.
The Alpina-modified version of BMW’s N63 engine is coupled to a ZF eight-speed auto, but instead of a conventional unit, it’s a specialized version called the 8HP76 that is designed and built to handle the breathtaking output of the XB7’s V8. In terms of equipment, the XB7 comes standard with 21-inch wheels, but a 23-inch set in the classic Alpina multi-spoke style (20 spokes) is also available, and they actually weigh approximately 28 pounds less per unit, as per Car and Driver. While you might not notice the weight savings at the wheels, you will feel the four-wheel steering, which is said to minimize footprint of the X7 as far as the driving experience is concerned, allowing it to handle and behave like a sport sedan—the same tech is standard on the XB7. The suspension is also model-specific with Alpina dampers that can allow for up to 1.6-inches of lowering. The suspension drops to its lowest setting at speeds above 155 mph, or when sport plus is selected.
The interior is the sort of opulent space one has come to expect after more than a decade of U.S Alpina models, with plush leather and various other model specific treatments taking the form of trim, lighting, and other materials all present. One of our favorite highlights is the center control area and the shifter for the ZF transmission, which is made of crystal that illuminates in Alpina’s classic blue.
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about the XB7 is that it’s the first Alpina built completely in the U.S., more specifically at BMW’s Spartanburg production site in South Carolina. This means the XB7 is the first Alpina model to be built entirely in the U.S. for domestic sale. The capability of BMW’s North American factory—the largest in its global decentralized production network—has long been known, but adding an Alpina to the repertoire only serves to broaden and further demonstrate the plant’s abilities.
You can place an order for an X7 this month, but the first examples aren’t scheduled to show up at U.S. BMW centers until later this year in September. Pricing has already been announced, with a base MSRP of $142,295, which translate to an approximate price premium of $28,000 (to start) over the current X7 M50i.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]