Last February, the updated Alpina B7 was announced on the heels of the sixth-generation 7 Series LCI. The numbers alone immediately caught our attention; 600 horsepower, nearly identical torque, a top speed of 205 mph, and a curb weight just shy of 5,000 pounds. The manufacturer’s 3.5-second zero-to-60 acceleration claim was also impressive, as the number put it ahead of the—up until then, at least—undisputed flagship of the 7 Series lineup, the V12-powered M760i xDrive.
This week, Car and Driver published their road test of the Alpina B7 online, and the results are even more remarkable than the paper specifications initially suggested. Not only does the 2020 Alpina B7 outperform the more powerful M760i in metrics like acceleration (3.2 seconds versus 3.6) and the quarter-mile (11.4 seconds at 123 mph versus twelve seconds at 119), it also shaves seventeen feet off the V12 range-topper’s braking distance from 70 mph (168 feet versus 151), which means the 4,940-pound (per Car and Driver) super sedan can come to a halt in nearly the same space the M2 Competition (155 feet).
If the performance, presence, exclusivity, and rarity of the Alpina B7 still aren’t enough to convince you it’s the prime choice in the lineup over the M760i, how about pricing? Rather incredibly, the B7, which has a starting MSRP of $143,795, costs $14,000 less than the V12 Seven.
When opting for the Alpina B7, you don’t get the biggest engine. That credit still belongs to the M760i xDrive and its 6.6-liter N74B66 V12, which makes around 593 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 627 pound-feet from 1,550 to 5,000 rpm. That’s a bit different from the pre-LCI M760i, which was rated at 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. With the B7, you’re getting an Alpina version of the BMW’s corporate N63 4.4-liter V8 (more specifically the N63B44T3) which is internally referred to as the (go figure) M5. Alpina’s M5 version of the N63B44T3 for the B7 makes 600 horsepower from 5,500 to 6,500 rpm, and 590 pound-feet from 2,500 to 5,000. Speaking of the M5, that’s not far off from midsize performance sedan’s own output of 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque in standard form, or 617 horsepower in Competition trim.
The numbers may sound very close, but when combined with Alpina’s take on xDrive and the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, the performance differential between the 2020 B7 and the 2020 M760i xDrive speaks for itself. Need another performance datapoint? The Alpina B7 covers the quarter-mile faster than the almost purpose-built Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye, which boasts 797 horsepower, 707 pound-feet of torque, and a weight advantage of over 425 pounds.
So, if you’re in the market for one of BMW’s flagship sedans (isn’t it cool that they currently sell two in the U.S.?) which one should you buy? As we mentioned a few weeks ago in our comparison of the Alpina B3 Touring and the upcoming M3 Touring, it depends on your taste(s), and what you’re looking to get out of such a vehicle. The counterbalancing forces that are BMW M and Alpina effectively straddle a unique line between all-out performance, and almost an almost cloying level of luxury that competes with some of the best automakers in the world (BMW does own Rolls-Royce, after all).
While most read Car and Driver’s tests to learn about the performance of a vehicle, their article about the latest Alpina B7 refers to the model as a, “Rolling fortress of solitude,” and specifically makes note of the luxury sedan’s ride quality, which is made possible by way of a standard air suspension. Contrary to the complaint of harsh ride quality lodged against a wide array of modern BMW models from performance to pedestrian, the Alpina B7 possesses the multi-faceted personality we have come to expect from such a vehicle, in that it can devour corners and curves with aplomb at an exceptional pace, or provide isolation from America’s crumbling infrastructure beneath its twenty-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires at the press of a button.
For the diehards among us, including myself, the M760i still drives a hard bargain, and the fact that you may only be able to purchase a V12-powered BMW for another few years makes them all the more enticing. For the seasoned experts at Car and Driver though, the decision isn’t a difficult one; the 2020 Alpina B7, with all of its capability, coupled with its rarity and exclusivity, make it the enthusiast’s choice in the 7 Series lineup.
Alpina builds less than half as many cars as Rolls-Royce every year, and the XB7 has already sold out in terms of 2020 production allotments. Good thing it’s the B7 you really want.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]