New Car Reviews

Driven: 2011 BMW Alpina B7

Congratulations to the budding Warren Buffetts and the junior Steve Jobses who preserved their slice of the entrepreneurial pie while the world’s economy crumbled. Those of you anticipating a reward for a job well done are shopping on the appropriate page.

Alpina’s B7 is the BMW for the true masters of the business universe. To the casual observer, it’s the buttoned-down, boardroom-grade 7-series with a few adornments. But when whipped into action, this sedan’s pinstripe Armani morphs into jogging shorts and its wingtips kick like Nike Frees.

A custom-stitched steering wheel connects the driver to the B7’s soul. On-center, the steering is taut and telegraphic. When the wheel is twisted toward an apex, this 4500-pound sedan jinks with 3-series agility. There’s no appreciable body roll or tail whip to hinder the manager on a mission. Thanks to the twin turbos on duty, serious thrust begins at 2500 rpm.

The BMW/Alpina relationship has evolved to produce high-vitality concoctions with utmost efficiency. Instead of modifying a standard car into a special, Alpina delivers its parts assortment to the 7-series plant in Dingolfing, Germany, for BMW to assemble. Nearly finished B7s – available in short and long wheelbases with rear- or all-wheel drive – are shipped to Alpina’s Buchloe works for some final touches.

Alpina’s bill of materials includes a heat-treated cylinder block, special cylinder heads, turbochargers with larger compressor wheels, and intercoolers with 50 percent greater heat-exchanging capacity. These parts, in concert with 25 percent higher boost, yield 500 hp at 5500 rpm, a 100-hp gain over the standard 750i. A heavy-duty ZF six-speed automatic transmission, larger brakes, shorter and stiffer springs, body braces, and new algorithms for the active dampers and antiroll bars complete the driveline and chassis mods.

Inside, the steering wheel is trimmed with luscious leather and blue-green stitching. Five Alpina-logo badges are added, and a numbered identification plaque is attached to the overhead console. Dash and door panels are available in piano-black lacquer or burl wood veneer harvested from West Coast laurel trees.

Exterior upgrades include front and rear spoilers, a small rear extractor, and appropriately hunky rolling stock. Classic Alpina turbine-spoke wheels are wrapped with twenty-one-inch Michelin Pilot Sport radials relieved of run-fl at capability. Rear tires are one size wider than the fattest rubber available on standard 750s.

Anticipating the inevitable, Alpina sales director Kris Odwarka pumped the tires on our B7 test car to the 49 psi necessary for high-speed use. Returning the favor, we played cat and mouse with an M6 on the autobahn to Buchloe. With the engine humming a hard-metal refrain, we watched the speedometer top out at 293 kph (182 mph) and our BMW buddy shrivel in the rearview mirror.

Except for a slightly spongy brake pedal (likely due to the use of floating instead of fixed calipers) and the occasional steeringwheel twinge over ragged pavement, there’s nothing to complain about here. For all the boring meetings endured and the smart decisions made under intense pressure, the Alpina B7 is every upwardly mobile executive’s just reward.

From typewriters to 21-inch wheels.

Burkard Bovensiepen was not enthralled by his father’s typewriter manufacturing business located in the shadows of the Bavarian Alps. So, in 1961, he began fiddling with twin carburetors for BMW’s 1500 in one of the factory’s outbuildings. The enterprise thrived, and in 1965, the Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen company was established in Kaufbeuren, a small town fifty or so miles west of Munich.

Instead of discouraging Alpina’s modifications, BMW supported the budding tuner by blessing its products with a full factory warranty.

For a decade, beginning in 1968, Alpina raced BMWs in Europe’s Touring Car series. The list of luminaries on the payroll included Derek Bell, James Hunt, Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, and Hans Stuck. In 1970, Alpina BMWs won three German championships, the 24 Hours of Spa, and the European Touring Car championship. Somehow, Bovensiepen also found time to relocate his factory to Buchloe that year.

Alpina’s classic twenty-spoke wheel design, still in use, was created in 1971 for a special lightweight version of BMW’s 3.0CS coupe.

In 1978, Bovensiepen’s crew began cramming six-cylinder engines under BMW 3-Series hoods and turbocharging BMW 5- and 6-series models. In 1989, Alpina’s B10 sedan was fitted with twin turbochargers.

During the 1990s, Alpina delved into electronic control of clutches and automatic transmissions with some of the first applications of steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons. In 1999, BMW and Alpina collaborated on the development of twin-turbo diesel engines.

Alpina’s first U.S. import was the 2002 BMW Z8 roadster equipped with a push-button-shifted automatic transmission.

Today Alpina focuses on 7-series sedans for the U.S., although the company also offers an ambitious assortment of gas and diesel 3- and 6-series cars in other markets. A few Alpina B7 sedans were imported here during 2007 and 2008. After a two-year hiatus, the twenty-spoke wheels – now 21 inches in diameter – and the refined Alpina design distinctions are back for another go on the fifth-generation BMW 7-Series.

Buying Guide
Powered by Motortrend
2011 BMW 7-Series

2011 BMW 7-Series

MSRP $122,000 Alpina B7 Sedan


18 City / 28 Hwy

Horse Power:

230 @ 6500


200 @ 2750