Driven: 2011 BMW Alpina B7

Don Sherman

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.

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