2011 BMW Alpina B7 xDrive

Matt Tierney

We happened to have the B7 in the office at the same time as a Jaguar XJL. Though the cars are not direct competitors, the differences between them are enlightening. The Jag costs some $50,000 less and puts out 115 fewer horsepower, and yet feels much more responsive, especially at low speeds. That tells me weight matters--the BMW carries about 500 extra pounds. Power delivery matters, too. As Eric notes, the B7 suffers considerable turbo lag, which is further exacerbated by the fact that the Bimmer launches in second gear unless you leave the shifter in sport mode. I have to wonder how many buyers of a six-figure, hot-rodded BMW sedan are really interested in trading drivability to save a few drops of fuel with a second-gear start. In any event, many of the 4.4-liter V-8's 500 horses don't leave the stable during urban driving. I wouldn't blame this entirely on the Alpina folks, either, as nonlinear throttle response was one of our few complaints about our Four Seasons 750Li.

Those issues aside, the 7-series remains a great car, and Alpina applied its changes with a careful -- almost too careful -- touch. Dressed in a deep metallic blue paint, with multi-spoke nineteen-inch wheels and a large lip spoiler, the B7 definitely looks more aggressive than your average 7-series but still projects a sort of understated elegance. Same goes for the interior, where a small certificate sewn into the suede headliner, a badge on the steering wheel, and other small touches let you know you're in a special-edition vehicle. The best element of the upgrade is the responsiveness of the suspension. The steering, already lively in the regular 7-series, is extremely direct and accurate here, especially at higher speeds. I left the suspension in Sport+ mode for most of my drive, and wasn't ever disturbed by the ride. It's firm, sure, but still doesn't rattle your teeth.

Are all these subtle improvements worth the six-figure window sticker? With the disclaimer that value is rather subjective at these prices, I'd argue no. Even forgetting for a moment that I had more fun in that $85,000 Jaguar, a brief glance at the 7-series range reveals that the $137,725 as tested price for our B7 trips over the 12-cylinder 760Li. That said, its unique styling and beefy suspension tuning do offer a nice variation on the usual BMW experience.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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