It’s hard to imagine any car making a Mercedes-Benz S-Class seem suddenly pedestrian, let alone the AMG-tuned version of the brand’s flagship sedan.
After all, its recipe for success — imposing size, impressive opulence and outstanding performance — has made it the benchmark by which all other luxury land yachts are measured. Which is precisely where the BMW Alpina B7 comes in.
Perhaps, I wondered to myself while sipping a coffee in the comfort of the back seat, it’s the car’s exclusivity that makes it so special. With only about 1,500 Alpina-branded cars sold around the world annually, the German firm moves about half as many cars as McLaren each year. But there’s more — much more — that makes the Alpina B7 one of my favorite cars in recent memory. And it extends far beyond the confines of the reclining rear seats.
Sit Back, Relax
Of course, those seats certainly aren’t a bad place to start. They also aren’t unique to Alpina’s take on the BMW 7 Series, but that doesn’t make them any less excellent to occupy. Because the B7 starts life as — you guessed it — a 7 Series, it benefits from the same extensive option sheet. In the case of our tester, no expense was spared to make it a palatial place to quite literally kick up one’s feet.
An additional $10,000 or so is needed to take full advantage of the car’s 44.4 inches (1,128 millimeters) of legroom, and brings with it a pair of heated, ventilated and massaging rear seats that can be reclined, however slightly, for increased comfort, as well as a pair of 10-inch seatback-mounted screens. But wait, there’s more. For maximum comfort while cruising, the lucky occupant of the passenger side rear seat also benefits from a front seat that can be tucked against the dash, as well as a power-folding leg rest and an airline-style folding table that can be deployed from the center armrest.
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And speaking of the armrest, that’s also where you’ll find the removable Samsung tablet that acts as a control hub for all the comfort and convenience features on offer, right down to the optional cabin scent ionizer. If all of that weren’t enough, our tester’s cabin received the so-called BMW Individual treatment, which includes soft and supple full-grain leather upholstery, not to mention a 16-speaker surround sound system.
All told, it took more than $20,000 to move our tester’s cabin from plush to palatial, a steep price premium to be sure, but a worthy one. If there ever was a car that made me question whether I wanted to be the driver or the passenger, the B7 would be it.
A Delightful Drive
It didn’t take much time behind the wheel, however, to put such internal debate aside in the name of pure bliss. Part of the credit goes to the car’s so-called Carbon Core construction, which uses various metals and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic to create a taut, sports car-like platform. However, much of the kudos go to Alpina for what its team was able to do in reworking the dynamics of BMW’s flagship sedan.
It starts under the hood, with power coming from the same twin-turbocharged V8 found in the BMW 750i, though output has been increased significantly. While the 750i makes an already stout 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, a handful of alterations, namely to the engine’s intake and exhaust systems, has the 4.4-liter engine sending 600 horsepower to the wheels along with 590 lb-ft of torque. Those outrageous output figures are in line with the twin-turbocharged V12 that’s been stuffed into the new BMW 760i, proving, if nothing else, that there truly is a replacement for displacement.
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Like the engine, the B7’s transmission, all-wheel drive and suspension systems are sourced from the 7 Series arsenal, with plenty of refinement at the hands of Alpina’s engineers. But it’s the suspension setup that is most impressive, combining air suspension with dynamic dampers for a ride that can feel as sporty or serene as the driver sees fit. Crank up the aggression in the Alpina-exclusive Sport+ mode, and the car hunkers down almost an inch (20 mm) while increasing front camber and reducing suspension rebound rates. Switched to maxed out comfort mode, it’s like the shocks have been replaced with jars of Marshmallow Fluff, the B7 floating along the road without a worry.
Like all other examples of the 7 Series sold stateside — the sedan is sold in two lengths elsewhere, including Canada and Europe — the B7 is built on a massive wheelbase that stretches 126.4 inches (3,211 millimeters), while its overall length is a whopping 206.7 inches (5,250 mm). As such, its mammoth curb weight of 4,820 lb (2,186 kg) is to be expected, though not necessarily noticed. In fact, the B7 feels lighter than its dimensions would suggest, and even somewhat smaller, with the rear-wheel steering helping flick the behemoth around like a toy car.
And that may be my only complaint about the B7’s drive: That it’s always on. Do anything more than breathe on the accelerator pedal and the B7 bursts into action, surging onward like a runaway bullet train. Get up to speed, however, and it doesn’t take long for the B7’s German roots to shine through. Out on the highway, speeds at which the local magistrate will gladly lock the door and throw away the key come early and effortlessly, a clear sign of its Autobahn-cruising abilities.
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It’s also out on the highway where the car’s price-gouging is on full display, with close to another $4,000 in options necessary to get active safety features like adaptive cruise control. In Canada, everything from blind-spot detection and lane departure warning to lane-keep assist and night vision make up the $3,800 Driver Assistance Package, while the safety features can be broken into two tiers in the U.S. or combined for $3,600. Night vision adds another $2,300 to the already hefty price tag in the U.S.
The Verdict: 2017 BMW Alpina B7 Review
To say the Alpina B7 raises the bar of what a luxury sports sedan should be is an understatement. It’s sophisticated and refined, a true rival to any S-Class this side of the Maybach. But it’s also outlandishly fast and fun, providing plenty of enjoyment from the driver’s seat. In short, it’s everything the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat wants to be when it grows up and then some, with a combination of opulence and performance that’s virtually unmatched.