BMWs transformed by Alpina demonstrate the not-so-subtle differences between a badge snob and a car connoisseur. Whereas Bradley Braggart will barge into a showroom looking for the most expensive sedan with the biggest engine—such as the range-topping, V-12-powered BMW M760i—Monsieur Connoisseur will politely inquire about something finer and rarer. Something like the 2020 BMW Alpina B7.
At first blush, the redesigned B7 resembles the BMW 7-series upon which it’s based. Both attract unprovoked comments and sideways glances due to their grandiose proportions and that gratuitously large kidney grille. However, the Alpina has a statelier aesthetic. Combined with its signature 20-spoke wheels and stylish (albeit subtle) body kit, the $153,195 B7 we tested was made more fabulous by its exclusive Alpina Green paint. Although everyone who approached us immediately recognized the BMW roundel on the B7’s nose and rump, the Alpina lettering on the blue brake calipers and the bottom of the front bumper is a mystery to non-enthusiasts.
Quicker, Faster, and … Cheaper?
Despite a starting price of $143,795, the 2020 B7 actually costs almost $15,000 less than an M760i. While taking the discount means missing out on the twin-turbo 6.6-liter V-12, this is a case where bigger isn’t necessarily better. Lift the B7’s tabletop-sized hood and behold two prominent turbos peeking out from under the plastic cover that hides the Alpina-enhanced 4.4-liter V-8, which produces 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Alpina also calibrated the standard all-wheel-drive system and worked its magic on the eight-speed automatic to harmonize with the engine’s tune.
The result is insanely quick acceleration for a car that tipped our scales at 4940 pounds. The B7 practically teleported to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at 123 mph. (That’s quicker than the last 797-hp Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye we tested.) Meanwhile, the 2020 M760i we tested took 3.7 seconds to hit 60 mph and clocked 12.0 seconds flat at 119 mph in the quarter-mile. The B7 never surrenders its lead, either. Even its claimed top speed of 205 mph betters the M760i’s governed limit by 50 mph. To corral all that momentum, the Alpina employs massive front and rear brakes with rotors that measure 15.6 inches up front and 15.7 inches out back. Not only did the brake pedal provide firm and consistent feedback, the brakes helped haul the big B7 to a stop from 70 mph in only 151 feet. That’s 17 fewer than the M760i needed and somehow identical to an M2 Competition we tested.
Although we experienced the B7’s ultra-high-speed composure on Germany’s autobahn, traveling at triple-digit speeds is frowned upon in the United States. But if you want to feel like you’ve been shot off the deck of the USS Nimitz, that’s as easy as planting your right foot. For the maximum butterfly sensation, activate the Sport Plus drive mode. What follows is a glorious sequence that includes an instantaneous downshift, a rumbling crescendo from the tailpipes, and a tsunami of thrust. While this type of juvenile behavior happened a lot when we first got the keys, we quickly discovered another side of the B7. Perhaps its best side.
A Rolling Fortress of Solitude
Despite 20-inch rims wearing Michelin Pilot Super Sport performance rubber—sized 255/40 in the front and 295/35 at the rear—the B7 offers one of the smoothest rides we can remember. The low-profile sidewalls somehow tolerated the deteriorating surfaces of southeast Michigan’s worst roads, and the Alpina’s air-sprung suspension and tremendous sound insulation essentially formed a rolling fortress of solitude. This was especially true when we selected Comfort Plus, which set the dampers to their softest and became our go-to mode once the novelty of Sport Plus wore off. While there was no feedback from the thick-rimmed steering wheel, we did marvel at how easy the B7 was to maneuver in tight spaces. Credit this to the sedan’s standard rear-wheel-steering system, which may not offer rear-axle angles quite as large as the new Mercedes-Benz S-class but is still extremely useful. Put it this way: The B7 can impersonate a limo better than the M760i can impersonate a sports car.
There’s no question that the B7’s interior is beautifully crafted and loaded with luxurious features. It also benefits from some unique Alpina treatments, such as our tester’s Myrtle luxury wood trim pieces and the hand-finished leather steering wheel, which bears the company’s circular logo as well as blue and green stitching inside the rim. Still, a car of this caliber deserves a little more wow factor. For instance, sticking a 10.3-inch touchscreen on top of the dash works for the Kia Seltos but not so much for a flagship BMW. We also weren’t impressed with the ventilated front seats, which made a lot of noise without moving much air. Likewise, the seats’ massage function kneaded with the same enthusiasm as an apathetic spouse. At least the customizable ambient lighting, which traces the dash, doors, and dual sunroof panels, adds some theater to the proceedings.
Even with these minor gripes, which admittedly are more BMW problems than Alpina ones, we think the rarest 7-series also happens to be better than the most expensive one. Unfortunately, we’re not surprised that the B7’s specialness is lost on most Americans. Alpina only expects to sell about 300 copies in all of North America for the 2020 model year. While the German coachbuilder offers a broader portfolio abroad, the B7 was the sole U.S. offering until the recent arrival of the 2021 XB7. We’re guessing that the trendier three-row SUV will kickstart Alpina’s U.S. orders and end up outselling its 7-series stablemate. But to the niche of aficionados who appreciate Alpina’s version of the ultimate BMW sedan, the B7 remains the classic choice.
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