In the early 1960s, Burkard Bovensiepen found escape from his family’s German typewriter-manufacturing business by affixing hotter carbs in BMWs. Stealing the Alpina name from the typewriter outfit, he earned racing success and developed a sort of clairvoyance, anticipating high-performance BMWs before BMW did, starting with the more powerful Alpina 1500 and 1600 sedans, which predated the factory 1800 and iconic 2002.
Alpina left racing at the end of the 1977 season to begin its road-car operations with mightier 3-, 5-, and 6-series models (again, effectively presaging BMW’s own M3, M5, and M6) just as BMW’s big new 7-series made its debut. BMW never built an M7, perhaps because Alpina built its own 7-based creations. However, they were never really what an M7 might have been; too calm and stoic for the Motorsport badge. At least, not until now. After an onslaught of increasingly technical and tense M sedans, the 2017 B7, Alpina’s latest hot-rod 7-series, feels to us like what the biggest M car should be.The all-wheel-drive B7 conjures some M fumes underhood with its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 from the 750i fortified with Mahle pistons, a special exhaust, larger turbochargers pushing up to 20.0 psi of boost, and an Alpina intake and intercooler arrangement. The resulting 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, 155 ponies and 110 pound-feet stronger than stock, match exactly the output of the forthcoming 12-cylinder M760i, BMW’s first M-badged 7-series. Yet again, Alpina gives us a glimpse of the future.Here is enough power to rank the B7 as the quickest dealership-sold BMW we’ve ever tested, with 60 mph arriving in 3.4 seconds and the quarter-mile smoked like a robusto at the end of a Dyson vacuum: 11.6 seconds at 122 mph. The claimed top speed is 193 mph, in case you drive a lot of empty autobahns. A far more practical talent is the B7’s high-speed stability as it effortlessly sneaks up on triple-digit velocities between speed traps.Making the most of the 600 horsepower is the excellent ZF eight-speed automatic borrowed from the 7-series and given more aggressive shift mapping here. Uncork its full magnificence using the signature Alpina shift buttons on the back of the steering wheel, which are not paddles but hidden nubs wrapped in the same leather as the rest of the rim. Kinky.
There’s nothing deviant about the B7’s air-sprung suspension, which is tuned for maximum grip and comfort, a combo fast fading from the BMW M portfolio. Delivering its potent neutral handling and 0.97 g without riding as if the suspension, the large-diameter wheels, and the rubber-band-thin tires are locked in a struggle, the Alpina limo manages to outshine not only every contemporary M car but every mainstream BMW in this regard.
Outrunning all large sedans save for the Audi S8 Plus and the Tesla Model S, boasting exclusive Alpina flourishes, and channeling the core competencies of late BMW M cars we miss all amply justify the B7’s $137,995 base price. It’s worth even more, we’d say. And it would make one hell of an M7—or, at least, a helpful, 206.7-inch-long arrow pointing the way back to the Ultimate Driving Machines that BMW’s M division could (and should) still be building.
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