One of the requirements of a flagship sedan is exclusivity.
While Mercedes’ S-Class and Audi’s A8 (reviewed here) are wonderful machines, most iterations are widely available and in some parts of the country, seen on a daily basis. This also applies to the BMW 7-series, in regular form, of which we have tested virtually every available configuration. Tested here, however, is the 2020 BMW Alpina B7, a truly exclusive model that gets unique interior trimmings, styling cues, and is also the fastest 7-series currently available for sale.
First things first – yes, when we made that last statement we did take into account the fact that the V12-powered M760Li (reviewed here) exists. The B7 is short four cylinders, but the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 is significantly massaged and outputs 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft., and the torque comes in at just 2,000RPM. In the Alpina application, the 4.4-liter gets different turbochargers as well as intercoolers, along with a modified version of the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. An acceleration time to 100km/h of 3.5 seconds is no small feat for an executive sedan that weighs more than my first condo did, but this still isn’t the most special part of this car.
It’s not the stunning interior materials or the gorgeous green paint on our test vehicle that we’re referring to, either. Every version of the current 7-series has a luscious interior with top-notch fit and finish, and enough technology to keep even the geekiest of us entertained. The Alpina B7 here cranks things up a few notches, with extended Lavalina leather that upholsters the seats, dashboard, and center console. It looks and feels more special than the hide in the last 750Li (reviewed here) to come around our office, and maintains the iconic Alpina blue instrument gauges with red needles. Complimenting the light interior in our tester was some exquisite Myrtle wood trim, which fit the rich personality of the B7 nicely.
As in any other 7-series, technology is controlled using BMW’s iDrive connectivity suite. With everything from Bluetooth connectivity, gesture controls, Apple CarPlay, built-in scents, and vibrant ambient lighting, the B7 is nothing short of a tech marvel. Rear seat passengers, who will find plenty of space thanks to the long wheelbase, can toggle everything from climate comfort to massage settings using the built-in tablet mounted in the rear armrest. The rear seats are also power adjustable, heated, ventilated, and feel more premium than the business class cabin in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
No, what truly impresses about this car is the way it carries itself down the road. There is absolutely no sensation of speed in the Alpina B7 xDrive, with the adaptive dampers doing a stunning job of keeping passengers isolated without depriving the driver of the necessary feel of a performance car. The twin-turbocharged V8 accelerates with a surge of urgency without coming across as brash or loud like an AMG. If more athletic drive modes are summoned, the B7’s performance exhaust lets out a noteworthy rumble from its active valves. But if you’re just traveling down the highway, regardless of the chosen speed, occupants won’t think you’re doing any more than 70 or 80 km/h, because of the sheer smoothness of the vehicle.
Noise, vibration and harshness are all kept to a minimum as the B7 holds speed. The glass lamination is increased by 5mm and on all of the windows, meaning the interior is truly vault-like at any speed. Where the M760Li makes its weight feel known and can feel a bit lazy at times, the Alpina has far more perseverance in its stride. It’s still buttery smooth, but feels more eager and is far more agile in the corners. Steering feel is minimal, but the rear-axle steering courtesy of the Integral Active Steering and the xDrive all-wheel-drive system give the B7 ample grip. While we know that precisely zero Alpina buyers will be visiting the racetrack with their large luxury sedan, it’s comforting to know that the B7 could keep up with quite a few smaller and lighter performance machines.
While pricing for the long-wheelbase 7-series starts at $126,400 in Canada, the Alpina B7 starts at $173,600. Thankfully, the equipped Alpina Green is a no charge option, and the multi-spoke 21-inch wheels are also included. Our tester was missing the four-seat configuration with rear entertainment, but did add the $4,900 Bowers and Wilkins Diamond sound system, $500 Ambient Air Package, and $2,500 Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection. The $600 Remote Control parking is a bit of a gimmick and realistically too slow to be worth it, but a neat conversation piece regardless. The total sticker pushed $185,000 before taxes and fees.
Real-world fuel efficiency from the B7 will vary largely on the driving style and environment of the buyer, but we observed a combined 13.0L/100km. As expected and just like every other 7-series on the market, 91-octane premium fuel is required. Not that fuel consumption will ever be a high priority for the average buyer in this segment, but again, the B7 will sip less gasoline in just about every situation than its V12-powered M760Li sibling. The 78-liter tank could be a bit larger for some added cruising range; we find it a bit small for the creamy-smooth highway hauler this Alpina is.
The elephant in the room is the updated styling of the 2020 7-series. As part of a mid-cycle refresh (the current model has been around for nearly half a decade now), this year’s 7 has gotten numerous design and tech updates, but the most prevalent is the massive grille that is quickly becoming a BMW staple. While this grille looks awkward in some other applications like the X7 (reviewed here) full-size crossover, it seems to suit the 7-series. I personally didn’t hate it on the 750i, and I don’t hate it here. In fact, the added body elements on the B7 seem to mesh better with the new fascia.
If you’re the flagship buyer who doesn’t want to settle for yet another cookie cutter German saloon, this is the sedan for you. Don’t get me wrong – I wholly acknowledge that only a certain percentage of the population can afford a luxury vehicle to begin with, but the 2020 BMW Alpina B7 xDrive is a car for a very specific type of buyer. It’s understated enough that it won’t attract the wrong kind of attention, but those who know what the Alpina badge means, will immediately identify it as something just a touch more special.