A vehicle that provides the finest opulence for a small circle of automotive connoisseurs.
For 56 years, Alpina has been partnering with BMW and creating luxury performance vehicles that are more bespoke with an emphasis on performance that are more suitable for street use than outright track dominance. The North American market has received several of these special collaboration models in the past, and the latest is the 2021 BMW Alpina XB7 tested here, borrowed from BMW Canada for a week of evaluation.
The BMW Alpina XB7 is the first SUV made by Alpina to arrive in the North American market. Onlookers might not know the brand, but they can instantly recognize that the XB7 is a bit more special thanks to the free-floating ALPINA badge on the front bumper apron and the gorgeous 23-inch wheels made with the classic Alpina 20-spoke design. The Black Sapphire Metallic paint looks rich with sparkles under the sun, but we personally prefer to have the signature Alpina Blue Metallic or Alpina Green Metallic schemes. BMW has gotten a lot of flak these days for their oversized front grille design, but we love the way it looks on the XB7 for imposing a commanding presence the instance it appears over the horizon.
The interior of the Alpina XB7 has also received a thorough makeover to distinguish it from the regular BMW X7. Occupants will know they are in a special flagship with bespoke Alpina details littered all throughout the cabin such as the Alpina steering wheel wearing its logo upfront along with its trademark blue and green stitching, laser-etched Alpina logo on the crystal glass iDrive controller, Alpina production plaque, Alpina roundel logo on the wood interior trim, and dedicated Alpina logo door sill and carpets.
The optional Ivory White and Night Blue interior looks upscale and as great to the touch as it is to the eyes. The silky smooth Nigh Blue Alcantara roofliner is a nice added detail to make sure the XB7 feels premium throughout and we absolutely adored the optional Sky Lounge Panoramic Glass sunroof lighting up our night drives with star-like LED modules. Interior space is generous inside the BMW Alpina XB7 with the optional second row captain’s chairs and seats in the first two rows felt superbly comfortable. The third row is no penalty box either thanks to its own dedicated sunroof and climate control system.
When compared to the athletic BMW X7 M50i, the BMW Alpina XB7 offers noticeably more ride comfort with its standard air suspension setup. Alpina prioritizes street driving over track handling when tuning its Alpina-specific damper and kinematic set-up and we were rewarded with a ride that manages to soak up every road imperfection without feeling overly soft and wallowing. Alpina has also amped up their efforts in sound deadening when designing the XB7, with the end result being a cabin that is devoid of all wind and road noises. Vibrations and harshness are well controlled also and the level of comfort inside the Alpina XB7 is amongst the best we have experienced in luxury SUV of any price point.
To truly embrace its signature street driving characteristics, Alpina has reworked the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine for a smooth but instantaneous power delivery that helps propel the XB7 effortlessly in any situation. The most important figure here is the whopping 590 lb-ft. of torque ready at as low as 2,000 RPM that gives drivers a commanding feeling at the helm, while 612 horsepower helps keep the dash going up to its 290 km/h top speed. Taking 4.2 seconds to reach 100 km/h might seem slow in the modern era when a 3-series can achieve that in well under four, but we can assure you that Alpina buyers could care less what it does on a drag strip.
Alpina buyers would rather focus on how composed the XB7 feels at all traveling speeds. Thanks to enhanced cooling by Alpina, the V8 engine never feels stressed and instead cruises along operating at below 1,500 RPM at most times. The eight-speed ZF automatic transmission is tuned to match the extra torque to the four wheels at the smoothest way possible, and drivers have the ability to shift on demand using the signature Alpina Switch-tronic shift buttons mounted on the steering wheel. Steering feel is above average for a vehicle this size and the XB7 handles smaller than it looks. Drivers can choose between Comfort, Comfort Plus, Sport, and Sport Plus modes with options for customized drive settings. Our preference is to keep it in Comfort mode and just enjoy the ride.
The BMW Alpina XB7 is equipped with a state-of-the-art entertainment through the BMW iDrive infotainment system that supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. As one would expect from a bespoke model created based on a luxury flagship SUV, the XB7 is fully decked out with every comfort and convenience feature one can imagine of, including massaging front seats, Wi-Fi hotspot, BMW Live Cockpit Professional that displays live news and weather information, and the BMW Driving Assistant Professional system that offers semi-autonomous driving ability and a full suite of safety features. Our tester was equipped with the optional Bowers and Wilkins Diamond surround sound system and the rear entertainment system that further elevates the serene experience.
With a base MSRP of $165,900 and an as-tested total of $179,900, the 2021 BMW Alpina XB7 is amongst an elite cluster of luxury SUVs including the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC and the Ranger Rover SVAUTOBIOGRAPHY. The XB7 is actually the bargain in this trio but it feels no less special than the other two. In fact, we appreciate the XB7’s heritage and the dedicated Alpina features all around that sets it apart from being another BMW trim level and it also led to a lot of interesting conversations with passerby throughout the week.
After a week spent with the 2021 BMW Alpina XB7, we fully understand Alpina’s brand philosophy of creating a lineup of ‘gourmet’ automobiles for a small group of individuals who truly knows how to enjoy pleasure. It is created to provide the finest opulence for this small circle of automotive connoisseurs with an emphasis on usable street performance and utmost ride comfort, and in our opinion, is the ultimate carriage for the elites.
*Photos by Desmond Chan*