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BMW doesn’t make an M version of the 7-series, but if it did, such a car would probably look at lot like the Alpina B7. And since Alpina-tuned BMWs still carry the factory warranty, the B7 is a lot like any other BMW on the showroom floor. There are a few differences from the standard 7-series, like the 21-inch wheels and the aero kit, but the B7’s looks are not just for show.Under the hood is BMW’s familiar 4.4-liter V-8 with a centrifugal supercharger attached to bump the output to 500 horsepower over the standard 360 hp in the 750i’s 4.8-liter V-8. Torque is 516 pound-feet at 4250 rpm, a number that’s better than the 6.0-liter V-12 found in the 760Li. BMW claims a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.8 seconds for the B7, and that sounds conservative since we hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds in a 760i we tested. With a price of $115,695, the B7 is $40,000 more than a 750i, but $6,400 less than the long-wheelbase 760Li V-12. If that sounds like a relative bargain to you, hurry up and place your order – only 200 copies are coming stateside.BMW’s newest addition to its range-topping sedan lineup gets a 500-horsepower version of the 4.4-liter V-8 found in the current 7-Series. Tuned by Alpina, the motor makes 516 pound-feet of torque and pushes the am grosstens BMW to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, BMW says. A six-speed automatic with paddle shifters controls the power.Along with the uprated engine, the Alpina edition gets 21-inch wheels, Active Roll Stabilization, and a body kit with a rear spoiler that BMW claims will help high-speed stability.

Traditionally the Mercedes and BMW ranges have mirrored each other almost exactly. Whatever size of car you wanted you could err on the conservative side and sign up for a new Merc or choose its slightly sportier BMW nemesis. But as Mercedes has thrown down the gauntlet with numerous 500PS+ (493bhp) performance saloons, coupes and convertibles (eight or nine depending on whether you include the McLaren-built SLR) BMW has quietly ignored its rival. There is a 507bhp M5 on the way, and an M6 will follow, but there are no plans for an M7 and the V12 760i hasn’t got anything like the performance or attitude of something like an S55 AMG.So if you want a huge and hugely powerful BMW you need to look to Alpina, the tiny and masterful BMW tuner, and specifically to its new 500bhp supercharged B7. It’s that last detail that’s important. BMW will turbocharge diesels or accept the need for a supercharger on the Chrysler-designed Mini Cooper S engine, but you won’t find forced induction on a BMW petrol-engined car. Not now, not in the future. The beauty of this policy is that we get to look forward to a 5-litre V10 capable of revving to well over 8000rpm in the next M5. The downside (if you’re eager to keep up with the Mercedes-owning Joneses) is that BMWs will never be able to match the huge torque figures that define those super-Mercs. Alpina, on the other hand, is happy to use forced induction if it allows for a more relaxing and more refined delivery, both qualities for which Alpina is famed.The B7’s engine is based on the silky 4.4-litre V8 found in the 745i, amongst others, and features a nautilus-type radial supercharger to create its enormous 500bhp at 5500rpm and 516lb ft of torque at 4250rpm. As you’d expect of a blue-blooded Alpina engine, it remains impeccably mannered with no hint of supercharger whine either when crawling through traffic or under full load. It’s a mighty unit, too, pulling hard from 2000rpm and gaining in ferocity with every extra rev. Between 4000rpm and the rev limit at 6200rpm, it’s phenomenal. If the Mercedes S55 AMG is any quicker it’s only in the low- to mid-range and it loses out in both crispness and sheer energy at the top end. Alpina claims the B7 will sprint to 60mph in 4.8sec and run on to an unfettered 186mph. And the good news is that Alpina’s lastest masterpiece will find its way under the bonnet of both the 5- and 6-series in the near future. The forthcoming B5 and B6 models will undoubtedly be crushingly quick, but the B7 doesn’t give too many clues about how they’ll compare dynamically with the hardcore M products. It’s an enormous car, dwarfing our Audi S4 camera car and towering over the RS6 Plus that I arrived in (more of which, later), and as such it’s not really a cut-and-thrust driver’s tool. It handles neatly enough and has strong grip and decent traction (thank the 285/30 ZR21 Michelin rubber for that!) but it’s still a 1950kg 7-series. That’s a useful 140kg lighter than the 760i, and because the V8 is substantially shorter than the V12, the weight is lost in the right place.Once you’ve felt the dizzying power, it’s tempting to go M3-chasing. You’ll certainly haul them in and spit them out on the straights, but you’ll find understeer will slow you through the corners if you’re trying to maintain the advantage. Turn the traction control off via the iDrive control system and the B7 remains faithful, spinning its wheels but rarely sliding into oversteer. It certainly feels more on top of its power than the equivalent Mercedes S-class, occasional understeer or not. And the superb Switchtronic six-speed automatic is adept at deploying the V8’s thumping power.You can switch between the normal shift pattern, a Sport mode and full manual control (operated by two buttons, one behind each horizontal spoke of the steering-wheel) via a switch on the wheel. Sport is probably a bit too aggressive but the manual mode works brilliantly. You can even heel-and-toe to match engine revs if you’re on a charge.Alpina has done a fine job turning the 7-series into a deeply fast and effective supersaloon. Whether you want one depends on whether you like the donor car’s styling. I do and I do. It’s every bit as fast as an S55 AMGand cheaper, too. As I mentioned earlier, I arrived at Sytner of Nottingham to collect the B7 in the new 473bhp RS6 Plus. It had felt awesome in the morning, a real step on from the standard RS6, but on the way home I couldn’t help craving a bit more top end. Enough said.

When last we wrote about Alpina cars coming our way (“Z8 One Better,” Jan. 6, 2003), it was decided to off-load the entire final year’s worth of Z8s—450 cars—on the United States over the last nine months of 2003. All the cars were modified to 4.8-liter Alpina V8s with Alpina’s own Switchtronic sequential transmission. At the same time, BMW headquarters was in discussions with BMW North America to also bring over the B7, based on the “ugly-trunk” 7 Series. After some serious business-case hurdling, however, it was decided to postpone Alpina’s Atlantic crossing—the famed Blues would stay home awhile longer.That was then. Now BMW North America has hatched a fiendishly clever plan to bring us not only the new “less-ugly-trunk” B7, but possibly also an Alpina-fied version of the next X5 sport/utility vehicle. The thinking is that in North America it would be nice to have a full lineup of
high-performance BMWs, be they Ms or Bs. But there will be no importing of Alpina B3s, B5s or B6s, thereby avoiding competing with BMW M sales. For now, the only sure thing is the B7 will be in the United States by the end of 2006 (regular-wheelbase version to start, possibly Li version later), exact quantity to be determined. Bringing over an Alpina X5 won’t be decided until midyear, once development of the supercharged V8 intended to go in it is finished.

We sampled this blue cruise missile around the rolling farm roads of Upper Bavaria. Aside from the test car’s creamy-smooth off-white Lavalina leather interior and the lack of a Big Gulp cupholder, this is what we will be offered late this year at a price approaching $125,000. With the B7, all main parts for its 4.4-liter V8 are given extra heat treatments at BMW’s Steyr, Austria, plant. Then the engine is built at Alpina in Buchloe, Germany, and sent with the six-part cooling set (engine cooling, gearbox cooling, etc.) to the 7 Series plant in Dingolfing, Germany. Other component suppliers send everything directly to Dingolfing, where full assembly takes place. BMW does the Alpina Blue paint, glass work, wire harness, sound system, Alpina ECU software uploading and airbags. Completed B7s are then put through final checks back at Alpina. The 493 horses between 5250 and the 6000-rpm redline make the B7 about even with the M5 and M6 in the power mode, only at lower revs. But first and foremost, Alpina is about abundant low-end torque, and as you would expect the B7 is awesome in this department. There is 506 lb-ft between 4250 and 5250 rpm, thanks to supercharging together for the first time with BMW’s Valvetronic variable valve timing and the fully remapped ECU.Compare the M5 and M6, with 383 lb-ft of torque peaking at 6100 rpm, not to mention the 8250-rpm redline, and the different priorities are clear. Ms are for the racer in you, Bs are for the big-time execs who want blue rumbling thunder and a 4.8-second 0-to-60-mph time. The heat generated by the 0.8 bar-pressure Nautilus-style supercharger (that can raise the effective compression ratio to 16.2:1 from a nominal 9.0:1) is handled by creating higher transfer-rate water and air cooling for the engine, gearbox and rear differential. The waves of torque are tamed by swapping out the 750i rear axle assembly in favor of that from a 745d, and the gearbox cogs and housing are significantly hardened. As when we drove the B5, the autobahn beckoned us in the B7. Braking steadily from the 186-mph top speed is an inspiring experience, made so by using the big discs and floating calipers from the brake package created by BMW for the 760Li—14.72-inch front, 14.57-inch rear. The 21-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels are wrapped in sturdy Michelin Pilot Sport 2 treads. A more robust suspension setup comes via Sachs shocks and Eibach springs. Put this all together with the discreet Alpina aero trim, and the drive is sublime at an entirely Bavarian level. It’s hard to find greater road-going confidence than what the B7 offers all around (barring snow and ice, of course). And with the high-end comfort seating standard on the B7 for North America, you’re supercharging along in cushioned style. Given Alpina has annual capacity for around 1000 cars, probably only 100 or so B7s at the max will make it to the United States in the first full year. If those are devoured as we imagine, the next decision will be how to expand Alpina’s capacity to satisfy North America’s hunger for these notorious Blues.


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