BMW’s Alpina B7 balances sport and luxury
Posted on Nov. 28, 2016
Many automotive analysts define “luxury” purely according to the vehicle’s retail price. So, bare bones, high-performance sports cars that happen to carry prices in six-figures attain that lofty stature. The seats may be lightly trimmed carbon fiber buckets and the hard suspension may shake your fillings loose, but they’ve decided to call this “luxury.”
The truest expression of sports luxury is found in Germany’s big flagship sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and Audi’s S8. These are machines tuned for rushing executives across the Autobahn at speeds that would seem less safe in ordinary cars and invite jail time on U.S. roads. In this category, BMW has enlisted its Bavarian partner Alpina to create its ultimate touring machine.
Bringing Parts Together
BMW’s new 7-Series is a complex platform, using carbon fiber, aluminum, and high strength steel in its fabrication. BMW assembles the Alpina’s 7-Series body at its Dingolfing plant. In turn, Alpina hand-builds the B7’s high output V8 in Buchloe, Germany. When finished, each engine makes the 100-mile journey back to Dingolfing for installation. Then the complete car is returned to Alpina in Buchloe for finishing touches.
All this back-and-forth may seem counterintuitive for a sophisticated automaker, but it’s done for good reason. Andreas Bovensiepen, Alpina’s CEO, head of Motor Sport, and true car enthusiast, takes a personal interest in every vehicle with his company’s name attached to it. I’ve raced around Sonoma Raceway in the previous version of the B7 with Andy, swapping driving positions and talking about the performance. In short, the big 4,800-pound car is quite competent in an environment that’s hostile to heavy objects being flung through tight off-camber turns.
More Than Smoke and Speed
This big luxury sedan can hold its own with rivals in stoplight sprints and blinding top speed, but that’s not the sole reason for spending premium luxury money. After all, BMW’s 740 model has more than adequate performance for most buyers. It’s the persona of this car, the subtle appearance tweaks, its competence on the road, and exclusive Alpina branding that clinches the sale.
In downtown Menlo Park, an epicenter of Silicon Valley money where exotic car sightings are commonplace, a couple engaged me in conversation about the B7. He was smitten with the 21-inch Alpina wheels and performance tires; she loved the Smoke White Merino leather with black piping. If I had an order book handy, the sale was mine. For those who want exclusivity and substance in a flagship sports sedan, the B7 should top that shopping list. Brian Douglas