At last month’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Ultimate Drive App team found ourselves in an enviable position. While at the BMW Villa (yes, a real villa), the good folks at BMW North America offered us the key to a new 2013 Alpina B7 – on the weekend of its North American debut! Before anyone changed their mind, we quickly grabbed the key and hit the road for a test drive. Our time in the car was limited, so consider the following general impressions of the car and not a detailed road test. Here is what we thought:
Our Alpina B7, awaiting its workout
At first glance you know the car is something special. Many touches – both subtle and obvious – differentiate the B7 and its unbelievable 500hp, twin-turbocharged V8 from its 7 Series brethren. A variety of badges and body features let you know this car means business and, if that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, the exhaust note when you start the engine will!
We were also fortunate enough to take a drive in the latest 7 Series which, until the Alpina drive, we had been lavishly praising as one of our favorite luxury sedans ever. The Alpina’s road manners changed that ranking, but it managed to do so without giving up exactly what made the 7 Series great – its road manners. The Alpina is aggressive, responsive and authoritative when you want it to be; or docile, comfortable and quiet when you aren’t wringing its neck. More on the performance later, but it is important to mention the car’s incredible versatility up front.
The Alpina-badged cockpit is all business, and laid out extremely well
Once inside the cockpit, we immediately noticed a host of features; the most immediate of which was silence. Getting into the Alpina is like stepping into a parallel universe – one which only embodies yourself, your passengers and the machine at your command. The cockpit was logically oriented, and we had no trouble getting familiar with the myriad of controls and accoutrements the B7 has to offer. Our passenger in the back seat made a point to consistently repeat how wonderful the rear seating area was throughout the drive. This was partially due to his spending the morning in the back of an M3, but nonetheless worth repeating here.
Our back seat driver passenger managed to snap a quick camera phone image of this interior Alpina badge between being flung between the limits of the seatbelt in corners
Getting back to business, we had already driven the 7 Series so we were quite keen to see what the Alpina could do. After a leisurely drive down 17 Mile Drive – Pebble Beach’s built in racetrack – we decided to put the car through its paces. The transformation from luxury sedan to sports car is simply incredible. The first big revelation was the braking system. From high speed the B7 stopped to a standstill with the ease of a sports car and, in doing so, gave the weight impression of a Go Kart not a 4500lb luxury sedan.
Top notch Michelins PS2’s and serious braking power – this is only the rear caliper! – inspire massive confidence in sport driving conditions
Naturally a stop sign gave us the opportunity to see how the car accelerates from a standstill, the answer to which is ferociously! The automatic transmission worked like a charm during both aggressive and relaxed driving periods. Handling mirrored our impressions of the rest of the car; which was to say perfect in all conditions. In fact, we had a hard time faulting anything in the car. Perhaps with more time and a proper testing ground we could have, but for now all we can say is we want one!