Since the M1 was introduced in 1978, the logic has been: if you want a fast BMW, you buy an M model. But even before that, there was another option: a little tuning shop in Buchloe, Germany about 60 miles from BMW’s Munich headquarters. Alpina began its life — after a couple gawky years making typewriters and textiles — modifying BMW engines to eke out as much performance as possible without sacrificing everyday drivability.
One might ask: “Why would you buy an an aftermarket tuner Alpina over BMW’s excellent (and usually much less expensive) M cars?” The answer, really, is twofold. First, Alpina these days is about as close as you can get to a BMW-owned company while still remaining independent — all their engines are installed on the BMW factory line and only once the car is completed is it sent to Alpina for finishing touches (they’re even sold at BMW dealers these days).
The other reason is that Alpina designs their cars less for nailing apexes and more for high-speed grand touring. This becomes immediately clear once you stop looking at the spec sheet and get behind the wheel of the 2017 B7, their latest take on the 7 Series to arrive stateside.
On paper, the B7 looks like it might as well be a supercar: its twin-turbo V8 puts out 600 horsepower, getting to 60 in 3.6 seconds and on up to an astounding 205 mph. That’s 40 more horsepower and a full half second quicker to 60 than an M6.
And yet, it just doesn’t feel that fast.
My first lesson in Alpina came at an on ramp to the Taconic parkway, just north of Manhattan. Looking to impress my passenger with DB11-beating acceleration, I clicked down a gear and pinned the throttle. And then we waited, almost as if the car held back just long enough to flash “you philistine” on the center display, before gently (and almost quietly) surging forward to the smoothest triple-digit speeds I’ve ever experienced.
Not too surprisingly, then, the B7 feels most at home cruising on the highway, where — thanks to heaps of power and the rather excellent eight-speed gearbox — the engine won’t even crest 2,000 RPM until you’re going about 100 mph. This car was made to cover massive quantities of ground, very, very quickly.
2017 Alpina B7
Transmission: eight-speed Automatic
Torque: 590 lb-ft
0-60: 3.6 seconds
Top Speed: 205 mph
Once you get onto twisty backroads, the 7 Series’ lighter carbon frame and Alpina-tuned suspension give it a leg up over most other super sedans — but, just like if you try to show off its acceleration or exhaust note, you’re simply gonna look like a fool, judged as much by your misappropriated car as anyone who happens to be looking on.
Outside the engine — Alpina’s primary contribution — the rest of the car feels just like any other excellently spec’d modern 7 Series. That means you get all sorts of fun tech like semi-autonomous driving, a smart key, gesture-controlled infotainment, infrared-based night vision, some of the best seats in the business and, among other things, a system that intermittently perfumes the cabin with a lovely scent called “Sparkling Raindrops.”
Simply put, the B7 is the ultimate rendition of the German super-luxe super sedan, wielding obscene amounts power and performance not for brash displays of machismo, but rather for creating a sublimely refined experience. Add four seats, a bunch of great tech, and a low-key cool factor you can’t find anywhere else and, by my math, that makes the Alpina B7 about the best daily driver you can find on the market today.