While at theChicago Auto Show we spent some time with Andreas (Andy) Bovensiepen the son of Alpina ‘s founder, Burkard Bovensieben, to discuss Alpina ‘s B7 launch in the US. Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH, (known to enthusiasts simply as Alpina) is located in the small Bavarian town of Buchloe and is a relatively short drive from BMWs headquarters in Munich. Alpina is more than a simple tuning company, Alpina is a boutique automobile company with a focus on building exclusive BMWs. BMW and Alpina have a working arrangement that allows ideas and information to flow freely in both directions which makes for some great products.
Alpina has sold several limited edition models in the US, the rare Z8 and the previous generation E65 B7 which featured a supercharged motor. We at BimmerFile also have knowledge that Alpina provided some welcomed input and performance adders for the E46 ZHP 3 Series.
Of the many interesting things we learned during our conversation was that Alpina will not be bringing any products below the B7 to the North American market. The reason? They simply don ‘t have the capacity to build enough to satisfy demand. Nor should they, Alpina is unapologetically the finest distillation of the BMW essence, it is an exclusive product providing performance and sophisticated refinement for the select few willing to pay the price of admission. With a total output of about 5 cars per day Alpina expects to sell around 3,000 of these B7s by the end of the cars run.
Taking the outstanding N63 twin turbo 4.4L V8 from the current 7 Series, Alpina ‘s engineers lowered the compression to 9.2:1 from 10.0:1, swapped out the pistons and increased the boost pressure to 11.4 psi. These changes allowed Alpina to increase performance to 507 hp and 518 lb/ft up from 400 and 450 respectively. Efficiency remains the same as the 750, but the performance is only eclipsed in the 7 series lineup by the 760i which features more cylinders and greater emissions. Efficiency is a hallmark of Alpina, they strive to get the most performance with the least emissions possible, something they have definitely shown in this latest itineration of the B7.
The transmission gears and shafts have been designed to put all of that power to the road in the most performance minded way possible while still remaining efficient and reliable- that must have been some undertaking!
A by-product of this overwhelming power output is heat from the turbos and engine, this has been rectified through the use of additional cooling surfaces for the transmission, engine oil, and intercoolers. More boost requires more breathing and that is accomplished with larger diameter plumbing that has better flow characteristicsand greater thermal efficiency.
The Wheels- A Simple Example of Engineering
What a car the B7 truly is. The 21 ” wheels weigh in at only 21 pounds, something that in its own right is an engineering statement and shows to what extent Alpina goes to make a car that much better. These wheels are the only wheels from the 7 Series range approved by Alpina to be fitted to this car due to the enormous forces generated by the B7.Not only are they engineered and built to be light and strong, but Alpina went to enormous lengths to bring the rotational mass toward the center of the hub. They accomplished this by routing the valve stem within the hub behind the center cap. By accomplishing this Alpina has reduced the need for balancing weights and decreased the mass on the outside of the wheel lessening the effects of inertia.This alone would be a solid performance gain but Aplina went further, they eliminated the runflat tires (Bravo! As we enthusiast provide a round of applause) resulting in the lightest weight wheel/tire combination in it ‘s size. They yield a dramatic improvement in ride-quality and handling over similarly sized run-flat wheels.
While this 20 spoke wheel is an homage to the engineering heritage where the slide-rule dictated this to be the most efficient combination of strength and light-weight, a closer inspection of the spokes reveals the concave design. This thoroughly modern design element is not by chance, it creates negative pressure at speed and draws air from behind the wheel across the brakes.Coupled with front ducts the impressive front brakes, culled from BMW ‘s Protection line, are said to be virtually impervious to fade. The brakes provide not only excellent cold braking but excellent hot braking performance.Reportedly, they show zero fade even after 90 hot laps at the Alpina proving ground.
Electronics Like A Custom Tailored Suit
While nothing in the B7 was ignored, Alpina paid particular attention to vehicle electronics.All of the systems are bespoke and are Alpina programs. They are not simply massaged or “tuned ” versions of BMW software. They did not just take some software of the rack and adjust it here or there to make it fit the car. The software is Alpina through and through. From the DSC to the active suspension, it ‘s all intelligently based on what is really happening with the car through information provided by sensors.The algorithms in the DSC discern whether the driver ‘s gradually inducing some oversteer vs. a sudden and rapid adhesion loss resulting from in-climate conditions.This intelligent application is not just for the brakes, it is integrated with the adjustable suspension as well.
While the typical names for BMW settings selections remain, each setting is to Alpina ‘s specifications. Sport and Sport+ are designed to dynamically respond progressively to conditions and driver input with the latter intervening as late as possible.
Aplina has designed the B7 with the ability to adjust to a driver ‘s ever changing mood, it is not just one vehicle, it is several wrapped into one package. It can go from Dr. Jeckyll to Mr. Hyde at the push of a console mounted button and the vigor at which you depress the accelerator pedal toward the floor.
Aesthetically the aero-kit (assembled at Alpina rather than BMW ‘s plant) and the interior trim are the obviously unique parts of the car and instantaneously announce that it something very special.The kit not only provides the B7 with a distinctive sporty appearance but reduces and balances the 7 Series ‘ overall lift, front to back while retaining excellent high-speed handling and stability.
While it ‘s the turbo charged V8 engine that really forms the heart of the B7, performance and comfort go hand in hand and is another area where this Alpina excels.The beautifully hand-stitched steering-wheel with parallel stitched seams in Alpina ‘s characterstic blue and green offers the B7 driver an exclusive and distinctive feel, and the characteristic switchtronic shifting. Switchtronic differs from BMW ‘s wheel mounted paddles as they are actually buttons ergonomically placed while offering the same shifting function. From the doorsills to the seats everything is first rate and provides both sporting function and luxurious comfort. In a first for the B7, Alpina furthers that distinction by offering their buyer the entire BMW 7 interior catalog allowing unparalleled customization enabling the client to style the vehicle to reflect their personality.Some of these choices include the alcantara headliner (with exclusive vehicle number plaque and dash badging) available with Alpina exclusive burl wood or piano black trims.
One of Alpina ‘s famous touches, the red lighting over blue gauges continues on with the latest LCD technology in the B7 though the information remains the same as in the BMW offering.
Aplina, working in cooperation with BMW and Individual, while consulting with M, shows the world what a true luxury GT should be with the B7.Alpinahas gone the extra-mile and done their homework in creating this machine. It is a vehicle that is about efficiency, power, performance and of course, comfort. The B7 is a welcomed addition the US market and should make performance minded executives have a new reason to grin. If you buy your suits bespoke, made from the finest materials to your specifications your mode of transport should be no different.