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Variance

2007 BMW Alpina B7 Coming to the U.S.

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2007 BMW Alpina B7

America Sings the Alpina Blues

By MATT DAVIS

AutoWeek | Published 01/16/06, 1:09 pm et

AT A GLANCE:

2007 BMW ALPINA B7

ON SALE: November

BASE PRICE: $125,000 (est.)

POWERTRAIN: 4.4-liter, 493-hp, 506-lb-ft super-charged V8; rwd, six-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT: 4400 lbs (est.)

0 TO 60 MPH: 4.8 seconds (mfr.)

COMBINED FUEL MILEAGE: 18.9 mpg (mfr.)

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.

Like the 2003 Z8 Roadster and the B5 we’ve recently driven (“Road Warrior,” June 20, 2005), the Alpina B7 is phenomenal work. While its price might cause some to flinch, Alpinas are a breed apart. On one level are the AC Schnitzers, Hamanns and Dinans that do great aftermarket work on Bimmers. But Alpina is unique in that all cars produced are assembled directly at BMW factories.

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.

Link: http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti...E/60106003/1004

Edited by Variance

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