As luxury flagships increase in amenities and consequently weight, they alienate those who relish getting behind the wheel rather than being chauffeured to the next cocktail party. Such is the case with the Audi A8L, which lumbers through the bends compared to the previous generation, and the massive 2013 BMW 7 Series. Thankfully, for the latter there's the BMW Alpina B7.
One editor at the BMW event in Monterey aptly described the refreshed Alpina B7 as a car that secret agents drive. Like the BMW M5 snaking through the urban landscape in the movie "Ronin," the Alpina saloon can drive with dignified restraint or with track-tuned fervor—achieving what the standard 7 Series could not. In the 750i the Comfort Plus mode punishes the driver with tepid throttle response and a detached steering feel; with the B7 it's creamy smooth without sacrificing drivability. And although the B7 isn't supposed to be as amped and frenetic as an M vehicle, on the track it feels as agile as the 2013 BMW M5. It's also a bona fide Bahn Burner—with a mammoth 540 hp on tap (6 more than the 760i) it briskly picks up speed in spite of its 4,655-lb. curb weight. And whereas the chassis in the factory 7 Series feels a bit unsettled, the Alpina B7 encourages you to go faster with its stout chassis—up to a blazing 194 mph. That's supercar territory.
Alpina has enjoyed a close relationship with BMW in part due its motorsport ties with BMW, and it shows. Although Alpina is not owned by BMW, the B7 feels like a factory-built car, not some mangled tuner project fixated on high horsepower figures. Cosmetic changes are subtle, and aside from wheels that resemble the blades of a turbofan engine there's little to distinguish it from the standard BMW. Unfortunately that's also its drawback—the 5th generation 7 Series took a turn for the drab compared to the polarizing, Bangle-ized 4th generation 7 Series, and the chrome-lined accents on the Alpina B7 do little to add aesthetic sizzle.
That may be a dealbreaker for those who want jet-setting style and presence to their executive saloon; after all, how many will flog their B7 around a technical track like Laguna Seca—or with any $100,000+ sedan? The Bavarian saloon starts at $127,600, pitting it against prestigious marquees like the Maserati Quattroporte—which although may not get to your next black-tie soiree quicker, would at least pull up to the valet looking irresistibly chic. But for the Bimmerphile lusting for the ultimate 7 Series, there's nothing quite like the B7—and that includes the refreshed the 750i and 760i.
2013 BMW Alpina B7
Full-size luxury sports sedan
4,655 to 5050 lbs
4.4 (RWD); 4.3 (xDrive)
7.7 tons CO2/year
Prohibitive price, unglamorous style
Drives with the vigor of an M5