Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 4, 2017
The Alpina B7 has piqued my interest (and yours) for quite some time now. Ever since I drove the supernatural BMW M760Li xDrive in Palm Springs a few weeks ago, I’ve received dozens of emails asking me to compare the two. You see, the B7 and M760Li are familial competitors to each other – you can even call them “in-house” rivals seeing as they’re both sold through BMW dealerships in Canada.
The B7 and M760Li produce the exact same prodigious power outputs, 600-hp and 590 lb-ft, sprint from 0-100 km/h in a brisk 3.7 seconds, and have comprehensive exterior and interior upgrades from the 750Li that they were originally based upon. Exclusive paint colours, wheel designs, and badges are also thrown into the mix, and the entrance fee for either of them is over $150,000.
Despite the similar resume, Alpina and BMW’s M Performance division took very different paths to get there. The M760Li relies on a grandiose 6.6-litre V12 engine (same one found in the Rolls-Royce Wraith) for propulsion, with further revisions to the suspension, steering, and gearbox. The brakes are also bigger, and Michelin Pilot Super Sports come standard.
The Alpina on the other hand uses its own software for suspension, steering, and gearbox tuning, and instead of a V12, they take the 7 Series’ stock 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 and upgrade its internals. That means a revised intake and intercooling system, upgraded turbochargers to accommodate a mind-blasting 20.0 psi, and new pistons and spark plugs.
The power delivery between the two engines is different as well. The M760Li produces all 590 torques right from the get go @ 1,550 rpm and stays flat all the way to 5,000 rpm. The B7 on the other hand needs a bit of a warm up and juices out 494 lb-ft @ the 2,000 rpm mark and all 590 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm.
You might be scratching your head at this point – then how do both get from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds? That’s because the M760Li weighs nearly 150 kg more due to that porkier V12 engine. In reality, the disparity is hardly noticeable, however there are microscopic differences in the driving experience.
At wide open throttle, the B7 delivers momentum more abruptly than the M760Li, and you can tell that the gearbox and the turbos are working overtime to keep the B7 right in the meat of the powerband. It lacks the low-end linearity and creaminess we've come to love from the M760Li's V12, where power comes on quickly but softly and gradually. Throttle modulating with the M is much more lenient and less of a Hail Mary ballgame.
That’s not to say that the B7's upgraded engine doesn’t feel refined. It does, but again we're talking about atomic-sized differences here. The B7's herculean power can easily catch you off guard and lunge you into the seatback if you’re not paying attention. Speed builds effortlessly and almost imperceptibly, which is a chilling proposition when you find yourself hitting impound speeds within seconds of “feathering” the throttle.
With a four cylinder deficit, logic would assume that the B7 doesn’t sound as ferocious as the M760Li and you’d be correct. The B7’s stainless steel symphony is muffled, slightly lower pitched, and the burbles on overrun are not as pronounced. There is more turbo noise, though. The M760Li on the other hand has an authoritative bark, and its signature V12 shriek on startup is nearly enough to tip the odds in its favour. But don’t take my word for it, check out these exhaust videos that we made for each and decide for yourself which sounds better:
The steering between the two are very similar. Both offer a good amount of feedback at the limits but are wafty and do not offer much feeling at city speeds – just what you want with a substantial land yacht. In fact, the wheel is so easy to turn that you can do it with one finger, and it doesn’t feel too electric or overboosted either.
The B7 does come with a Sport Plus mode, which isn’t found on any other 7 Series including the M760Li. This puts all systems into Defcon 1 – the suspension lowers by 20 mm, springs are stiffened even more, and the active side bolsters on the seats will inflate when turning at high rates to keep your body from rolling. More importantly however, is that the steering effort is noticeably increased. The wheel becomes much heavier than the M760Li in Sport Mode. Though not necessarily giving more steering feedback, drivers who enjoy the additional heft from rotation will feel more intact with the road and might enjoy the B7’s rack just a little bit more.
The B7’s nose points eagerly and feels sharper around corners than the M – its smaller engine gives it a front-end weight advantage. The suspension on the B7 also seems to be slightly firmer, but only by a touch. Both cars hover over potholes and dance around corners like a smaller 5 Series.
The tires worn by each were also different at the time of testing: the B7 wore winter tires (Pirelli Sottozero) while the M760Li had stock summers (Michelin Pilot Super Sports). As a result, the B7 wasn’t as glued to the tarmac as the M, and the amount of grip was marginally diminished.
Aesthetics wise, the Alpina B7 is the Centurion Black of the 7 Series lineup. It gives off the more exclusive vibe even though its starting price is $4,000 less than the M760Li. The B7 has an alluring colour palette – Alpina Blue and Alpina Green have got to be the sexiest hues in the world – more aggressive front and rear splitters, one of the best looking wheel designs which were sadly not our tester, and circular quad tipped exhausts. The M760Li on the other hand has these perplexing asymmetrical exhaust designs and hardware-store-styled wheels that just don’t seem like they belong on a six-figure luxury sedan.
Their interiors aren’t far off either – the B7 has a few exclusive knick knacks like Alpina-badged door sills, an authentication badge on the center console, and unique digital gauges with distinctive backwashes for Comfort and Sport mode. The B7 also uses the same steering wheel as the standard 7 Series but with its own logo and is wrapped in an exclusive LAVALINA leather – think of it like soft leather but with a tiny sprinkle of Alcantara. The M760Li also has its unique bells and whistles, like a steering wheel designed like the new 5 Series’ and V12 badges on the center console, gauges, and door sills.
There are pros and cons to each 7 but in the grand scheme of things and after testing both, I can strongly say that the differences are petty and minor. With that being said, the B7 does feel more prestigious and fits the $150k suit better than the M760Li with classy wheels, a sexy colour palette, and the ability to fly under the radar – chances are more people will recognize an M badge over an Alpina.
If the B7 is the well-dressed gentleman in a tuxedo, then the M760Li is the playboy with an ///M tattoo sleeve. Power is the M760Li’s mojo, and its barking exhaust and quick sprints off the line makes sure it’s a well-known fact. Truthfully though, having a V12 engine in this era of downsizing and constricting fuel regulations should be considered legendary in its own regard.
There is no iron cast winner here. Asking us, “which is better?” really comes down to subjective opinions and personal bias. Objectively, if you prioritize auditory drama over all else and want to bathe with the 13th letter of the alphabet, go with the M760Li and its astounding V12 engine. But if you prefer visual drama and the euphoric feeling of exclusivity, then stick with the B7.
Either way, you’re purchasing a ticket into the elite world of 600 horsepower and all the luxury trimmings that come with it. Just stop asking us “when is BMW going to make an M7?” Because if you test drive either one of these breathtaking machines, you will realize that having anything more powerful and more luxurious is obsolete and irrelevant. What a world we live in.
型号 Model: 2017 BMW Alpina B7 xDrive
顏色 Paint Type: Alpina Blue
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $155,900
試車售價 Price as Tested: $183,300
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 3,210
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,250 / 1,902 / 1,491
車重 Curb weight (kg): 2,180
引擎 Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
最大馬力 Horsepower: 600 hp @ 5,750 - 6,250 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 3,000 - 5,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 16.3
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli Sottozero