I had originally tried to submit this review multiple times using the "New Car Review" feature, but the website, maddeningly, kept blocking me for some stupid reason, even though I was within the character limit and all fields were filled. At the end of my tether, I've decided to just post up a new thread so that my write-up is not wasted. So here goes:
The definitive Alpina experience - the massively fast, immensely enjoyable B7 biturbo
I had the enviable opportunity to be invited to test drive a few Alpina models a couple of days ago. The three models I had the pleasure of driving were (in order) the B3 biturbo, the D5 biturbo, and the B7 biturbo. While I would love to give in-depth reviews for each of these three models, time is an issue, and I simply wouldn't be able to do justice with three separate reviews. So what I'll do is give a full review of the B7, which is the one I liked the best of the three. I may mention the other models I tested in a short review on a forum post.
I was intrigued by the B7, more so than the B3 or B5/D5 biturbos simply because there is no equivalent "M7" model; nor will there ever be, in all likelihood. That makes a high performance Alpina 7-series all the more special.
The car that I drove was the short wheelbase version. Its length is just a bit over 18cm longer than my F10 M5, which means it doesn't (at first glance) look noticeably longer than the 5-er unless the two are parked cheek by jowl . The long wheelbase version can be imported by special order, but that will add a significant chunk of change to an already hefty price tag (see later).
The exterior is absolutely stunning. Alpina is all about the little details, and they certainly haven't skimped here. It's all there, from the understated-but-purposeful rear spoiler to the trademark Alpina rims with more spokes than I can count up to, to the subtle decals at the sides of the doors. It's a stunning car, no question.
And the magic keeps going strong when you step inside. When you first open the doors, you are greeted by that beautiful blue-lit sill with the "B7 logo". The leather is plush, and the faux wood finish is luscious (you can get real wood on special request, but again, be prepared to be free with the moolah). Taken separately, the steering wheel (with the Alpina crest and the green stitching), the dials, the upholstery, etc. are small details. But they add up to something greater than the whole - a truly sublime experience that tells you immediately you're in something really special.
And here we get to the meat of the matter. When you crank her up, you're greeted with a subdued roar. At the heart of the monster beats a 4.4L V8 with two turbos, similar to the 750, but which has been uprated significantly by the magic elves at Alpina. The car pumps out 540hp and 730Nm of torque, but it's the way that torque is delivered, from low down in the revs, that makes the car feel so alive.
The engine sounds a little underwhelming at first - until you realise that that's sort of the point. You see, Alpina didn't set out to make a balls-to-the-wall performance monster that only hardcore petrolheads will cherish living with day-to-day - if you wanted that, you'd go "M". This car is about understated ferocity. It speaks softly, but carries a really big stick. The superior sound insulation means that you don't really hear much of the idling characteristics at all, and even at full tilt, all you'll hear is a muted roar that tells you your 8-cylinders are faithfully discharging their duty to propel you along the tarmac.
At lower speeds, the car is extremely docile. The aids and creature comforts leave nothing to be desired. A surround-view camera makes manoeuvring the car a doddle. The suspension feels feather-soft: even on Sport mode, it rides more softly than my M5 in Comfort mode. No bone-jarring here.
It's when you take her out onto the highway that you begin to really appreciate her. I kept the car in Sport mode for most of the drive, since I really wanted to see everything she had to offer. The drive remained smooth, refined and cultured in Sport mode. If you're a keen driver, I would recommend keeping this car in Sport mode all the time. It's not that Comfort mode is boring by any means, but why bother with it when you don't really lose any refinement (while gaining a performance edge) by the flip of a single switch?
The 8-speed ZF auto transmission is very fast, so a quick kickdown will enable overtaking almost at will. But if you wanted to shift manually, it's really easy with the little nubs (or "nipples", if you'll forgive the word) situated behind the steering. I found them surprisingly tactile, and they were a worthy alternative to the usual flappy paddles I am used to.
I won't mention the speeds I got up to on my drive. Suffice it to say that this car can take you from nought to an invitation to a court appearance faster than you can say "Oh crap!". It's massively fast, and to fully experience it, you need to take her up North.
The handling is superb. There is a slight lack of feedback from the soft setup (even in Sport), but she's sure-footed and confidence-inspiring.
The bad news:
And now I must give you the one small bit of bad news to temper an otherwise magnificent experience. You should already know where I'm heading with this, based on the one category that I didn't award this car full marks in. All that understated awesomeness does not come cheap. While I can't actually tell you the price of the car (a simple phone call to the dealer should clear up any curiosity you might have about the matter), I can tell you that it's more dear than the M6 Gran Coupe. And that is enough to give serious pause, at least to mere mortals like me, with a budget to worry about.
Still, if you're a Royal with a king's ransom ready at hand - and apparently, they're doing quite a brisk trade amongst the blue-blooded cognoscenti - and the price of this car is undaunting to you, then I say go for it! An Alpina is hardly something you see every day on the roads. I hope my review has gone some way toward convincing the odd Prince or tycoon (or two) hiding in plain view on this site to spring for this little piece of automotive heaven.
Well, that was the review, I hope you liked it. I really hope the interface is improved and the forum makes it a lot easier for us to submit reviews, especially longer ones. And please, *please*, retain the typed text if you're going to block the submission of a review. If I hadn't saved my text before clicking submit, the experience would have been even more agonising than it already was.
Oh, the promised quick overview of the other cars: the B3 biturbo was a nice ride, but I found lots of turbo lag, which remained even in Sport mode, and that dampened my enthusiasm for it. The D5 biturbo (the first turbo diesel I've ever driven) was nice, and even though the car didn't feel that "grunty", it did have plenty of torque enabling easy overtaking.
I also got a sneak peek at the B4 biturbo coupe, which they had kept covered under a sheet. The car is being kept under wraps for the planned launch this weekend, but I got more than a quick peek under the sheet - in fact, they were gracious enough to let me sit inside and even snap a few pics (for private consumption only). They've asked me to keep the details of this car a secret, and I will honour my word, but suffice it to say that it's stunning! Don't miss the chance to see it at the unveiling from 28th to 29th March at ALPINA Singapore (8 Chang Charn Road).
Edited by BabyBlade, 27 March 2015 - 09:25 AM.