If you’ve never heard of Alpina, don’t worry. Many people haven’t. It’s a German automotive company that upgrades various BMW vehicles with more power and luxury features. However, it’s not a partnership like what AMG is to Mercedes or even the M Division to BMW. Alpina is a separate company that just happens to work only on BMW vehicles. So what have they done to a regular BMW X7 M50i to produce the XB7?
Engine – To start, Alpina took the 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8 of the X7 M50i and gave it bigger turbochargers, a retuned ECU, a new exhaust system, and a few other tweaks & upgrades to create a 612 hp / 590 lb-ft of torque (456 kW & 800 Nm) monster of an engine. Despite this big SUV weighing in at 2,658 kg (5,860 lbs), Alpina claims a 0-100 km/h time of 4 seconds. To put it into perspective, the Porsche Cayman GT4 does the same sprint in around 4 seconds as well.
From behind the steering wheel, the power of the engine feels as though it’s pulling a body that weighs much less than the almost 2.7 tonne weight. Your body gets pushed back – hard – into the seat under heavy acceleration. But because you’re sitting high up, it doesn’t feel as fast to your eyes. I encountered the same “problem” in the GLS 63 AMG. The high driving position fools your eyes into thinking that you’re not moving as fast as the speedometer says. But trust me, you’ll have flashing red & blue lights behind you if you’re not careful.
Fuel Economy – Don’t expect this SUV to be frugal at the pumps. The 2022 BMW Alpina XB7 is rated for 15.7 L/100km (15 MPG) in a city and 11.5 L/100km (20.4 MPG) on a highway. I only managed to average a fuel economy figure of around 18 L/100km (13 MPG). Not good, I know but it felt exciting every time I accelerated from a stop. One positive, however, is that the official fuel economy figures are a bit better than those of the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63.
Transmission – The Alpina XB7 utilizes the same ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that the X7 M50i has. It has been retuned and beefed up by Alpina to handle the extra power but to also provide buttery smooth shifts.
Braking – The bulk of the stopping force is done by the 4-piston front calipers. You would think that such a large SUV would use 6 or 8 piston calipers. But no. The XB7 has enough stopping power to make you feel like as though your face is being ripped off under emergency situations. The brakes are powerful when you really need them but smooth and easy to modulate when you’re driving around town.
Handling – The Alpina XB7 comes equipped with air suspension with various height adjustments. But off-road driving is not this SUV’s forte. This is an on-road SUV first and foremost. At slow speeds, the rear wheel steering helps make the XB7 a bit more maneuverable in a parking lot. At autobahn speeds, it is stable like a rock. When the roads get twisty, the steering is sharp and direct, as well, the air suspension firms up to reist body roll in the Sport Plus drive mode. The BMW Alpina XB7 feels a bit more athletic but it doesn’t corner with quite the same “gusto” as its GLS 63 competitor. This is not an X7M. The XB7 is fast around corners but it tries to balance the power and handling with comfort.
Ride Comfort – The Alpina XB7 is one of the more comfortable “super” SUVs on sale today. The air suspension irons out bumps and cracks on the roads with ease. You will feel the bumps as the tires drive over them, so you’re not completely disconnected from the road, but it’s not overly done to the point where the ride is too floaty. It is a perfect blend of comfort and good road manners.
Interior Space – The front seats in the Alpina XB7 are spacious and commodious for both short and tall adults. They are also plush and provide a lot of adjustments. My one complaint about the front seats is the lackluster massaging feature. The back, the bolsters, and the bottom cushion can provide massaging movements but even on the highest intensity, it just feels like as though you’re being pushed around in an overcrowded bus.
If you’re not driving, however, it’s the second row that you want to be in. Bench seating is standard but you can opt for captain’s chairs. These are powered but they don’t have quite as many adjustments as front seats. Also, a bit of a miss, is the fact that these are not massaging seats like how the seats in the GLS 63 AMG are. Or at least are available in the GLS. But at least the space in the 2nd row is plentiful for taller adults like myself at 6’4”.
Getting into the third row is easy thanks to the simple pull of a tab on the 2nd row seats. However, you’ll be waiting outside the car for a few seconds until the 2nd row seat slowly moves itself forward. But once you’re back there, it is a little bit on the tight side, as one would expect. For short journeys though, I’d be Ok to sit there. The 3rd row has its own little sunroof – which cannot open – with a separate sunshade and it can be optioned with its own separate climate zone control. That would give the XB7 a 5-zone climate control system.
Behind the seats, the Alpina XB7 has 362 L (12.8 cu-ft) of cargo area. Push a couple of buttons and the 3rd row seats effortlessly fold down to allow for 1,376 L (48.6 cu-ft) of space. Because this demo vehicle had the captain’s chairs for the 2nd row, they do not fold. All you can do is move them to their most forward position. But on XB7’s that have the bench seats, the cargo capacity increases to a maximum of 2,559 L (90.4 cu-ft) with the bench folded. Also, I really like the split-open tailgate. It makes for easier loading and you can use it as a place to sit.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Under normal driving conditions, the Alpina XB7 is a quiet SUV. You do hear the gentle rumble of the V8 but it doesn’t sound obtrusive in the cabin. Put your foot down on the right most pedal and you hear the smooth revving V8 much more clearly. Wind and road noise on highways is very minimal.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2022 BMW Alpina XB7 starts at a mouthwatering $170,900 CAD ($141,300 USD). But it can get more expensive. This demo vehicle is equipped to the tune of $189,750 CAD ($145,200 USD).
Gadgets – For such an expensive SUV, the XB7 is equipped with the usual luxury features that one would expect. It has heated, ventilated & massaging front seats, surround view cameras, split open power tailgate, adjustable air suspension, soft close doors, wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, leather upholstery on nearly every surface, genuine wood and aluminum trim, and a comprehensive suite of advanced driver & safety aids to name a few.
But it also has a few unique features that few, if any, luxury 6-figure SUVs have. Some of these include the individually heated & chilled cupholders, the ambient lighting that is built into the panoramic sunroof, the aforementioned 5-zone climate control, and available night vision. It’s not a long list but these differences are nice gadgets to have.
Interior Design – For the most part, the 2022 BMW Alpina XB7 looks nearly identical to the BMW X7. It has the same 12.3-inch touchscreen, same climate controls, same iDrive controls on the center console, same crystal shifter, and same steering wheel. However, there are a few subtle differences. The paddle shifters have been replaced by small buttons, which are not as intuitive to use as the paddle shifters. The cupholder cover has an Alpina badge along with the center of the steering wheel. The top of the iDrive controller also has an Alpina badge but in monochrome. And the floor mats have little Alpina badges sewn into them. Overall, it still is very BMW-esque on the inside and for the most part, the controls are straightforward to use.
Exterior Design – Just like the interior, the exterior is also very much BMW X7 but with a few small changes. The XB7 has a front lip spoiler with “Alpina” written on the center. The back has four round exhaust tips which are reminiscent of Mercedes-AMG 45 models. But the easiest way to tell this SUV apart from a regular BMW is by the wheel design. This particular demo vehicle has the optional 21-inch quad-five spoke wheels. The standard wheels are actually 23-inch 20-spoke wheels. But I did review this vehicle in winter and winter tires on 21-inch wheels are less expensive than on 23-inch wheels.
Warranty – Just like all other BMW vehicles, the 2022 Alpina XB7 is covered by a 4 year / 80,000 km new vehicle & powertrain warranty. It is the same time period in the United States but 50,000 miles. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here.
Conclusion – While BMW refuses to build an X7M, Alpina has sort of filled that gap. Think of the XB7 as an X7M but with rounded corners. It’s not so much focused on outright performance like other M SUVs and cars but more so a balance of performance and comfort. Personally, I like that. I of course like a powerful vehicle but I’d also like to be comfortable when I’m commuting to work and not feel like as though I’m in a race car for the roads. In my opinion, this Alpina XB7 is better than what the BMW X7M would have been… if BMW ever chooses to make one.
Thank you to BMW Alpina for providing the vehicle. www.BMW.ca