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First Look: 2011 Alpina B7

Marketing performance, exclusivity -- and BMW.

by on Nov.02, 2010

Alpina intends to be the "other" BMW performance brand with the new B7.

Sure, mileage matters, but there’s still a significant market for performance.  Just ask BMW, which can barely meet demand for its expanding line-up of M cars and crossovers.  If there’s a gap to fill, don’t worry.  That’s where Alpina, BMW’s “other” performance arm would like to step in.

Based in Buchloe, a small suburb of Munich, an hour from BMW headquarters, Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH doesn’t so much compete with the better known M, as to compliment the brand, explains its president, Andreas Bovensiepen.

“M is about raw power,” he suggests, ignoring a cold drizzle as he shows off Alpina’s latest product, a version of the BMW 7-Series.  “Alpina is about delivering a mix of performance, luxury and comfort.”

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That’s not to say performance takes the proverbial back seat.  The Alpina B7 Bi-Turbo makes some impressive numbers with its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque.

Unlike the M cars, Alpina opts for a customized automatic gearbox, and unlike its competitors, the customizer uses buttons on the steering wheel, rather than paddle shifters, to let a driver run through the gears manually.  In manual mode, those shifts occur in a Formula One-class 190 milliseconds.