2021 BMW Alpina XB7 First Test: A Comfy, 612-hp Cannonball

BMW X7 Full Overview

If something measuring more than 200 inches long and weighing in at nearly three tons doesn’t sound like an ideal candidate for a BMW M badge, well, you’re right. The X7 three-row SUV, BMW’s range-topping luxury SUV with an imposingly gargantuan profile, is about as spiritually far from standard-bearing BMW M sports cars like the M2 and M3 as you can get. This is where Alpina comes in—for years, Alpina has applied its own luxurious and sporty, M-adjacent treatment to various Bimmers, including those BMW’s own high-performance mavens wouldn’t touch.

For years, the latter vehicles included the 7 Series and, well, that’s it. Alpina recently added the 6 Series Gran Coupe to its American lineup (the B6), however, and now the beefy X7 joins the portfolio, receiving a serious warming-over and a new name: Alpina XB7. Think of it as an X7 M50i with a unique suspension tune and its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 overhauled with bigger turbos, a better-breathing exhaust setup, and enhanced cooling, all with a factory BMW warranty. Plus, you can purchase one from your local dealership. 

Seriously Big-Time Numbers for a Big SUV

Ignore the XB7’s dimensions and mass, and its stats read like a proper M car’s: 612 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, rear-axle-biased all-wheel drive, and the ability to reach 60 mph in 4.0 seconds flat. The quarter mile whizzes by in only 12.4 seconds with a trap speed of 114 mph. Braking and grip figures are similarly wowing, with pizza-sized brake rotors capable of hauling the XB7 to a stop from 60 mph in 100 feet, and 23-inch Pirelli P Zero tires generating 0.95 g of lateral grip around our skidpad. Every performance metric improves over the 523-hp X7 M50i, and the Alpina is nearly as quick as the also-three-ton, also-three-row Mercedes-AMG GLS63.

Reconciling those performance figures with the hulking SUV before you might take a minute. But the XB7 really moves. Unlike many M-fettled cars, the XB7 isn’t harsh or unforgiving; it isn’t an animal barely tamed for the street. This is a three-row luxury SUV, and when driven normally it gives no indication that it’s anything more than that. The ride is firm and controlled yet comfortable. The cabin is eerily quiet. And everywhere you look inside there is wood trim, leather, and actual metal. Go ahead, cross the continent: The XB7 whooshes down the freeway with a stately authority. 

This ride and handling balance is classic Alpina, which has long focused as hard on extracting more performance from BMWs as it has on delivering a more exclusive and luxurious experience. Except for its thin-spoke wheels, four round exhaust outlets, and barely noticeable chin spoiler with A-L-P-I-N-A spelled out across it, the XB7 looks like nearly any other X7. Our test vehicle’s Ametrin Metallic purple paint was its loudest feature—pick any other color, and the Alpina is subtlety on wheels. It even keeps the regular X7’s chrome trim. 

Inside, the XB7 elevates the X7’s cabin while staying well clear of being garish. An Alpina badge replaces the BMW roundel on the steering wheel, there is a little plaque on the center console noting its origins, and it offers Alpina-specific trim (in our test vehicle’s case, an arresting myrtle burled wood). The digital gauge cluster is Alpina-fied, too, with special graphics and colors. As is customary for an Alpina product, the steering wheel features blue and green stitching, as well as shift buttons on the back of the rim. Taking the place of more commonly used paddles, these shift controls may require a bit of a reach for some folks. Each side handles a single shift direction; press the right button for upshifts and the left one for downshifts.  

Floating Between Comfortable and Sporty

While cruising, the only tell the Alpina has more to give is a distant, tense thrum from the huge tailpipes. From the driver’s seat, the engine note sounds so far away, it could perhaps be coming from another car. Step on the gas, and the V-8’s noises suddenly get a whole lot closer, a whole lot louder, and a whole lot more urgent. The scenery around you simply blurs. 

For as jaw-dropping as this 5,821-pound BMW’s performance is, its experience is surprisingly genteel. Stomp on the gas, and the XB7 moves forward with the inexorable push of a hydraulic ram, not the explosion of, say, a carbonated drink shaken up before twisting off the cap. Triple-digit speeds are reached and maintained effortlessly, though the twin-turbo V-8 is a low-rpm puller, not a high-revving screamer, and at higher speeds you can feel it working harder against the SUV’s considerable mass and aerodynamic drag. 

Alpina’s signature wheel design is applied to absolutely massive 23-inch rollers wearing fat, staggered-width tires: 285-section fronts and steamroller-sized 325-section rears. These deliver solid grip in corners—again, check the nearly 1.00 g of lateral grip this XB7 posted—but their low-profile sidewalls and huge cross-sections make for sharp initial impacts over pavement cracks and freeway expansion joints. Go figure, the style-focused 23-inch wheels and thin tires suffer some slap; you can opt for smaller-diameter 21s if that bothers you. 

Another sign this isn’t meant to be a hardcore performance SUV like the smaller BMW X5 M or a Porsche Cayenne Turbo? The primary controls feel remote; the electrically boosted steering loads up somewhat naturally as cornering forces build but is otherwise rheostatic. The brake pedal is squishy, and although it delivers linear and powerful response, a firmer stroke would make for a more confident feel. Even the suspension, which offers settings ranging from Comfort to Sport to Sport Plus, maintains some give even in its firmest modes, allowing for some body roll, dive, and squat when really hustling the XB7. We left the Alpina in its Comfort ride setting for the most part, as this mode gives up little in body control while keeping the ride smooth. 

Just Leave It in Control

In spite of the myriad drive mode settings that allow for individually tailoring the steering, transmission, throttle response, ride, and exhaust to your liking, the XB7 works best when you skip all of that. We found that leaving the car in Comfort and tipping the shift lever to the left from “D” to “S” was the sweet spot. The eight-speed automatic transmission perks up, delivering crisp and perfectly timed shifts and holding lower gears without letting the engine rev unnecessarily—remember, this engine is a torque twister, not a high-rpm screamer, so “S” merely keeps the V-8 in the meat of its torque band. 

In theory, then, the XB7, like the B7 sedan, exists as the de facto step-up X7 variant. But although it overlaps some with the theoretical X7 M BMW isn’t going to build, the XB7 is not an X7 M stand-in—rather, it is a fast and cosseting hauler with a touch of exclusivity, excellent chassis and engine tuning, and impressive performance. Starting at $142,295, it isn’t even all that expensive, at least given what it brings to the table, and our test car rang in at $156,345 fully loaded. The similarly fleet, luxurious, and 603-hp Mercedes-AMG GLS63 runs $133,150 before options, for example. Whether you need the ultimate X7 or are a longtime Alpina fan who now needs something far roomier, the XB7 satisfies.

Looks good! More details?

2021 BMW Alpina XB7 Specifications
BASE PRICE $142,295
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 6-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 4.4L/612-hp/590-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,821 lb (48/52%)
WHEELBASE 122.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 203.3 x 78.7 x 70.7 in
0-60 MPH 4.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 12.4 sec @ 114.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 100 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 24.8 sec @ 0.78 g (avg)

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