2021 BMW Alpina XB7 first drive review: Doing more with more

The BMW X7 is still quite fresh on the market, only hitting dealers about 18 months ago, but it filled such an obvious void in the company’s lineup it feels like it’s been here forever. Sophisticated, slightly posh and undeniably stately, the X7 is a superb SUV. It’s also, if I’m being honest, the only machine where BMW’s increasingly swollen kidney grille works without question. 

The X7 is also reasonably quick, able to get its 5,661-pound bulk to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds in M50i guise. You’d think that would be plenty enough for anybody, but for those lucky few who always need more — and who have the means — there’s Alpina. 

Meet the Alpina XB7, a big, three-row SUV that adds a certain layer of excess to BMW’s somewhat understated machine. Much of that starts with what’s under the hood, with the X7’s 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 getting a little more attention than it typically does at the factory. Power goes from the 523 horsepower in the M50i up to a whopping 612 in the XB7, while torque hops from 553 pound-feet to 590. That oomph is balanced by additional airflow in the form of extra radiators and an enlarged transmission cooler, with the bulk of the heat venting via a new sport exhaust. 

That exhaust’s quad, chromed tips poke out through a revised bumper, part of a suite of subtle but effective visual tweaks that help continue the X7’s considerable silhouette closer to the ground. A set of 21-inch wheels comes standard, while the Alpina-spec, 23-inch monsters you see in these photos are optional. 

I don’t know about you, but while I love the way those massive rollers fill out the look of the car, I cringe when I think about how they’ll handle the decidedly rural roads in upstate New York. I’m pleasantly surprised to report that the XB7 feels every bit as compliant as the regular X7, and yet at the touch of the button the rig will lower itself by 1.6 inches. In this Sport Plus mode the car isn’t exactly sprightly, but it is shockingly poised; the Alpina flavor adding bespoke dampers, active antiroll bars and additional chassis bracing. This all results in a package far more responsive than it really has any right to be.

2021 BMW Alpina XB7

Hope you like crystal.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

As impressive as that is, the power delivery is even more so. Without a doubt the XB7 has huge power and is incredibly eager, but the tune of the throttle curve and the way that power is delivered makes this SUV remarkably easy to drive smoothly. That’s absolutely key in any three-row machine, even one with more than 600 hp, and it’s good news that this fundamental aspect is maintained here. 

Dig just a little deeper into the throttle, though, and the big XB7 surges forward with effortless competence, as if a Category 5 hurricane were pushing it along. Despite all the turbo plumbing, throttle response is superb, and the outright power is intoxicating, helped by a sport exhaust that is subtle yet engaging in all the ways that BMW’s current offerings generally are not. 

On the inside, the interior sees a few choice upgrades, with open-pore wood on the dash now paired with an excess of crystal highlights on the shifter and rotary controller, plus no shortage of Alpina badges scattered throughout. Not even your passengers in the back will have any doubt about whether you paid extra for this one. 

The look really works.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

And how much will you be paying? The BMW Alpina XB7 starts at $142,295 after $995 for destination. The model you see here has a few choice upgrades — like $1,950 for the Ametrin Metallic paint, $2,600 for the 23-inch wheels and $3,400 for the Bowers & Wilkins sound system — for a total price of $156,345. By way of context, that’s approximately twice the cost of a base BMW X7 xDrive40i, with its paltry 355 hp. 

Whether or not that’s sound math is entirely up to you and your budget but, ignoring that financial premium, the XB7 offers a remarkably cohesive set of upgrades applied to an already stellar SUV, one that didn’t feel like it was lacking in the first place.


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