Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover

Published:25 February 2021

Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
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By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

► BMW's X7 gets the Alpina treatment
► Super-exclusive luxury SUV tested
► Thumping 613bhp V8, extra trimmings

We love an Alpina – taking a (usually) already very good car from BMW and injecting some extra performance and luxury is always welcome. It was almost a guarantee, then that Alpina would inevitably get its hands on the massive seven-seat X7.

So here it is, the XB7 – in all its pig-nosed glory. If you can get past the looks, there’s a pretty sweet SUV lurking under the surface.

What has Alpina done to the X7, then?

More than you think. The most potent X7 you can get from BMW direct is the M50i – a still-pretty-punchy V8 model making 523bhp. With Alpina’s XB7, the 4.4-litre V8 produces 613bhp – hovering roughly around the same power output as BMW’s own M5 Competition – and 590lb ft (37lb ft more than the M5). The XB7 also has a stainless steel sports exhaust system as standard for a properly burly bark at any revs.

xb7 rear close

While 21-inch wheels are standard, Alpina’s gorgeously classic multi-spoke rims are available as massive 23-inchers – the largest ever fitted to an Alpina model. Those wheels are shod in specifically-developed tyres for the brand, too. Alpina has also tuned the air suspension and active anti-roll system, and added BMW’s ‘integral active steering’ (also known as rear-wheel steering) and a rear limited-slip differential as standard.

In terms of design, you can trim your XB7 in the brand’s classic pinstriping along the front and sides, there are bespoke leathers available in the options list, and you get a dinky plaque on the centre console marking what production number it is.

xb7 interior

It’s also the little details when you’re inside – the Alpina-bespoke greeting on the infotainment and colours on the dials, the soft-close doors and badging are a welcome accoutrement to the X7’s usual crystal gearlever, colourful ambient lighting and (optional) massive sunroof.

Sounds like it’s gonna be fast…

And it very much is. It’s quicker to 62mph than an Aston DBX, Mercedes-AMG G63 and Bentley Bentayga V8 – an impressive feat considering the XB7 weighs more than 2.6 tonnes. Only the flyweight-by-comparison Lamborghini Urus is quicker.

xb7 front end tracking

You have to commend Alpina’s tune – this is one of the smoothest twin-turbo V8s on the market in terms of its power delivery, with a relentless surge from tickover to redline and the right soundtrack to match. This is Alpina, remember – no excessively loud howls or immature pops and bangs from the exhaust when you floor it, just a muscular and purposeful growl befitting of the XB7’s angry, massive-nostrilled face and immense road presence.

And all of that power is dealt with so deftly by the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which you can manually override not with common paddles like most manufacturers, but nodules on the back of the steering wheel just big enough for your middle finger. It slurs shifts so seamlessly you don’t notice, even in the hardest Sport+ drive mode.

Bet it drives like a fat lump…

You’d be wrong… mostly. Before we get into it, you simply cannot ignore how absolutely gargantuan this car is, even parked next to a full-size Range Rover. It makes skinny country roads and tight urban streets a tad unnerving, particularly when you’re trying to avoid kerbs from dinging those optional 23-inch wheels when you feel like you're 20 storeys up.

But this thing loves to cruise and does it all so effortlessly. Alpina has included a Comfort+ mode for the suspension system; while a bit wallowy if you go hooning, it’s almost magic carpet-like on the motorway. The suspension also adapts to your speed for better aero, slamming itself down to the ground if you’re off for a new speed record on the Autobahn.

xb7 side tracking

The fly in the ointment is the wheel size – our test model had those optional 23s, and if you attach 23-inch wheels on anything, even with such sophisticated air springs as this, you’ll still notice the bumps. While they’re smothered by the suspension to minimise the car jolting, you still sort of feel them – either through the seat of your pants or the steering wheel. They also generate more tyre noise than we’d like, taking a little bit of the edge off that cushy comfort you experience on motorways.

When the moment takes you, though, the XB7 is far more athletic than you can imagine. That is, of course, down to the massive amount of technology keeping it level and controlled, but the XB7 can definitely keep up with even the sportiest of luxury SUVs like the DBX and Urus. Whack the drive mode into Sport+, push the shifter into manual mode and it can really hustle.

xb7 rear tracking

The steering is as direct as is the custom of a modern BMW, with even the lightest of turns sending an instant signal to the front wheels. While we wish the alertness could be knocked down a peg on motorway cruises perhaps via Alpina’s Comfort+ mode (it’s just a smidge too twitchy in this scenario), it translates your inputs with alacrity. That and the standard rear-wheel steering is a boon for taking full advantage of a great road. Same story with body roll – it's almost eliminated, mainly thanks to the retuned active roll stabilisation.

It’s a big SUV – can I fit everything in it?

Being a seven-seater certainly has its upsides, and those in the rear won’t be left wanting. The middle and rear benches are operated electronically, with the passengers in the middle row being able to slide fore and aft and recline the bench 60:40. Like the regular X7, you can also spec a six-seater layout instead of the car’s usual seven; the second row comprises two full-size seats with armrests.

xb7 rear seats

The middle row also has its own ventilation and seat heating, and there’s an optional rear seat entertainment pack with the ability to set the navigation destination and individualise the entertainment. As for the rearmost seats, adults will only want to be back there for short journeys.

But this isn’t an SUV you’ll want to take off road all that often. Yes, the XB7 has air suspension that you can manually lift, and there’s the xOffroad instruments on the screen, but low bumper aprons and massive wheels don’t exactly shout mud-plugging 4x4. You’re better off with a G-Class or newly announced V8 Defender for that.

Alpina XB7: verdict

xb7 front static

Most of the additional trinketry and performance here is effectively standard fare for your average Alpina model, as the brand slathers on an extra layer of decadence and performance for the most discerning of BMW fans. But, in terms of the XB7, it lifts the donor car up beyond being *just* a large premium SUV into territory controlled by the likes of Bentley’s Bentayga, the Lamborghini Urus, Aston Martin DBX and Mercedes-AMG G63.

If you can get past the debateable looks of the X7 donor car, the XB7 is an impressively well put together, refined and biblically fast luxury SUV. While that sector of the market is getting surprisingly crowded these days, the Alpina also exclusivity on its side.

If you get a chance to drive one, let it win you over – it might make you stray away from that Bentayga V8 or Urus order.

Specs

Price when new: £125,650
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4395cc twin-turbocharged V8, 613bhp @ 5500rpm, 590lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.2sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 19.6mpg, 274g/km
Weight / material: 2655kg
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5151/2000/1797mm

Rivals

Other Models

Photo Gallery

  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover
  • Alpina XB7 (2021) review: don't judge a book by its cover

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

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