It’s only been a couple of years since we first got behind the wheel of the Alpina XB7, but the ultra-luxurious and performance-conscious SUV is already refreshed alongside the rest of the X7 lineup. There are a bunch of new styling elements, more power (duh) and some solid tech improvements. Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and toss the old XB7 in the garbage, but the changes are enough to give it a second look and see how the Alpina variant fits into the three-row performance SUV segment these days.
So, here are 9 thoughts on the Alpina XB7.
1. It makes sure you know it’s an Alpina
There’s no mistaking the XB7 for a regular X7 when it’s charging nose-first at you. The giant “ALPINA” spelled out in the lower bumper area makes sure of it. This area, and all the bumper bits around it, is one of the zones that Alpina fussed with for the refresh. Admittedly, there’s a lot going on down there with the splitter, various intake openings and massive sensor/radar array. Ultimately, it makes the XB7 look far more aggressive and outwardly sporty than it did before. That’s probably fine if you’re a fan of BMW’s recent styling ventures, because it’s all right up a similar alley.
Outside of that pointy nose, the signature-style forged Alpina wheels (23 inches in diameter for this application) look the business, and I just love the round-tipped quad exhaust in back – it’s a big improvement over the more squared-off tips on the X7 M60i.
2. That ride height in Sport Plus is hilariously low
Stick the XB7 into Sport Plus mode; wait for the air suspension to fully settle (1.6 inches lower than the standard ride height), then go look at what you’ve created. It looks like the hulking mass that is this three-row SUV is practically dragging on the ground. The wheel gap is more akin to a Porsche 911 at this ride height setting than an SUV, and it’s comical in a great way. Combined with the XB7’s enormous 325-section-width rears and 285-section-width fronts, this SUV has the appearance of a family-hauler turned track rat. You’ll have onlookers at cars and coffee asking if you really slammed an X7, and hilariously, you’ll need to raise the suspension back up for challenging driveways.
3. … and the corresponding ride and handling is another low point
Unfortunately, that ultra-low ride height only seems to be a boon for aesthetics, because suspension travel feels like it disappears when fully lowered, resulting in a flinty ride for such a big vehicle. That Sport Plus mode also puts the Alpina-specific dampers in their stiffest setting, and the change in suspension geometry results in greater negative camber than the standard ride height.
You’d expect this and all the other Alpina enhancements – stiffer bushings, reinforced torsion struts and unique dome-bulkhead struts – would all have a positive impact on handling performance. However, the XB7 is no match for the X7 M60i. It genuinely feels like an aftermarket tuner has gone to work on the suspension versus the M60i, but the end result is a stiffer and less predictable chassis that never quite feels sure of itself. An intrusive stability control system hops in when you feel like it shouldn’t, and overall, the XB7 just isn’t as put together as the all-BMW efforts of the X7. I had significantly more fun driving the M60i variant in anger last spring, so think of the XB7 as more luxury, less sport.
4. But the acceleration sure is fantastic
That said, the 630 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque don’t disappoint. Doled out to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and Alpina-tuned limited-slip differential (in the rear), the XB7 is an alarmingly quick SUV. While it’s tough to tell if the extra 18 horses from last year are really doing much, we can appreciate the extra power’s presence nonetheless. The 0-60 claim of 3.9 seconds feels plenty accurate, and the 180-mph top speed outruns any other X7 version.
Listening to the XB7 is lovely, too, as it breathes through a sport exhaust system made for the model. The sound is classy, which means you’ll know it’s coming, but it’s not going to set off any car alarms in the parking lot. If you prefer a sillier-sounding family hauler, both Cadillac and Dodge have you covered.
5. Alpina should give up on the steering wheel button shifters
Man, these button shifters are just no good. I don’t really care that there’s a history and heritage to the shifter buttons, because since Alpina came up with the idea a few decades ago, the idea’s been perfected with shift paddles. I lost count very quickly how many times I would miss the button trying to up- and downshift throughout my week with the Alpina. And not only are they tough to use, but the feel of the buttons themselves is nothing special, just a rubbery click that makes you yearn for a shift paddle from the first push.
6. I love all the Alpina-specific interior upgrades
The X7’s interior is already one of the fanciest of the BMW lineup, but Alpina managed to make it feel even more special. For one, you’ll never tire of how good that Lavalina leather steering wheel feels. It’s the perfect level of supple and soft – seriously, I want this leather on every car I drive now. But in addition to the leather, the XB7 gets an impressive “Myrtle Luxury Wood” trim that’s done in an ombré style, leaving you with certain sections of darker wood and other sections that are lighter. It’s simply delightful to examine, and anyone who appreciates attention to detail will adore it.
Of course, all the digital experiences are made unique to Alpina, too. You get a blue digital instrument cluster with green accents to coincide with Alpina’s signature color scheme. Plus, at night, the crystal glass gear selector is illuminated in blue instead of the usual BMW orange. Once again, a lovely attention-to-detail touch that will allow you to appreciate the car’s Alpina character even when it’s dark out.
7. But why does it still say “X7” on the dash?
Really, guys? Alpina and BMW went to so much trouble giving this model a unique feel and vibe to the interior, but the backlit dash still says “X7.” It’s an XB7, not an X7! Now your passenger will just have to look at the sweet Alpina plaque on the cupholder cover to understand that they’re in something special.
8. It’s really quite good at being a luxury hauler
Ride and handling complaints aside in Sport Plus mode, I’m super impressed with this SUV’s comfort and composure in Comfort and Comfort Plus drive modes. With such little sidewall to work with, it’s surprisingly supple. Popping around town and dreary stoplight-to-stoplight driving is made better with the mild-hybrid capability added for 2023, and the cabin is whisper-quiet on the highway save for the tiniest bit of exhaust noise that never seems to fully go away. Nevertheless, the epic 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system can make that disappear in no time.
9. But I’d rather park an X7 M60i in the garage
Despite all of the Alpina’s goodness, the M60i (above, left) is more my style. It’s a little less shouty in terms of exterior styling, and its ride and handling balance is much more holistic, catering to any type of driving you might want to do. The XB7 will suit someone who wants to look the part, while the M60i will actually exceed your expectations as a performance SUV. Its steering, chassis composure and ability to lay down the power (and even transmission shifting method) are all much more my speed. For turning heads, straight-line craziness and all-out luxury, though, the Alpina is the king of BMW’s SUV mountain.