10 Minute Guide. Luxury with pace – it can only be Alpina’s E65 B7. BMW E65 Alpina B7. If you’re after a cruiser that’s also a bit of a bruiser what could possibly be better than an Alpina B7? Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Craig Pusey.
Why should you buy one?
Okay, we’ll admit it, it does seem a little bit perverse to flag up a car for the 10 Minute Guide of which there were only 11 UK imports, but hey, why not set your heart on something a little bit out of the ordinary? The E65’s styling might be something of an acquired taste but contrary to our expectations it’s actually aged rather well, especially the face-lifted version, and even the original car has a certain brutish charm. And with Alpina’s aerodynamic addenda it was actually significantly better looking that the standard car, too. The main reason to settle back into the Alpina’s bespoke cabin though is the wonderful blend of opulence and outright pace that’s offered by the car, plus the fact that you’ll be driving something truly exclusive – how many other cars can you name from any manufacturer of which there are only 11 in the country?
The Alpina B7 made its debut back in 2004 and was a thorough reworking of the E65 7 Series. Unlike the previous generation Seven the latest über-limo wasn’t based on BMW’s V12 flagship – extracting more power from the 760i would have been a very time consuming and expensive process, and the V12 was also heavy and sat fairly far forward in the chassis which wasn’t ideal for Alpina when looking for the perfect balance.
Instead Alpina went for forced induction and while the B7 wasn’t turbocharged like some of its icons from the past, it added a supercharger to the 745i to create a sublime machine whose vital statistics included a maximum output of 500hp and a peak torque figure of 516lb ft. It might have weighed two tonnes but it was still capable of hitting 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and unfettered by a pesky speed limiter it would happily hit a maximum speed of nigh-on 190mph. When it was launched the Alpina B7 cost a hefty £76,900 and there were plenty of options to choose from too, but when you bear in mind that BMW’s own 760i tipped the scales at £78,375 the Alpina started to look like a bit of a bargain.
What goes wrong?
Being an Alpina the B7 is a thoroughly engineered machine but if it does have an Achilles heel it’s the centrifugal supercharger that’s strapped to the V8. Sadly it’s not proved to be the most robust of units and they have been known to fail, but frustratingly it gives very little warning that it’s about to let go and there doesn’t seem to be a particular mileage point where you could say that it’s going to be on its last legs. The bad news is that a replacement blower will set you back in the region of £5000 by the time you’ve totted up the parts, labour and Vat. As a result it’s imperative that you thoroughly investigate the history of any purchase to see if it’s had a replacement supercharger, although that’s no guarantee that it won’t expire again.
There is some evidence that supercharger failure may possibly (in some cases) have been the result of the incorrect oil filter having been fitted so it would be worth double checking with Alpina in Germany the part number for the correct part for your car. Frequent oil changes will also help to extend the supercharger’s life as will the good practice of not caning the car from cold.
Other than that it’ll be a case of checking for electrical gremlins as the E65 was prone to these – especially on earlier cars – and making sure that every single option or standard feature on the car works as it should. Also pay close attention to all the Alpina specific parts such as interior trim, seats, spoilers and wheels – none of these will be cheap to repair/replace.
With an official combined economy figure of 22mpg you’ll be getting pretty familiar with your local Super Unleaded supplier, but if you don’t venture into town too often and can resist using all the performance when on a run you should be able to see better figures than that which certainly isn’t shabby for a two-tonne machine with this level of performance.
Consumables will be expensive – those 21-inch rims are clad in 245/35 and 285/30 tyres front and rear respectively and if you want the correct Michelins for the car you’re going to be looking at £1000 for a set. Brakes shouldn’t cost the earth – they’re standard BMW parts – but bear in mind you could be hauling two tonnes down from high speeds on a regular basis so it’ll go through pads and discs relatively quickly. The good news is that as all Alpinas from this era cost just £230 to tax.
How much to pay?
This is a bit of a tricky one as if you have your heart set on a B7 you will have to more or less pay the price the seller wants… it’s not as if you’ll be able to go and find another to buy. As we went to press there was only one on the market and it was on offer for £20k with 122,000 miles on the clock. While we hadn’t viewed the car it did look to be in fine fettle and sported the correct Michelin rubber which is always a good sign that a car has been well looked after. Interestingly it was the very car you can see in the pictures here which was one of Alpina GB’s demo cars.
If you’re after a luxury limo that has the sort of performance that will still embarrass plenty of supposed sports cars then you need look no further than the B7. If you don’t need quite so much space you could also consider a B5, too. The flip side of the coin is that a 760i will offer you just about all the performance of the Alpina for possibly around half the price but it will be nowhere as exclusive or have quite such a sense of occasion as stepping into a B7 will have.