Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

The 2020 Alpina B7.

If you haven’t heard of Alpina, I’m not sure I want to tell you about it. This tiny German automaker might just make some of the best cars in the world right now.

Driving an Alpina is like stumbling into spectacular neighbourhood restaurant or finding an ingenious local mechanic. Part of what makes it so special is the feeling that you discovered it, that nobody else knows.

Alpina is tiny. For context, Aston Martin sold more than 6,000 cars last year. Ferrari? They shipped nearly 10,000. Meanwhile, Alpina sold just under 1,500 cars. Production capacity at their workshop in Germany tops out at less than 2,000 cars per year.

Story continues below advertisement

When the 2020 Alpina B7’s throttle is slammed into the plush carpet at 200 kilometres per hour, it calmly downshifts a couple of gears and begins to accelerate. Then it keeps going. It shoves us back into our seats with the kind of force you’d expect at half this speed. We’re doing 275 km/h on a stretch of unrestricted German Autobahn before, inevitably, a minivan pulls out in front of us. The B7’s top speed is reportedly 330 km/h (205 mph).

Alpina's take on BMW's twin-turbo V8 produces 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque.

Brendan McAleer

You may have noticed the B7 looks like a BMW 7 Series, complete with the new garish, gaping grille. That’s because the B7 was a 7 Series until Alpina developed and fitted a new engine, suspension, body kit and brakes and turned into something altogether better.

In Canada, it’s pointless to have a car that’s comfortable and quiet at 200 km/h, but to think Alpina is just about raw speed is wrong.

For context, most automakers think, sadly, that any sporty car must be extreme. It should cater to racecar-driver wannabes. It should set lap records. It should have rock-hard suspension and a huge wing and lots of carbon fibre. You know you’re in a sporty car when your whole body is sore after a drive on our terrible roads. It’s like leaving a Russian bath house. You feel beaten up and exhausted. Isn’t this supposed to be enjoyable? It wasn’t always like this.

What makes Alpina different is that it makes sporty cars for the real world, the world of potholes, traffic, passengers and the daily grind.

It takes one person approximately six hours to make 2020 Alpina B7's hand-stitched steering wheels.

Andreas Bovensiepen, the CEO of Alpina, took over the job from his father, who founded the company in 1965. He is refreshingly blunt about his customers: “If you are a rich guy and you’ve had several BMWs, you start thinking, maybe I should go buy a Bentley. But Alpina is so exclusive – only 1,500 cars annually – that we can fill this niche of exclusivity that rich customers like to have,” explains Bovensiepen. In other words, his company makes cars for people who think a BMW is too pedestrian. Apparently, that’s a viable business model in our new Gilded Age.

The Alpina factory is in a residential neighbourhood in the small town of Buchloe, in southern Germany. It has an old-world atmosphere. There’s a machine shop with hand-operated tools. There are fresh metal shavings on the floor. The leather shop uses the softest cowhide I’ve ever touched. The hand-stitched steering wheels take one person approximately six hours to make. Even the factory buildings are painted in the company’s traditional blue and green colours.

Story continues below advertisement

Alpina’s first product was a Weber carburetor kit for the BMW 1500, which Andreas’ father sold in the parking lot of the 1965 Frankfurt motor show – he couldn’t afford booth space – by placing flyers on windshields. The kit was so good that BMW packed it with their full factory warranty.

The Alpina leather shop in Buchloe, Germany, uses the softest cowhide you'd ever touch.

Katja Kuhl

Since then, the two companies have had a symbiotic relationship. BMW supplies Alpina with cars to modify; Alpina supplies BMW dealerships with rarified products to satisfy rich drivers. Alpina is officially an automaker rather than a tuner.

More models are on the way to North America. An Alpina X7 SUV is likely, as is an Alpina 8 Series Gran Coupe – and this, despite the fact sales are slow in Canada, according to the company’s product manager, Jonathan Ganser. “Customers [in Canada] want big, bold and bad,” he says. Responding to Canadian tastes, Alpina produced 21 special-edition B7s for our country. They had blacked-out trim and dark matte paint, and all quickly sold out.

Maybe the reason all sporty cars have to be so extreme now, always turned up to 11, is because we want them that way. No, that can’t be true. The B7 is almost as plush as a Rolls-Royce. It floats over railway crossings despite the huge 21-inch rims. Bovensiepen gives a lot of credit to the soft-sidewall tires Alpina developed with Michelin.

There are eight driving modes and three gearbox modes in the 7 Series. It’s too many, but that’s a BMW issue. Crucially, even the B7’s sportiest setting is usable on bumpy roads.

Alpina’s BMW-based twin-turbo V8 – which produces 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque – is tuned for low-end shove. Dawdling around in traffic, it feels infinitely powerful, like you’re riding a wave.

Story continues below advertisement

Alpina’s BMW-based twin-turbo V8 produces a top speed of 330 kmph.


After a brief drive, it’s obvious this tiny company has produced a better car than BMW’s flagship sedan. It’s a shame that to get a such a stupendous machine, you’ve got to pony up $173,100 for a B7.

It raises the question: Why doesn’t BMW simply make its cars this good to begin with? Bovensiepen leans in closer. He doesn’t have a real answer, but BMW Group is a big company, he says. It sold 2.5 million cars last year. Each model is developed by a legion of engineers. There are too many cooks in the kitchen, I suggest. He nods. Alpina is tiny and better for it.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram,@globedrive.

Follow related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies