2011 BMW Alpina B7 - Click above for high-res image gallery Alpina is as familiar to German enthusiasts as Shelby, Hurst, Saleen and Yenko are to American gearheads. And like its American counterparts, Alpina has made a business out of taking the best vehicles from one marque and making them substantially better than anything rolling off the assembly line. The relationship between BMW and Alpina started in 1962 when a German enthusiast named Burkard Bovenseipen realized his BMW 1500 had plenty of untapped potential. Bovenseipen developed a dual carburetor kit for the 1500's four-cylinder, and as the carbs flew off the shelves, he realized there was a serious market for BMW-based performance parts. Mr. B formed ALPINA Burkard Bovenseipen KG in 1964 and in the decades since, the company has become known simply as Alpina. But while the name has changed, its mission remains the same, and its line of upgrades have grown considerably since its inception. Bovenseipen's team continues to recognize the potential in almost every new BMW product, and the small but competent company, now managed by Bovenseipen's son Andreas (his staff calls him Andy), delivers better, less compromised, higher-performance versions of BMW production cars. In Europe, Alpina offers variants of the 3 Series, 5 Series and 6 Series, dubbed the B3, B5, and B6, respectively. However, production constraints (and some concerns about M cannibalization, we're sure) prevents sales of these hotted-up Bimmers in the States. That's a crime, because the Alpina B7 – the only Alpina available in the U.S. – is easily the best 7 Series we've driven. %Gallery-96511% Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. For the 2011 model year, there are four derivatives of the B7 available in the States: the B7, B7 L (long wheelbase), B7 xDrive (all-wheel drive), and B7 L xDrive. All feature generally the same equipment. Exterior changes are limited, but critical. The front and rear fascias are new, and the entire body sits lower (15 mm in front and 10 mm in the rear) over Alpina 20-spoke, 21-inch wheels. Andy Bovenseipen explained that the wheels with 18 or 20 spokes manifest the ideal balance of maximum strength with minimal weight, which is why Alpina has used almost the exact same design for decades. But Alpina didn't just throw on a pair of new hoops and call it a day – nestled within the wheel's center cab is the valve stem, with air traveling through a single hollow spoke to inflate the tire. As is always the case with Alpina, it's the details that matter. The subtle exterior changes are more than cosmetic. The front air dam directs air toward the additional coolers needed for the powertrain and drag has been cut by 30-percent at the front and 15-percent at the rear. While you can barely discern the upgrades, the exterior looks at once elegant and powerful. Inside, the changes are also low-key. Stepping across the doorsills one sees the trick plates with "B7" illuminated in blue. …
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