Despite the burly stats, keep in mind that the B7 is not intended to be an M7. Alpina’s approach to performance is less hard-core than is the M division’s; rather, Alpina focuses on producing vehicles that are “smooth, unobtrusive, and easy to drive.” To put a point on its goals, the vast majority of the firm’s offerings in Europe come only with automatic transmissions. Gearchanges are accomplished by a specially tuned version of the eight-speed automatic now installed throughout the 7-series lineup. We left the B7 in automatic mode much of the time—we preferred that to using the two small shift nubs Alpina sticks on the back of the steering-wheel spokes—and found the shifts to be plenty crisp.
The history of the 485 horsepower, 3-liter V-12 1939 Auto Union twin-supercharger Type D, which has a top speed of 205 mph, is fascinating. After World War II most of the race cars were carted off to Russia as Auto Union’s headquarters were in East Germany. They then disappeared or were stripped for parts or used for research. Paul Karassik, a Russian immigrant living in Florida, had been a spectator in Belgrade at the last Grand Prix before the war. During the 1970s his dream was to find the Auto Unions in the USSR. It took the better part of a decade, but he was able to track down two surviving Auto Unions and after much negotiation he was able to get the parts out from behind the Iron Curtain.