BMW Alpina B7 VS Audi A6
BMW Alpina B7
- Supremely comfortable ride
- Luxurious cabin
- Supercar-scaring 330km/h top speed
- Exhaust note could be tougher sounding
- Extra care needed to pilot through car parks and alley ways
- Australia's speed limits
- Clinical personality
- Steering feel
BMW Alpina B7
You know when you're walking along the footpath and you come to a soft spongey bit that the council have put in around a tree and your mind goes: "Whoah, the ground is bouncy but it looks just like bitumen?!"
Well that's the kind of response you'll get from people when they think they're looking at a regular BMW 7 Series, only to have their world go a bit bouncy when they see the Alpina B7 badge on the back of this car as you're overtaking them at Warp Factor 9000.
And you will be overtaking them like a blur because, thanks to the elves at German tuning house Alpina, the B7 is hugely fast for a five-seat, 5.3m-long, 2.2 tonne limo. But then the B7 is fast for any type of car of any dimensions, because with its 330km/h top speed this beast will outrun a McLaren 570GT. Yes, seriously.
Based on the BMW 750Li long wheelbase, the B7 begins life rolling down the same production line as a regular 7 Series. Alpina then goes on to make so many changes to the engine and chassis that the German government requires the BMW VIN to be replaced with a new one.
Ready to find out more? Well there's so much to see here that things may go a bit weird and bouncy again. Be prepared.
As its name implies, Audi's A6 lives in the luxury sedan zone between the brand's volume-selling, mid-size A4 and limo-length A8.
Although it sits in the same size, price and performance ballpark as BMW's evergreen 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, traditionally it hasn't been able to lay a glove on the other German 'Big Three' competitors in terms of sales in the Australian new car market. Although it does manage to topple the seemingly unloved Jaguar XF and Lexus GS.
So, what to do? After seven years in market, the fourth generation (C7) A6 departed the local market in June this year, and the fresh metal designed to push Audi up the leader board stands before you.
Revealed in Germany early in 2018, the fifth-gen (C8) A6 brings new engines, leading edge safety, upgraded media tech, and an evolution of the brand's distinctive design language.
We scored an early, preview drive to see if the A6 has what it takes to challenge the '5' and 'E'.
|Fuel Type||95 Ron Premium Unleaded|
BMW Alpina B77.9/10
The BMW Alpina B7 is a special car destined (like all Alpinas) to be a collector's item, due to its rarity and exclusivity. I asked Alpina just how many current model B7s there are in Australia and the answer was "less than five", which is just as mysterious as most people find the car in general.
The B7 is fast – too fast to enjoy legally on Australian roads – but it is also supremely comfortable and well appointed. For Alpina fans lucky enough to be driven in on,e this would make for a truly rare and niche way to be chauffeured.
Is the BMW Alpina B7 the ultimate fast limousine? Tells us what you think in the comments section below.
The new Audi A6 55 TFSI quattro S line is a composed, rapid, top-shelf luxury sedan. It's comprehensively equipped, with safety tech a stand-out, and priced to chip away at BMW and Merc's segment dominance. Owners in this part of the market tend to be rusted on loyal to their preferred brand, though, and it will be interesting to see of this impressive newcomer can shake a few of them loose.
Could this new A6 tempt you out of your 5 Series or E-Class? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
BMW Alpina B77/10
This is a good place to start because the B7 looks just like the 750Li it's based on, until you see the first tell-tale signs that it's not one.
There's the front wing with Alpina lettering and the boot-top spoiler, the graphics, which run the length of the car, and the 20-spoke wheels with Alpina badging.
This is late '70s, early '80s styling at its best (and possibly worst), but these special cars can pull off the irony-free look because this is how Alpina BMWs have rolled since 1975, when the E21 320-based Alpina A1/3 was launched.
BMW badges have been left on the bonnet and boot, but there's Alpina B7 BiTurbo lettering in place of the 7 Series identifier.
Most people walked by it in the street thinking it was just a big BMW, others scratched their heads wondering what I'd done to my big German limo and a handful almost dropped to their knees in praise and wonderment at spotting a rare beast like this in the wild.
These people all had their own Alpina stories – one was the third generation of an Alpina-owning family. You become a member a small and passionate club when you buy into this rarefied brand.
The standard B7's cabin is close to identical to the luxurious interior of the 750Li, save for Alpina-embossed stitching in the headrests of the soft, leather seats, the virtual instrument cluster and the Alpina plaque on the centre console denoting the build number.
The B7 is long, low and wide at just under 5.3m end to end, 1.5m tall and 1.9m across. A 3.2m wheelbase means cabin room is more than just spacious.
The B7 rolls off the Dingolfing production line in Germany and is then handed over to Alpina's facility in Buckle, where significant changes take place. Read on to find out how the B7 is different from a regular 750Li.
In recent years Audi has shown impressive commitment to design consistency, with signature elements like the 'Singleframe grille', crisp, angular lines and tightly wrapped surfaces obvious unifying factors.
But the line between consistency and sameness is a thin one, and you could argue a strong case that, scale aside, all Audis from the last decade look much the same. And while this all-new design sharpens and tweaks the brand formula it's hardly a clean-sheet revolution.
Our test car's mega (optional) 21-inch alloys are further proof that Audi is currently playing a strong wheel design game. They fill the wheelarches to capacity and arm wrestle with the massive grille for visual prominence.
The standard S line exterior package incorporates specific front and rear bumpers with honeycomb inserts, side air inlet grilles in 'matt titanium black' with inserts in 'platinum grey', rear diffuser in the same black, this time with chrome trim, side sill trims, and illuminated aluminium door sill trims with S logo at the front.
The strongly curved roofline accentuates the car's steeply raked C-pillars, giving it a close to fastback style. Short overhangs accentuate the carefully sculpted, muscular look.
The interior is a model of design quality mixed with Teutonic restraint, the dash and instrument cluster layout showcasing the three digital screens covering instruments, media as well as heating and ventilation.
Long, horizontal vents are an Audi design favourite, the seats look and feel superb and the entire cabin reeks of quality and attention to detail.
BMW Alpina B78/10
The B7 is a five-seater limousine although with the fold-down rear centre armrest which houses the media control panel the back is really set up to carry two.
That 3.2m wheelbase means cabin space is enormous. At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with about 30cm between my knees and the seatback. Those rear doors open wide and the entrance is huge, making entry and exit almost as easy as just walking through a doorway. The air suspension also rises and lowers the B7's ride height for better access.
Storage is excellent, with two cupholders and door pockets for rear passengers, along with the area inside the centre armrest.
Up front, the driver and co-pilot have a deep centre console storage bin with split-opening lid, two cupholders and door pockets.
Luggage space is good, with a 515-litre boot.
At just over 4.9m long, close to 1.9m wide, and a little under 1.5m high the new A6 is marginally longer and wider, yet fractionally lower overall than its predecessor. And each of those key measures are within millimetres of its core competitors.
So, large rather than huge, yet while the wheelbase has stretched 12mm, Audi says it has eked out an extra 21mm of interior length.
Room for the driver and front passenger is generous, with ample storage provided, including dual (covered) cupholders in the centre console (also incorporating a 12-volt outlet and key holder slot), a decent glove box, and door bins allowing easy bottle storage)
The lidded storage box/armrest between the front seats is relatively shallow but includes a wireless Qi (chee) charging mat (for compatible devices), plus SIM and SD ports, as well as a pair of (Type-A) USB sockets.
Those in the back are in equally good shape. I was able to sit behind the driver's seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer.
The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the back of each front seat and the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.
Three adults across the rear is definitely do-able, but not a realistic long-distance option.
Ventilation, connectivity and power are also well buttoned down for back-seaters with the standard spec including climate control adjustment for the rear, plus two USB ports and a 12-volt socket.
For the record, our test example was upgraded with the 'Rear Seat Comfort Package' ($2500) consisting of four-zone climate control, heating for the two outer positions and 'extended upholstery' for the door armrest and centre console. The two central vents are also supplemented by additional adjustable outlets in the B-pillars.
Boot capacity is around the average for the class at 530 litres, and the A6 swallowed our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) with masses of room to spare, as it did the jumbo size CarsGuide pram.
In fact, it was able to take the biggest case as well as the pram at the same time, which is pretty impressive. Drop the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat to liberate even more volume.
There are pop-up tie-down anchors at each corner of the boot floor, a netted storage cavity behind the passenger side wheel tub, a 12-volt outlet on the driver's side, a handy fold down shopping bag hook, an elasticised net is included, and a space-saver spare sits under the boot floor.
Price and features
BMW Alpina B77/10
The B7 lists for $389,955, while a 750li is about $319,000. At this level, $70K seems like a downright reasonable premium to pay for a faster, more powerful, better handling and comfier version of the 750Li.
In this case you're paying more but getting more, although standard features are close to identical. There's adaptive LED headlights, head-up display, night vision with pedestrian detection, a 10.25-inch touch screen up front and two screens in the second row for TV and other media functions.
There's a reversing camera, sat nav, harman/kardon surround stereo and Apple CarPlay. There's leather upholstery, seat massagers in the front and rear, four-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, front and rear parking sensors, auto tailgate, sunblinds for the rear and rear-side windows and proximity key.
The safety features are listed in the section below, and that list is also impressive.
The $100K barrier is a substantial one, and the Audi A6 55 TFSI quattro S line well and truly vaults over it, landing at a price of $116,000, before on-road costs.
For context, BMW's 530i Luxury Line weighs in at $111,900, Jag's XF 35t S will set you back $128,528, the Mercedes-Benz E300 sits at $111,642, and the Lexus GS350 Sport Luxury will lighten your wallet by $106,312.
So, you'd expect this top of the three model A6 range to be packed with standard features as part of the pitch to win market share from BMW, Merc and Co. And sure enough this car is laden down with enough fruit to satisfy Carmen Miranda's milliner.
Included are 20-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension (with electronically controlled adaptive dampers), matrix LED headlights (with LED DRLs, dynamic cornering lights, auto headlight range control and rear dynamic indicators), keyless entry and start including a sensor controlled (leg swish) boot release, electric heated sports seats for the driver and front passenger (including memories for the driver), 'Valcona' leather upholstery (door trim inserts in Alcantara), three-zone climate control air, a flat-bottom leather-trimmed sports steering wheel (with manual gearshift paddles), 'aluminium fragment' interior inlays, ambient lighting, and aluminium illuminated front door sill trims (in S design).
Plus, there's Audi's smartphone interface providing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, 'Qi' wireless charging, 10-speaker/180-watt audio driven by a six-channel amp and featuring digital radio, the 12.3-inch configurable 'Audi Virtual Cockpit' digital instrument cluster, a head-up display (colour, with speed, nav and assistance info), 10.1-inch high-res colour media touchscreen, 'Navigation Plus' (with 3D map display including places of interest and city models), and a third 8.6-inch colour display for the climate control system (with handwriting recognition and a favourites list).
The recently introduced 'myAudi' app also allows you to connect to the car and access real-time info on everything from how much fuel's in the tank, to maintenance milestones, and service warnings. You can remotely lock and unlock the car, plan journeys (at home) and send destinations and routes directly to the car.
On top of that lot, our test car featured a quartet of options starting with air suspension ($2000), stepping through metallic paint ($2200), to the 'Rear seat comfort package' described in the practicality section above ($2500), and 'Premium plus package 1' ($9800) which tips in Bang & Olufsen's '3D Sound System' (16 speakers, 15-channel amp, and 705-watt output), HD matrix LED headlights, panoramic glass sunroof, privacy glass (rear and rear side windows), LED interior lighting package (30 selectable colours and six colour profiles), electric opening and closing boot lid, electric steering column adjust, S line interior package (S line embossing on the front seats, perforated leather steering wheel grips, inlays in dark matt brushed aluminium and stainless steel pedal and footrest faces), plus 21-inch alloys. The final price, before on-road costs, totting up to $132,500.
Engine & trans
BMW Alpina B79/10
Alpina takes the 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 from the BMW 750Li and rebuilds the engine by hand. Alpina fits its own turbochargers, air-intake set -up, high-capacity cooling system and Akrapovic quad exhaust. Output is 447kW and 800Nm – an increase of a whopping 117kW and 150Nm over the 750Li's grunt.
It's interesting to note that the V12-powered 760Li has a smidge more power, at 448kW, and the same torque output as the B7.
How fast is the B7? Supercar fast – the B7 has a top speed of 330km/h, which will see it outrun a McLaren 570 and almost keep up with a Ferrari F12. That's quite incredible for a 2.3-tonne limousine with three TVs on board. A 0-100km/h time of 4.2 seconds is also hugely impressive.
In comparison, a 750Li has a 0-100km/h time of a not-too-shabby 4.7 seconds, but the car is electronically limited to 250km/h.
An eight-speed automatic transmission shifts gears smoothly, although a little slowly in Normal mode, while Sport and Sport+ add urgency and harder shifts.
Finally, the B7 is all-wheel drive, and those rear wheels are designed to steer slightly for better cornering performance.
The VW Group (EA839) engine used in the A6 55 TFSI is a 90-degree, 3.0-litre, all-alloy, single (twin-scroll) turbo V6 featuring direct-injection, variable camshaft adjustment (intake and exhaust side) and variable valve timing on the inlet side.
It produces peak power of 250kW from 5000-6400rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm between 1370rpm and 4500rpm.
A 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system recovers regenerative braking energy to power the stop/start system and enable coasting (for up to 40 seconds) between 55-160km/h.
It consists of a 10 Ah lithium-ion battery under the boot floor, a water-cooled belt alternator starter (BAS) mounted to the engine's front end, with a V-belt connecting it to the crankshaft.
BMW Alpina B77/10
The B7 is probably not the car to own if you're concerned about either fuel prices or emissions, but then the twin-turbo V8 may not be as thirsty as you'd think, with Alpina stating that, after a combination of urban and open-road driving, you should only use 9.6L/100km.
My time in the B7 saw me double that usage but this could have had something to do with me turning off the stop-start system and driving in Sport mode constantly.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.2L/100km, the A6 55 TFSI emitting 164g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over five days of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded a figure of 8.8L/100km, courtesy of the on-board computer. Pretty impressive for a close to 1.8-tonne luxury sedan.
Stop/start is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 72 litres of it to fill the tank.
BMW Alpina B79/10
Who on Earth thinks a BMW 750Li isn't fast enough or comfortable enough, even with all its horsepower, luxurious cabin and technology? Alpina, that's who.
Redevelopment of the 4.4-litre V8 with new turbochargers, a high-capacity cooling system, different air suspension set-up and an exhaust system made by Akrapovic have made this already exceptional car better. Better to drive and better to be driven in.
The ride, even on those 21-inch wheels and low-profile Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres (255/35 ZR21 on the front and 295/30 ZR 21 on the rear) is incredibly comfortable. I drove it and also had a chance to recline in the back and be chauffeured (by our photographer) and the ride was so composed and refined it was hard to believe I was travelling along some truly awful urban roads with their cracked and pot-holed surfaces.
And it's quiet, too. Which will suit those in the back being transported swiftly from the airport to their next meeting, but if you're after a loud and angry exhaust note then you won't find it in the B7. Sure, from the outside at full throttle the B7 has a menacing growl, but this isn't a BMW M car that will bark and snarl.
See, while BMW's M division makes brutal, loud, high-performance versions of their regular cars, Alpina makes comfortable, stealthy, high-performance ones.
All-wheel drive provides fantastic traction and ensures that grunt doesn't just tear the tyres off those rims when you sneeze on the throttle.
And while the air-suspension is soft and comfortable, adaptive dampers adjust for when the road goes twisty, providing impressive handling for a heavy and long car.
Really, though, the B7 is built for long, endless stretches of roads, and the acceleration beyond 100km/h is almost as startling as that from 0-100km/h, as it wants to push straight past 200km/h towards that 330km/h top speed.
Which, unless you know a good lawyer or happen to be one, will send you straight to jail. Yes, the B7 is probably too much car for Australian roads. Only on a German autobahn would a B7 be fully at home.
I felt like I was given a Melbourne Cup-winning racehorse for a week but could only ride it in my suburban backyard.
The A6 55 TFSI's S line tag infers sporty performance, and there's no doubt 0-100km/h acceleration in a claimed 5.1sec is rapid.
As is increasingly the norm with Vee engines from the 'Big Three' German brands this one has its single, twin-scroll turbo located in the V6's 'hot V' to shorten gas paths from the exhaust to the turbo, and from the turbo into the inlet side.
The aim is to sharpen throttle response and deliver power in a smooth, linear flow. And with maximum torque available from just 1370rpm all the way to 4500rpm, that's exactly the way it feels.
Select Sport mode, squeeze the right-hand pedal, and the V6 delivers a firm, consistent shove in the back. Keep pushing and peak power arrives at 5000rpm, remaining on tap all the way up to 6400rpm, on the cusp of the engine's rev ceiling.
But don't expect a brash, macho personality. The A6 is quietly quick, remaining composed and relatively quiet as speed rises.
Low noise acoustic glass is a key factor here, as is a comprehensive sound absorption package throughout the cabin. Some may find the drive experience too low-key, even sterile, while others will embrace the cool sophistication.
The seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch auto transmission is beautifully executed, delivering ultra-smooth shifts at around-town cruising speeds and crisp, positive changes in manual mode.
A self-locking centre differential sits at the heart of the 'quattro' all-wheel drive system, normally distributing torque in a 40/60 front to rear ratio. Up to 70 per cent of drive can be sent to the front axle and a maximum 85 per cent to the rear.
On top of that, in aggressive cornering torque vectoring by braking (Audi calls it 'Wheel-Selective Torque Control') retards the near-side wheels before they slip.
Suspension is a five-link set-up front and rear, with much of the hardware made from aluminium to fine tune response and reduce unsprung weight. Electronically controlled adaptive dampers are standard, with the switch between dynamic and comfort settings swift and pronounced.
Flick the 'Audi Drive Select' system into its softest setting and the ride smooths out to an ultra-complaint mode. Never floaty or unwieldy, just refined and well damped, despite our test car's optional 21-inch rims shod with 255/35 Pirelli P Zero rubber. But it's important to note optional air suspension was also on-board.
Tweak things up to the sportier end of the spectrum and the ride height drops by 10mm, the suspension firms up appreciably, and steering weight toughens up a few notches. Hustling the big Audi along a favourite backroad it remained balanced and predictable. But even in this context, Comfort's the better option.
Speaking of steering, the A6's electro-mechanical system supplies speed-dependent power assistance, and while it points accurately the assistance is overdone and road feel isn't a strong suit.
Brakes are 375mm ventilated discs at the front, clamped by six-piston alloy calipers, with 350mm rotors at the rear. In some enthusiastic, 'long-way-home' driving they inspired confidence with progressive feel and more than enough bite to calmly bring the 1.8-tonne A6 to heel.
Need to hitch up a boat, float or van? You're all clear up to 2.0 tonnes for a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked.
BMW Alpina B79/10
The Alpina B7 comes with all of the BMW 750Li's safety equipment – this includes AEB, lane-keeping assistance and lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, active cruise control, night vision with object recognition, auto parking and surround view camera.
Along with the suite of airbags, there's traction and stability control and ABS, as you'd expect.
The 750Li and B7 have not been given an ANCAP score.
Up front we mentioned this new A6 features leading-edge safety, and the crash test dummies in Ingolstadt must have been working overtime because this car leaves nothing on the table.
The usual active safety suspects are all present and accounted for, namely ESC (with electronic wheel-selective torque control), ABS, ASR, EDL and 'Brake Assist'.
But from there the list of standard tech reads like a who's who of recent innovations, including 'Adaptive Drive Assist' (adaptive cruise control with 'Stop&Go', distance indicator, traffic jam assist and lane guidance assist), AEB (5.0km/h to 85km/h for pedestrians and cyclists, and up to 250 km/h for vehicles), 'Collision Avoidance Assist' (additional steering torque in critical evasive situations), rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and lane departure warning.
The 360-degree camera set-up includes a kerb view function, with four wide-angle cameras covering the entire area immediately around the vehicle for improved visibility during low speed manoeuvres.
There's also an exit warning system (detects vehicles and cyclists when opening doors, triggering a warning light and delaying door opening), 'Attention Assist', tyre pressure monitoring, 'Audi Parking System Plus' (front and rear with visual display), and 'Intersection Crossing Assist'.
That last one operates at speeds up to 30km/h, monitoring the area in front and at the side of the car, detecting “oncoming objects” at junctions and exit roads. If the situation is critical the system triggers a visual and acoustic warning as well as a quick jolt on the brakes (at speeds up to 10km/h).
But it's not over yet, with auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and 'Turn Assist' included. Turn Assist monitors oncoming traffic when you're turning right at speeds up to 10km/h and applies the brakes if necessary.
If all those measures aren't enough to avoid an impact passive safety leads off with front airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for front and rear side passengers, plus curtain airbags covering both rows.
Also included is 'Audi Pre-Sense Rear' (tensioning of front seat belts, closing of windows and sunroof and flashing hazards on detection of an impending rear collision), the standard active bonnet helps to minimise pedestrian impact injuries and there's a first-aid kit as well as a warning triangle and high-vis vests in the boot.
No surprise the new A6 scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, the assessment done in 2018 and the score applicable from August 2019 onwards.
BMW Alpina B77/10
The B7 is covered by BMW's three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. The B7 is covered by BMW special vehicles servicing plan, which means services are cost-free for the first three years of the car's life.
Audi covers the A6 with a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is in line with BMW and Merc, but lags the mainstream market where five years/unlimited km is the norm, with Kia and SsangYong at seven years.
That said, body cover runs to three years for paint defects and 12 years for corrosion (perforation).
Recommended service interval is 12 months/15,000km, and 'Audi Genuine Care Service Plans' offer capped price servicing options over three years ($1700) and five years ($2630).
In making the call between the two plans it's worth noting the four year/60,000km service is a big one including filters, a timing belt replacement, transmission fluid and spark plugs.