ALPINA”S XB7 heaven
WORDS: Greg Pride PHOTOGRAPHY Brian Usher - www.usherusher.com
Renowned for manufacturing some of the world’s most luxurious hand-made, high-performance vehicles, ALPINA”S magnificent XB7 is among its latest and greatest models.
IS that Clive Palmer doing a double take as we spin past his Sovereign Islands mansion in the astonishing ALPINA XB7?
Even in this exclusive residential enclave, home of the Gold Coast’s rich and famous, where luxury vehicles abound, the ALPINA still manages to turn heads.
Having put this mighty machine through its 0-100km/h-in-4.2 seconds paces out on the open road, we’re cruising The Sovereign Mile in more genteel fashion to immerse ourselves in the many features that make the car so special (cue the Swarovski crystal gear selector and push-button massage seats). On this blue sky Gold Coast day, the paved streets of the Sovereign Islands, opulent mansions and shimmering Southport Broadwater provide the perfect backdrop to show off the ALPINA in all its glory.
The XB7 has only been in Australia for a little over a year, having made its debut at the 2021 Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show. Worldwide production is only around 2000 vehicles annually, with just a handful landing in Australia, and all quickly snapped up.
The ALPINA story began in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, in the 1960s, when founder Burkard Bovensiepen established a BMW tuning business after many years of manufacturing typewriters. The first ALPINA-badged cars appeared in 1967 and quickly enjoyed success in major motor racing events including the 1970 European Touring Car Championship, German Hill Climb Championship, the prestigious Spa 24-Hour race and numerous rally and track races.
By 1970, ALPINA had relocated to its present base in Buchloe, Bavaria, where it manufactures some of the world’s most luxurious hand-made, high-performance vehicles. ALPINA made its Australian debut in 2016 and established a loyal following of car connoisseurs captivated by the quality and prestige of the bespoke German marque.
The XB7 is among the latest and greatest models and Ocean Road was recently given the privilege of test-driving the top-of-the-range, full bells-and-whistles incarnation of this automotive beast.
Climbing into the driver’s seat of the three-row, super SUV, one of the first details you notice is the lavish leather upholstery. ALPINA vehicles boast Lavalina leather, the highest-quality leather used in the automotive world. Ultra-premium Lavalina leather is unequalled in terms of feel, climate-comfort and appearance and ALPINA actually has its own in-house leather workshop to work exclusively with the product.
Lavalina is a premium, cask-pigmented, full-grain cowhide, with the raw material sourced exclusively from specially-selected farms in Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Northern Italy. The proximity to the ALPINA factory means the hides do not have to be preserved using chemicals before undergoing a completely natural tanning process, thereby making the leather pleasantly moisture-regulating as well as breathable and temperature-balancing.
What sets Lavalina leather apart is its natural feel, supple sheen and cloth-like softness. No two hides are alike and the natural grain markings can be seen on the surface of the upholstery of every individually-crafted ALPINA vehicle.
As well as the seats, every ALPINA automobile is fitted as standard with a hand-stitched Lavalina leather sports steering wheel which feels sublimely intuitive the moment you touch it. ALPINA founder Burkard Bovensiepen devoted particular attention to the steering wheel, deeming that it significantly determines the feel for the road and must meet the high aesthetic demands of the discerning ALPINA customer base. Bovensiepen’s attention to detail went so far as ensuring the signature ALPINA blue and green stitched seam pattern on the steering wheel consists of two parallel lines, with no unpleasant, noticeable transitions at the seam or leather edge.
Each one-of-a-kind interior on an XB7 represents up to 120 hours of work by a master car upholsterer, with customers able to select from a standard colour palette of 16 harmonious shades, from Ivory to Atlantic blue to ALPINA Green. For those wanting to go the extra mile in terms of bespoke customisation, a mind-boggling 45 colour variants are also available in Alcantara, a suede-like microfibre material which can be used to complement the Lavalina leather upholstery and provide a ‘sporty’ finish.
The front and rear seats of the XB7, the steering wheel and even the centre console and front door rests are ventilated and able to be heated at the push of a button – perfect for those chilly winter mornings we’ve experienced in southeast Queensland. Fully electric seats (complete with memory function) which mould your body to the vehicle – not to mention the automated massage feature – make the car a delight to drive and enhance the feeling of safety and stability despite the immense horsepower beneath the bonnet.
The majestic feel of the car is one thing; then there’s the sound. A push of the Swarovski-encased start-stop button and the XB7’s 4.4L V8 Bi-Turbo engine roars into life, pushing 36 decibels from its thumping quad sports exhaust when it starts and 77 decibels at max thrust. Crank up the 32-speaker Bowers & Wilkins, full-surround sound system and you have a veritable automotive symphony.
There are not one but two fully adjustable panoramic sunroofs – one at the front and one at the rear – as well as automated window sunshades. At night, the front sunroof’s in-built LEDs illuminate, making even cloudy skies look lit up with a galaxy of tiny stars.
Interior highlights include a 12.3” instrument display, 12.3” touch screen control display with wireless Apple CarPlay and sat nav, heated and cooled cup holders, wireless smartphone charging (along with four USB ports in the front and rear) and ALPINA Luxury Myrtle high-gloss wood trim with an embossed ALPINA insignia.
The tech is what you’d expect and more in a car the quality of the XB7, including Head-Up Display, Gesture Control, Parking Assistant Plus and Driving Assistant Professional with front and rear cross-traffic wearing, steering and lane control assistant, lane-keeping assistant with side collision warning, lane change assistant, crossroads warning evasion aid and speed limit info/assist.
In the rare event your safety was compromised by a medical episode, the attentiveness alert function would kick in – causing the car to vibrate, the windows to come down and the air-conditioning and sound system to pump up to max levels. An SOS safety alert pinpointing your exact GPS position would also be sent out.
The XB7 is equipped with an electronic key that can be downloaded onto a smartphone to access the vehicle and, should the need arise, even texted to a family member or friend from anywhere in the world. If you’re feeling particularly brave or generous and want to let, say, your teenage son drive the XB7, you can even use the electronic key function to limit the power and/or sound system volume!
A very cool feature of the vehicle is the push-button vehicle lowering system – perfect for loading groceries, luggage or even children. Accelerate to around 40km/h and the car instinctively and ingeniously raises back up to its natural driving position.
Another very practical highlight is the multi-split tailgate, along with an automated ‘max-luggage’ function which allows you to lower the rear seats with the push of a button to maximise storage from 62 litres up to a whopping 2559 litres.
Outside, the XB7 exudes style and sophistication – from the metallic paintwork and 23” ALPINA Classic forged alloy wheels through to the muscular, oversized kidney grille, satin aluminium trim and roof rails and specially designed ALPINA front apron, rear diffuser and spoiler.
As we depart the Sovereign Islands in the XB7 following the photo shoot, we’re sure we see Clive peering admiringly from his mansion.