Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo

Find out more about the BMW Alpina in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Serious torque from the diesel straight-six
  • Comfort aplenty thanks to Alpina's suspension trickery
  • Achieves 50mpg in real-world conditions

Cons

  • Lacks the soundtrack to go with its speed
  • Alpina's wheels and trademark visual alterations won't be for everyone
  • MPG

    27 - 46

  • CO2

    161 - 254 g/km

Model review

For over 50 years, Alpina has developed the finest performance parts for BMW’s produced away from the marque’s own M Division. While the business started as an offshoot of a typewriting firm, things soon took off, and since the mid-70’s. In their quest to spice up any and every saloon from the BMW range, they even take on diesels – thus, the D3 nameplate was born for the previous E90 3 Series in 2005.

The original D3 Bi-Turbo, which replaced the first iteration of the E90 D3 in 2008, was characterised by an otherworldly level of torque for a motor that had just 211bhp to its name. Incredible pulling power was ensured by an incredible 450Nm of torque, which even topped BMW’s own V8-powered M3 in those stakes by 50Nm.

Latest model

The latest D3 Bi-Turbo, based on the current F30 3 Series, is a noticeable step up from the previous models. 345bhp is now on tap, which of course means the phenomenal torque figure has also increased. It now produces an extraordinary 700Nm, which plays its part in a 0-60mph time of 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 173mph.

The wizards at Alpina have always had a way of retaining BMW’s originally intended ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’, while adding luxurious elements and, in the Comfort option of the dynamic drive system, a more comfortable ride than its factory cousin, the M3, and most of the standard 3 Series range to boot.

This is a particularly surprising result, as the springs are 40 per cent stiffer in the D3. The anti roll bars, bump stops and bushes are all bespoke to the D3 too, creating a more dynamic driving experience than the standard 3 Series.

All of the creature comforts of a well-specced 3 Series are present and correct in the D3, including LED Headlights, adaptive cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, leather upholstery, USB connectivity, Bluetooth, DAB Radio, BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, Sat Nav and heated, electronically-adjustable front seats as standard.

Value for money

The real selling point for the D3 is its value; the Saloon version will set you back £48,000, which is very impressive for a car so fast and refined. A top range 3 Series will set you back upwards of £40,000, so sub-£50k for the level of driving joy provided by the D3 is not a raw deal at all.

While BMW’s M3 would have some trouble keeping the Alpina behind it on a track, it would have no chance at beating it in an economy run. The D3 claims a real-world figure of 53.3mpg, which is an incredible achievement for a car capable of such performance. Fortunately, there is very little to suggest that this figure is wildly optimistic; Evo Magazine achieved 36mpg when they tested the car, though they admitted to some ‘extremely hard’ driving in the process.

While there are some issues that may make you consider the M3 over the Alpina – we’ll get into them later – it’s very difficult to justify spending almost £8,000 more for a base model M3 from the drivers seat of the D3.

Admittedly, you can spend several thousand pounds adding options from the BMW 3 Series list of extra toys, but the car is more than specced enough for the job as standard.

Looks and image

Alpinas are typically truer to BMW’s standard models than their M Power equivalents, and that is the case once again with the D3. Aside from the trademark Alpina wheels and front spoiler, it stays loyal to the standard 3 Series styling.

Those Wheels and that splitter could be a sticking point for some customers, however. While they obviously convey performance, they do so in a less refined, more ‘aftermarket’ way than the flares and flourishes of the M Division’s own. It doesn’t quite have that true factory polish, and that might be problem. Buy an Alpina, and someone’s going to ask why you did that to your car, even if the more knowledgeable will know that it left the dealership like that.

That aside, if the wheels and other enhancements are to your taste, there’s certainly very little to fault the D3 for.

 

Space and practicality

The fact that the D3 shares more in common with a standard 3 Series than M Power’s offerings is in its favour in this department. Every cubbyhole, luxury and life-easing tool in the interior is retained, which makes the D3 one of the most practical performance saloons on the market.

All the safety and security features from the 5 star EuroNCAP-rated BMW 3 Series, and so it is immediately a class-leader on that front.

Engines

The re-fettled take on BMW’s 3.0 litre straight six diesel motor is relatively untouched when it comes to its internals. The two small turbos – one which kicks in early in the rev range for intial poke, and another that helps it along well into the 5000rpm range – are paired with a tweaked intercooler and fuel systems. While the changes are subtle, the effects are dramatic, as we have covered; your passengers will never see that mid-range hit of acceleration coming. Ever.

While the motor is impressive, the fact that the car is still a diesel is not truly masked. Of course, the car’s optimum power band is small. The car is capable of some supreme shenanigans from 2000-4000rpm, but it is still a very different – if rewarding – driving experience from most performance saloons.

Despite an Akrapovic quad-pipe exhaust system, the car still lacks that sound and buzz that you’d get from most vehicles in its ballpark. You’d be silly to expect a high note from a diesel, but it still detracts from the appeal of the car if you are buying the car for its performance credentials alone.

The eight speed semi-automatic isn’t the greatest performance gearbox in the world – in truth it’s one of the weaker aspects of the car – but it balances speed and serenity well.

Running costs

As we’ve already said, that 53.3mpg claim is definitely rooted in reality, and one that puts it head and shoulders above almost anything else that can get to 60mph in less than five seconds.

Road tax will only set you back £135 a year, which is well under half what you’d pay for an M3. It’s in insurance group 49, so admittedly it will not be the cheapest in that department, but the wad of cash you’d save on fuel will more than balance that out.

Things to look out for

The Alpina comes under BMW warranty from the UK approved dealer, Sytner Group. As far as we can see, there is no talk of poor reviews or negative owner feedback anywhere online, which should be a good sign for potential Alpina owners.

BMW’s 3 Series is usually reliable, though there are some occasional horror stories to be found on the web. But with the extra sets of hands the motors go through at Alpina, it should be a reliable machine.

Rivals

The Alpina’s natural rival is the M3, which is – as previously noted – a more expensive option. The base model M3 is £55,925, and as long as you don’t go crazy on options with the D3, it will be cheaper before it hits the road, and ever more every time you head to a set of pumps.

Beyond the M3, there aren’t many rivals for the D3 on the market. Nothing else diesel-powered with a sporting edge comes anywhere close to the performances levels of the D3. Meanwhile, everything that is in the ball park of the D3 – mid-sized hyper saloon offerings from Audi, Mercedes, Lexus and so on – can claim the supreme economy of the D3.

As far as a versatile performance package goes, the D3 is perhaps the most multi-faceted of them all. It is as much a Swiss Army Knife as it is a car.

Which Alpina to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

B3 S 3.0 Bi Turbo 4dr Switch-Tronic

Most MPG

D5 S 3.0 Bi Turbo 4dr 4WD Switch-Tronic

Fastest Model (0-60)

B5 V8 [608] Bi Turbo 4dr 4WD Switch-Tronic

Trims Explained

While there are not ‘trims’ as such in the Alpina range, toys from BMW’s 3 Series models can be added with ease at a price.

Alpina Range

While we would stay away from a majority of the options, as the standard trim is absolutely fine as it is, we would suggest taking on the limited slip differential, if you are intending to work on the higher end of the D3’s performance spectrum.

This will cost £1,900.

Summary

  1. The greatest balance of economy and performance on the market
  2. A valid choice over the M3
  3. The engine note fails to deliver drama that matches the drive
  4. Equal measures of performance ability and comfort
  5. The standard trim - the only one officially available - is an incredibly solid package
  6. Some may not like the trademark Alpina look
  7. Utterly ludicrous acceleration
  8. It's ultimately still a diesel
  9. A slightly tepid gearbox
  10. All the safety, security and poise of the regular 3 Series

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