The Alpina B3 isn’t an M-car. Yes, it’s a powerful new BMW 3-series, yes, it’s exclusive, yes, it’s fast and yes, it’s on the reassuringly expensive side. But if you know Alpina, you’ll know it does things differently.

Within the automotive world, the relationship between Alpina and BMW is a rare and precious one. BMW, global player though it is, doesn’t just tolerate the independent company Alpina – registered as a manufacturer in its own right 30 years ago – but genuinely enjoys its relationship with it, to the extent that a high-performance Alpina will usually arrive long before an M division version of the same model.

This time, the engine modifications run quite deep; BMW doesn’t offer such a twin-turbocharged six at the moment. It takes the number of Alpina models currently offered to an impressive seven, adding up to a total volume of around 2000 units a year, and they can be serviced at any BMW dealer.

Such is the case here with the B3 Biturbo, a 404bhp variant of the latest F30/F31 3-series in the finest Alpina form: with a twin-turbo straight six engine, automatic gearbox and subtle modifications to chassis and design.

Alpina has been fettling the BMW 3-series for almost as long as there has been one to fettle. The earliest cars, based on the original E21 and badged A1/3, were delivered to Buchloe for tuning post-build.

By 1978, the firm was introducing models developed and partially built in-house, including the legendary six-cylinder B6 2.8 — a car that actually pre-dated BMW’s own M20-powered 3-series. By 2007, and the introduction of the 3.0-litre B3 Biturbo, Alpina had sold nearly 6000 examples of its successors.

Alpina's unusual relationship with BMW generally produces some intriguing and, by and large, thoroughly alluring products.

Let’s see if it’s the same this time.

Top 5 Super saloons

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    3 July 2015
    Charming four-door city car gets Smart's new six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, in a bid to make the Forfour more versatile
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    First UK drive in the latest-generation MX-5 reveals an iconic roadster that's back to its best
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    Extra firepower and pared-down kerb weight conjure even greater brilliance from the Boxster's chassis. Pricey – but superb to drive
  • BMW's prototype fuel cell concept is based on the 5GT
    First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Fuel cell-powered 5 Series GT concept previews a revolutionary storage and refuelling system which could pave the way for hydrogen to become the alternative fuel of choice
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    There's another BMW 2 Series variant on the horizon; we drive a late-stage prototype plug-in hybrid Active Tourer