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 Compact saloons

  • The Jaguar XE - the big cat's new compact exec
    Jaguar's new four cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine comes with either 161bhp or 178bhp outputs

    Jaguar XE

    1
  • BMW 3 Series saloon
    BMW 3 Series is priced from £24,975

    BMW 3 Series

    2
  • Ford Mondeo Titanium 180PS

    Ford Mondeo

    3
  • The 2015 Audi A4

    Audi A4

    4
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
    The C-Class shares a lot of its looks with the new S-Class, furthering its desirability

    Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI 150 S tronic
    First Drive
    29 May 2016
    We head to Havana to find out how the new Audi Q2 is shaping up ahead of its November launch
  • Seat Leon 1.4 EcoTSI FR Titanium
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    High-spec new Titanium FR trim is temptingly good value, particularly on the semi-enthusiastic 1.4 EcoTSI petrol
  • Kia Niro
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    The Kia Niro will be one of the greenest cars in the compact crossover class when it goes on sale later this year. We drive it to see what else it has to offer
  • Car review
    27 May 2016
    Can the turbocharged successor to the 458 raise the bar again?
  • Car review
    27 May 2016
    The big-in-every-way Bentley SUV lands. We assess the impact