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Steering, suspension and comfort

It’s not often that a 404bhp BMW feels as mature and considered as this. Many companies would have been forgiven for making this performance saloon super-stiff, but not Alpina. And thankfully, that’s not what it has done; quite the opposite, in fact.

By ladling what must have been some very careful chassis tuning on top of decades of experience of what its customers actually want, it has arrived at a handling compromise to rival the most expert that we can think of.

It's worth ticking the box for the optional limited-slip differential

There are, in effect, two settings for the standard adaptive dampers: Comfort and Sport (Sport+ really only puts the stability control into a slightly freer setting). And on the road – the place where Alpina absolutely intends its cars to be used and judged – the B3 is alert, controlled and engaging, even in Comfort. It turns in with abundant grip and poise and has the 3 Series’ usual clean, uncorrupted directional responses.

Select Sport and the suspension tightens up but hardly ever feels hard, jostling or uncomfortable. Like so many of the best multi-talented and usable fast saloons, the B3 has a chassis that produces body control with fluency and whose dampers respond quickly to rein in float and pitch, but without ramping up to anti-social levels of interference. In other words, the Alpina makes going fast feel easy.

And what results is a superbly rounded car that’ll no more rattle your fillings or trouble your chiropractor than leave you wanting more raw urge. And as Alpina devotees well know, the firm understands how to use those 20-inch alloy wheels without introducing harshness into the ride. There’s some road noise to contend with, but it’s not excessive.

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The B3’s steering feels well weighted, and it’s trustworthy and communicative. Like so much else about this car, it’s a pleasure to interact with but never an imposition.