From £48,00010
Alpina’s D3 saloon and estate benefit from the latest BMW 3 Series updates. We've always loved it, but is it still as beguiling as ever in this latest form?

What is it?

Arguably the only car you’d ever need, especially if you option your Alpina D3 as a Touring model, like this example. Why? How about 0-62mph in 4.6sec and 170mph flat out, yet the claimed ability to achieve more than 52mpg while carrying a boot full of flat-pack furniture?

For those not familiar with the company, Alpina offers a different kind of performance car to those offered by BMW’s own M division. While an BMW M3 is in your face, with its wide body and parping exhaust, an Alpina 3 Series is a much more subtle proposition.

Not only does Alpina use a standard-width bodyshell, but it also fits a torque-converter automatic gearbox. While going quickly is important to Alpina, so are comfort and ease of use over long distances at sustained high speed. With that in mind, the D3 comes with a reworked version of BMW’s twin-turbocharged straight-six diesel.

Alpina also modifies the engine to increase power to an impressive 345bhp and torque to a gargantuan 516Ib ft, while its craftsmen look at almost every aspect of the vehicle. Cars are hand finished, with an almost limitless range of interior personalisation options and the signature Alpina look externally.

What's it like?

As far as facelifts go, it’s a fairly minor one. The basic mechanical make-up of the D3 is pretty much the same as before. There’s a restyled nose and tail with new lights, improved materials inside and the availability of additional safety kit. Overall, it means that the character of the car is mercifully unchanged.

Where the D3 really scores is in its ability to be almost two cars in one. With the gearbox left to its own devices and dynamic performance control set to Eco-Pro mode, the D3 is an effortless mile-muncher. Despite four exhaust tips, the engine remains subdued as the automatic gearbox shuffles up to the higher ratios as quickly as it can. In the real world, 42mpg on a variety of roads wasn’t too hard to achieve.

Despite the optional 20in wheels fitted to this example (19s are standard), ride comfort is astonishingly good thanks to the Alpina-fettled suspension. It’s no magic carpet – you do still feel the road’s surface – but it does smother all but the nastiest of potholes and ridges. And while these can crash through the suspension, it’s a rare occurrence.

Scroll through the performance control menu to Sport and the chassis tightens its grip on the road while throttle response sharpens. The suspension becomes noticeably firmer, losing the occasional floaty feeling you get in Comfort at speed, without ever becoming uncomfortable. There’s a bit more heft to the steering, too.

As you start to travel faster, you notice the alert front end sending subtle messages through the wheel rim. When your confidence increases, the amount you push the throttle will no doubt increase. Doing this - especially with the gearbox also in Sport mode – completes the transformation from comfortable family wagon to performance monster.

The previously docile engine is suddenly delivering its huge reserves of torque  to the rear wheels more urgently, making the optional limited-slip differential seem like a very good idea, even at a stiff £1900. Assuming the rear tyres hook up, you're launched towards the horizon at a pace that would previously have been the preserve of much more exotic machinery. 

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Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll find the necessary traction, especially on greasy roads. It doesn’t take much throttle to get the rear end edging round, although it is easily gathered up. While xDrive is available on left-hand drive models, it's not an option on UK cars due to packaging constraints.

While the engine may not have the kind of top end reach and thirst for revs many performance enthusiasts crave, riding the wall of torque between 1500rpm and 3000rpm is addictive. The industrial-edged six-cylinder roar coming from the quad pipes certainly helps, too.

Should I buy one?

If you have the cash then yes, undoubtedly yes. The only issue is that having the money could be a problem for much of the UK’s population. Alpina itself suggests it's the choice for automotive gourmets, and the pricing of its products reflects that.

At £49,950, it’s already around £8000 more than BMW’s own 335d xDrive. When you add niceties such as extended leather packs, a panoramic roof, limited-slip diff and upgraded infotainment, our test car came in at more than £65,000.

An M3 is faster but won’t be anywhere near as exclusive. Alpina will make fewer than 2000 cars this year, split over several model lines. The extra attention it can pay to each and every car really shows in everything the D3 does. If I could pick only one car for every occasion, this would be it.

Alpina D3 Biturbo Touring

Location Storrington, West Sussex; On sale Now; Price £49,950; Engine 6 cyls inline, 2993cc, twin-turbocharged, diesel; Power 345bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 516Ib ft at 1500-3000rpm; Kerb weight 1730kg; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; 0-62mph 4.6s; Top speed 170mph; Economy 52.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 142g/km, 26%

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scrap 25 November 2015

Oh I agree about the EU here

Oh I agree about the EU here - they are equally culpable for taking their eye off the ball. But dieselgate is just the tip of the iceberg. Many Diesel engines are emitting much higher levels of pollutants in real world testing and they deteriorate markedly over time. The appalling air quality in our cities is the result. If you live in a city, you should really question whether to buy diesel at all.
scrap 25 November 2015

The D3 used to be top of my

The D3 used to be top of my wish list, but to be honest dieselgate has changed my view. I would need significant reassurance before buying another diesel. Our cities are enveloped in poisonous clouds, and diesel is the culprit.
typos1 25 November 2015

So, because VW cheated at

So, because VW cheated at emissions tests, you want BMW to prove their cars pass ? ! Doesnt make a lot of sense really, especially when you consider that some VW petrols are embroiled in "dieselgate" as well so you should really apply your "view" to petrols too and seek assurance about them before you buy another. The EPA in the US say BMW and Merc diesels pass the tests BTW. I m never ceased to be surprised by the amount of rubbish I ve read from journos, memebers of the public and even some scientists about "dieselgate". The facts are that diesels are perfectly good for the environment as long as their emissions are as tightly regulated as petrol emissions and in Europe they arent (though they ARE in the US). The diesel is NOT the bad boy here, its the EU having a "light touch" attitude to their emissions and VW for cheating.
gigglebug 24 November 2015

Quote: It’s no magic carpet


It’s no magic carpet – you do still feel the road’s surface – but it does smother all but the nastiest of potholes and ridges.

Surely you'd be better off trying to avoid the nastiest of potholes all together and not risk damaging the wheels/tyres and suspension let alone allowing them to affect the ride?? I wonder if it was the reviewers own car that they would be so willing to test it out?