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 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.