The Alpina D3 BiTurbo is a car for life. It fits into your life easily: you could keep it for life with ease.
I certainly could.
Take the regular 3 Series, a model we already know is a five-star car. Make it even better. How could you go wrong? The D3 Bi-Turbo delivers more performance, more sharpness, more dynamic sophistication, more feel-good vibes and, simply, (even) more desirability.
It’s not a tuner’s special. Alpina isn’t a tuning company: it is a vehicle manufacturer, recognised by the authorities as such for more than three decades now. A plaque on the driver’s door slam attests to that – you don’t get official VIN numbers on aftermarket mix and matches.
It is, instead, a car that’s been honed. A blueprinted BMW, if you like, one that’s had its engine perfected, its suspension focused on how Alpina wants it and its interior given the attention to detail you can infuse if you’re a coachbuilder rather than a volume premium brand.
Alpina, we’re told, doesn’t have lengthy options lists and doesn’t offer a menu of choices. There is one specification of engine, one suspension tune, one type of seat: it’s all been put together by the factory and honed into the perfect fit. They won’t allow you to spoil it by making the wrong choice.
I like this approach. It’s surely why the Alpina feels, and this is a real complement, so OE. Not like a standard BMW, because the emphasis is more focused than that, but not like something far removed from it either. Just a very appealing alternative to the regular 3 Series: just as the M3 is a performance variation, so this is a sports-touring variation.
That’s the difference between Alpina and M too. The latter is all about dynamic performance and limit-nudging excitement. An Alpina is, instead, the high-performance car you’ll drive all day at 9/10ths. It’s capable and focused, yes, but the emphasis is on long-striding performance rather than fastest-against-the-clock sprints. Le Mans rather than F1.
I discovered all this as I put the miles on the black Sytner test car. Any excuse to, really: I took it to Liverpool, to Goodwood, to Hertfordshire, to Bristol, to Gloucestershire. Its adaptive suspension seduced me, its eight-speed Alpina-tuned gearbox wowed me, its ultra-low, ultra-comfortable sports seats made me wish I had them in my house.
And its 350hp 3.0-litre straight six bi-turbo engine was a brilliant companion every step of the way. The record books shout about it: this is the fastest mainstream production diesel car in the world. 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, 173mph all out. Let it rip and it’s breathtakingly fast – it almost seems surreal, a regular 3 Series saloon going this quickly.
But it’s the sheer culture with which it performs in everyday motoring that’s most special. It is warbly, and oh-so smooth, and cultured; it is almost totally free from lag and it is genuinely free-revving despite the sort of fuel it uses. If you want to go fast, it delivers, instantly, and if you want to simply sit back with the reassurance of its monumental 516lb ft of torque (that’s correct, 516lb ft… spread between 1500-3000rpm) always ready and waiting in the background, it allows that too.
Not incredible enough for you? Try this: I rarely saw less than low-40s mpg. I cruised one motorway trip: the computer read nearly 48mpg. It is ridiculously fuel-efficient for its performance, refinement and response. It is simply an amazing engine whose enhancements over the regular 335d, not least replacing a single turbo with the twin-turbo setup, are full credit to Alpina’s expertise.
I wasn’t so familiar with Alpina before taking delivery. By the end of the week, I was viewing its Alpina logos, badges and stripes with genuine fondness. I joined the Alpina forums. I began looking at used Alpinas. I’m buying a book on the brand’s history. I’m now a committed fan of the top-line engineering Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH produces.
Now to condense my stack of road test notes on the D3 Bi-Turbo down into a 1000-word review. It won’t be easy…