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How much? £54,950
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2979cc twin-turbocharged in-line 6-cyl, 404bhp @ 5500-6250rpm, 442lb ft @ 3000/4000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.2sec 0-62mph, 190mph, 37.2mpg, 177g/km
How heavy / made of? 1595kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4624/1811/1429
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Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo (2013) CAR review

By Damion Smy

First Drives

26 August 2013 07:00

The Alpina name has heritage and credibility as not merely a BMW tuning house, but an official manufacturer in its own right. Yet can its high-performance BMWs stay relevant against BMW’s own M Cars? We’ve tested the B3 Bi-Turbo to see if it’s a worthy answer to the forthcoming M3 saloon.

What’s Alpina done to the engine?

Make no mistake: this is not a quick series of tweaks, but a thorough reworking of the 335i M Sport that the B3 is based upon. The 3.0-litre six, which uses a single turbo as standard, has had a two smaller turbos fitted instead for improved throttle response, with power upped from 308bhp to 404bhp – only 4bhp less than the outgoing V8 M3. Breathing through a stainless steel exhaust, there’s loads more torque, too, with 443lb ft (up from 295lb ft) being sent through an eight-speed ZF automatic. In order to cope, Alpina has strengthened the diff and rear axles, with its own ECU running the show.

The performance?

Alpina says that the B3 will charge from zero to 62mph in 4.2sec – that’s 0.6sec better than the dual-clutch M3 and 0.3sec up on the Mercedes C63 AMG. It’s also a full second faster on the standard 335i M Sport, while the B3 has a top speed of 190mph and it can reach 125mph in a mere 14sec.

What about around corners?

To make the most of the power, there’s a set of stiffer Eibach springs, anti-roll bars and Alpina’s own bump stops. There’s more negative camber on the front wheels, and while the ride height is actually standard, a set of Michelin-shod 20in alloys, Alpina body kit and bootlid spoiler gives the B3 a menacing stance, especially in sinister black. The wheels host massive 18in brake discs, squeezed by four-piston front and twin-piston rear calipers using Pagid pads.

So what’s it like compared to an M3?

The sheer power of the B3 is undeniable: turn the key and the warm, bassy idle turns into a shriek when you give the spongy throttle the full right foot, with a near instant response. The trick is to use the adaptive damping modes, because while Comfort is great around town, it’s too spongy to make use of the extra poke effectively. Hit Sport and the added firmness gives the B3 much more poise into a corner: there’s brilliant turn in, with the one of the most direct steering set-ups of any saloon on sale, but body control could be better. The B3 is upset by every single dip in the road, losing focus and clarity on longer corners as it won’t stay true like an M3 would. There’s plenty of traction, but the dynamics can’t make the most of the power and the brakes aren’t up to it either, with the weighting of the pedals and steering so far apart that it just can’t put it all together. As good as the out-going M3? No.

Where and why would I buy one?

The B3 is sold at Alpina’s sole UK dealership in Nottingham. It’s not a case of turning up in your 335i and asking for it to be fettled – the B3 is sold as a complete package. Why would you go for one? It offers exclusivity and more performance in a car that’s based on a benchmark saloon, so it can hardly be dismissed. There’s still the BMW fit and finish, the same ergonomics and driving position inside that are core to the standard 3-series’ class-leading success.


The factory car’s finesse is slightly diluted for the B3, forsaken for a boy racer, in-your-face character that makes it fun, but not as honed and refined as an M Division product. And, at £55k, it’s pricier than the more accomplished M3 saloon to boot.


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Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo (2013) CAR review


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Brand0 says

RE: Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo (2013) CAR review

 @ASP - well said (if rather lond-windedly).  As I often say, "Just because YOU don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there".  Alpina has been around for longer than people appreciate and they still run their own motorsport teams - as they have done for decades. Alpina has a heritage of it's own - owners don't see them as tarted up BMWs and they are pretty much as quick as M-products on the track whilst being perhaps quicker int he real world whilst smashing M-products in terms of being Q-cars and certainly in terms of comfort.  But most importantly, to compare with an M3 is to miss the point entirely - like I said, just because you don't see it....

30 August 2013 13:39



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ofir says

RE: Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo (2013) CAR review

It remains to be seen how competent is the new M3 but I still think this is no less special as M cars are very prevalent and the M badges have trickled down to other versions so the moniker is tarnished.

29 August 2013 21:09



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asp says

RE: Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo (2013) CAR review

 As the owner of a e46 B3 touring I'm possibly in a slightly different position to answer re. Alpina ownership. As a daily driver, if you get how Alpina's feel, you wouldn't prefer an M equivalent. I'd say this has been reduced as feeling how the latest M5 is similar to how Alpina's feel with turbo's and no manual gearbox options, but there's still a sizeble difference to how they drive on a daily basis. Alpina don't aim to beat M cars on speed or handling, that's a typically narrow view of looking at them, and it's reflected in Alpina's sometimes single-digit UK sales figures. But for those who get the different bias of their easier performance, more refinement, possibility of complete re-trims they're unrivalled. If there was an e46 M3 touring, I'm not sure I'd prefer it to my B3 for daily use. Yes, it'd be quicker, but I love the softer feel, which to me suits my typical driving, and I feel it's easier to extract the performance when I want to.

The better analogy for Alpina would be if AMG prepared BMW's, and all without the shouty aesthetics of M cars. Best thing of an Alpina is that no-one at all notices them. That's why most people don't get them! There's a gentlemans agreement between Alpina and BMW that the former have to keep their performance figures lower than the equivalent M's. What they actually produce is often quite different.

Back to the F30...

Until BMW release the F30 M3, it's a bit pointless to compare with the E90 M3 as it's a very different product. It's a shame a LSD isn't included as standard, I'm not sure if the UK takeup of them is very high. It's disapointing to hear about the ride, I'd like to see it in a comparison with others (and to actually drive it myself) because it's be a rare Alpina to get this so wrong. The touring option would be my preference, and it seems BMW are stupid enough to not even offer a special order for the forthcoming M3 as a touring. I can't wait for the new M3 to launch, still think I'd possibly prefer a new B3 touring though!

28 August 2013 15:49



airgith76 says

RE: Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo (2013) CAR review

Agreed with the last two comments. Can't see why anyone would fork out £55k for a car like this. Next gen M3 will offer so much more.

Oh, and Damion, the E90/92 M3 had 414 bhp which is 10 more than this Alpina and not 4 as stated in your second paragraph.

27 August 2013 16:21



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OldDog says

RE: Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo (2013) CAR review

I agree with Batty.

Driving to work every monring in a 3 Series that I'd gone to Nottingham to buy, with only a little steering wheel badge and an (Ugly) plaque on the dash to give me comfort...Doesn't work for me.

27 August 2013 08:33

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