BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe (2008) review

Published:10 November 2008

BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

The Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe is a 3-series BMW really should make. To create it Alpina, the Buchloe-based tuner, tweaker and BMW bedfellow takes a regular 3-series coupe. It then drops in the twin-turbo diesel engine from a 123d, makes a few changes and the result is an engine with more bhp per litre than any other BMW road car.

But Alpina is well known as a maker of fast and understated M Division-rivalling BMWs. So what happens when the company turns its attentions to diesel? Will there be an agricultural rattle to spoil everything? Read on to find out about the Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe.

What are the tweaks and changes that create the Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe?

It’s somewhat harsh to call Alpina a mere BMW tuner. In fact, the main assembly of every Alpina takes place on BMW’s regular production lines, before the cars are transferred to Alpina HQ for hand finishing. And there’s so much BMW in each Alpina that every car still features the blue and white propeller. If BMW is prepared to let Alpina products wear its badge, then these cars must be pretty special...

Back to the D3 Bi-Turbo. It’s Alpina’s second diesel, after the 2006 D3. But while that car had a single turbo, the Bi-Turbo has, you guessed it, two turbos. The engine is essentially the unit from the 123d, but a new cat-back exhaust, ECU and gearbox settings liberate 211bhp, up from 204bhp. But there’s also 332lb ft (increased from the already M3-matching 295), available from 2000-2500rpm.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Alpina BMW D3 Bi-Turbo first drive

How does this match up with a 325d or 330d?

A 325d Coupe can only put up 194bhp and 295lb ft, while a 330d has 241bhp and 383lb ft. So the Alpina sits just above the 325d in terms of its engine outputs, but it costs just £32,950. A 325d M Sport is £33,210 and a 330d in the same spec is £35,670.

When you consider that the Alpina comes with its own bodykit (to differentiate it from the plethora of M Sport-equipped 3-series on our roads), plus 18-inch wheels, sports suspension, sports seats and a sports steering wheel that makes it pretty good value.

Just don’t spec those exterior graphics – apparently the take up in the UK and Germany is near zero, but they’re a must (in gold) in Japan.

So the Alpina’s cheaper, but with a tweaked engine I bet it’s pretty dirty…

Not at all. How does 143g/km CO2 and 52.3mpg sound? Pretty good, when the best a 325d or 330d can do is only 49.6mpg, while puffing out 153 and 152g/km respectively. Say thank you to BMW’s Efficient Dynamics system for the Alpina's stellar figures. The four-cylinder in the front of the D3 not only means it's lighter than a 325d/330d but it also gets stop/start, a decoupling alternator and active aerodynamics.

If you spec an automatic you lose the Efficient Dynamics tech, but you’ll still return 50.4mpg and 148g/km CO2, to the 45.6mpg and 164g/km CO2 a self-shifting 325d or 330d would deliver.

There’s more, because of the facelifted 3-series. It means Alpina now offers the D3 Bi-Turbo in saloon and estate guises, so if you’re after a diesel 3-series you’ve got to take a serious look at this Alpina.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Alpina BMW D3 Bi-Turbo first drive

What’s it like on the road?

Even better than you’d expect. The tweaked 123d engine revs so cleanly and smoothly that only the automatic self-shifting stops you running into the rev limiter. There’s loads of grunt on offer and only the lack of a six-cylinder howl gives the game away.

You also notice two things straight away. First, despite those big 18-inch wheels the ride is impressively smooth, thanks to bespoke (and non-run flat) Michelin tyres. Second, there's the turn-in, which is quicker and more direct than in a 325 or 330d. Thank the 100kg-plus weight difference.

It gets better. Our car was an automatic so you get the wonderfully tactile Alpina ‘nipples’ on the back of the steering wheel that add an intuitive manual mode (right is up, left is down) to the auto’ box. Plus the wheel's rim is so much thinner than in a M3 - it's a joy to hold.

Verdict

Cleaner and greaner than any equivalent BMW, the Alpina is a winner. With only around 100 coming to the UK each year it's exclusive, and there's a two-year BMW warranty.

Only a few engine snobs will bemoan the lack of prestige from having a four-pot under the bonnet. But we want one, in Touring guise please, for which we'd happily take the 2g/km and 1mpg hit over the coupe or saloon.

Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know whether you'd buy an Alpina over a BMW

Specs

Price when new: £34,540
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1995cc 4-cyl twin-turbo diesel, 211bhp @ 4100rpm, 332lb ft @ 2000-2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 6.9sec 0-62mph, 152mph, 50.4mpg, 148g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1480kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 44580/1782/1395

Rivals

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  • BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe
  • BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe
  • BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Coupe

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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