► We test BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Touring
► It’s the go-faster diesel 3-series estate
► Full CAR magazine road test
Alpina might be better known for its high-revving, high-drama petrol sports saloons and coupes, but the D3 is the ultimate expression of a different kind of athleticism: one with the tracksuit bottoms of estatedom and the marathon-runners’ fuel of choice, diesel. Yes, it’s a derv-slurping 3-series Touring tweaked by Buchloe’s famous Beemer fettlers Alpina.
The D3 first appeared in 2005, when it was a mere 2.0-litre four-pot. As the Bi-Turbo name suggests, the 2016 edition is a rather more serious bit of kit - using BMW’s 3.0-litre straight six and a pair of turbochargers to deliver a heady 345bhp and muscular 516lb ft of torque.
Read on for our full BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Touring review. And click here to win a hardback book about Alpina's first 50 years in business.
What do Alpina do to the 3-series Touring?
There are two parts to the Alpinafication of the cooking Three estate: it’s given a thorough engineering update under the skin and then a discreet bodykit, which can be boosted by two exclusive colours in addition to the regular Munich palette (Alpina blue and green metallics).
Design flourishes include a jutting Alpina-branded spoiler, whose optional retro ‘Deco-Set’ coachline stripes stretch along the flanks and across the doors; a rear spoiler incorporating a quartet of purposeful exhaust pipes; and, naturally, a choice of characteristic turbine-effect alloys, spanning from 19-21in in diameter depending on the size of your wallet and ego.
Inside, the cabin can be upgraded in a variety of fashions, according to taste and budget. The blue-faced dials are an Alpina giveaway, but the most tactile of features is the gorgeous (optional) Alcantara suede steering wheel that’s a pleasure to grip. Pick from a variety of woods, leathers and composites to trim the cabin.
Prices and specs
The price for all this BMW honing? A cool £49,950. Do the maths on that: a regular 2016 model year 330d Touring costs from £39,100 in the UK, the brawnier and more relevant 335d Touring £42,350.
Whether it’s worth the circa £8k step-up will be determined by three factors: your desire for the additional muscle (up 36bhp and 52lb ft over the already-fast 335d), the extra sharpness in handling from a tweaked chassis and how the Alpina makeover makes you feel.
Alpina unveils 50th birthday present: the B5.
The Alpina design thang
It’s an undeniably cool thing, and in our eyes the estate bodystyle only adds to the kerbside appeal. There’s a whole Alpina secret code thing going on - it’s the cognoscenti’s choice of BMW and we love the family look from the purposeful yet subtle aero pack to the chef’s special, cucumber-slicing rims.
Step inside and it’s mostly stock 3-series, lifted by a smattering of Alpina touches such as the ruched leather door cards, a digital boost gauge inserted where the driver’s side air vent should be (don't bother with this £650 option) and that sublime steering wheel. I’d opt out of the look-at-me stripes and our importer’s S17 NER number plate, but there’s no accounting for taste.
It’s comfy and - being based on the best-selling BMW - has impeccable ergonomics if a sober style, though the sunroof on our example robbed driver’s headroom. Fire up the six-cylinder engine and you’d be hard pushed to know you were in a family estate tuned to hit 170mph.
So how does the Alpina D3 drive?
The D3 passes the first-hundred-metres test with flying colours: there’s an oleaginous quality to the drivetrain that points to a well-polished set-up. It rides beautifully on our car’s 19-inch Michelins (Alpina ditch run-flats), with a real precision to the damping and the steering has just the right shade of beefy weight and well-judged accuracy.
Alpina has been in cahoots with ZF to tweak the eight-speed automatic transmission, too, and this is another ace card up the D3’s sleeve: leave it in Auto and you can slushily cruise around like a rep in his 316d, but Sport and Manual modes let you have a bit more fun, with zippier shifts and higher revs.
Just don’t rev it too much, since the straight six does have a tendency to betray its oily roots with a disappointingly rattly rev at higher rpm’s audible from the tasty-looking lightweight Akrapovic quad exhausts. The flipside is that the petrol-fuelled B3 your ears crave cannot hope to match the 37mpg fuel economy CAR averaged in a spirited week with the diesel D3.
All the more impressive when you remember this car can scuttle past 62mph in just 4.6 seconds. Think about that combination of skills for a moment and you can see why this compact estate car - with its 480 litres of luggage gobbling - has such a deep appeal. Shame there's no 4wd offered at present though, especially at this slippery, slidey time of year.
The BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Touring is a car of subtle nuance and delicacy. We often talk around these parts of the ultimate everyday transport - and I’d argue this particular 3-series estate stakes a greater claim to that title than most. It’s a sure-fire smash-hit for the discerning family enthusiast.