BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Touring (2016) review

Published:27 January 2016

The thinking man's 330d? We test Alpina D3 Touring
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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.

Verdict

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.

Specs

Price when new: £49,950
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2993cc straight six-cylinder turbodiesel, 345bhp @ 4000rpm, 516lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-62mph, 170mph, 52.3mpg, 142g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1730kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4632/1811/1428mm

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo is the fastest diesel you can buy
  • Rear-wheel drive only, despite donor BMW having 4wd
  • Note 'Deco-Set' Alpina coachline stripes along bodywork
  • Usual 3-series qualities remain: not a huge car, but a decent boot
  • Inside cabin of Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Touring
  • Not sure we'd plump for option to fill driver's air vent with boost gauge
  • #139: Alpina plaque notes rarity of each D3

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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