The new Alpina XD3 is the first SUV offering from the German specialist famed for turning out enhanced versions of BMW's saloons, coupes and estates.
Based on the BMW X3 xDrive35d, the XD3 uses the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox, but some major fettling – specifically to the air intake, cooling system and exhaust – has liberated an extra 36bhp and 51lb ft of torque. That means power stands at 345bhp and torque at 516lb ft.
What's the 2013 Alpina XD3 like to drive?
Deeply impressive. The BMW X3 was already one of our favourite SUVs, so Alpina didn't exactly have its work cut out when creating the XD3.
Press the Start button and the engine barks into life. Quad tailpipes give the 3.0-litre engine a louder voice than that of the xDrive35d, and there's a suitable amount of rortiness when you rev it.
From rest, the XD3 will get to 62mph in 4.9sec. Four-wheel drive and fat tyres (our test car had optional 21-inch Alpina alloys) ensure everything's transferred to the road smoothly, while the top speed of 157mph is unrestricted. The seamless gearchanges, relentless surge of power and meaty soundtrack makes the entire experience seriously addictive.
Drive Performance Control allows you to alter the steering, dampers, gearbox response and throttle sensitivity, depending on your mood. Eco Pro turns down the wick, making the gearchanges more lethargic and the variable ratio steering slower in an effort to conserve diesel.
Comfort is the default mode, and provides a good blend of body control and ride quality (via adaptable dampers), while Sport tightens things further, yet still manages to suppress rutted surfaces well. Sport+ loosens the reins on the stability control system, although it will still cut in if you start to ask the XD3 to do more than it's capable of.
You'll appreciate Sport mode's quicker steering rack and firmer suspension on twisty roads. Yes, the XD3 is still a two-tonne SUV, so doesn't handle like a hot hatch, but grip is impressive and the steering is well weighted. The brakes are strong and easy to modulate, although you need to give the pedal a harder shove than you might expect at higher speeds.
Extra wide rubber and large door mirrors inevitably give rise to road and wind noise at speed, but neither are too intrusive.
The low-profile, non-run-flat, rubber is unlikely to make owners want to venture anywhere off-road, though - even a brief detour up the kerb is likely to result in some nasty (and expensive) scrapes to the alloys.
What's the 2013 Alpina XD3 like inside?
It's pretty much a standard BMW X3 affair from the driver's seat, aside from Aplina's trademark blue instrument dials, a plaque on the centre console, a few Alpina badges and optional Alcantara trim inserts between the front occupants and on the dashboard.
Standard equipment includes dual-zone air-con, a DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB, electrically adjustable, heated, leather front sports seats, sat-nav and auto wipers and xenon lights.
There's plenty of head- and legroom all round, a good-sized boot, excellent build quality and lots of standard goodies. It's a thoroughly nice place to spend time.
Outside, you get a beefy body kit, decals and Alpina logos front and rear, although the latter two can be deleted for no cost. The wheels are the main attraction, though; Alpina fans will be familiar with the Classic alloys (20-inch as standard), which give the XD3 a distinctive look.
Should I buy one?
Alpina has done a cracking job of extracting more performance from the X3's 3.0-litre diesel engine. Even economy and emissions don't take much of a hit at 41.5mpg and 180g/km CO2. So if performance and dynamic prowess are what you crave from an SUV, you should definitely take the Alpina XD3 for a test drive.
However, at £54,950, it's £12,050 more expensive than the range-topping X3. Alpina fans may be willing to pay that premium for the exclusivity that the badge brings, but most potential sports SUV buyers will be perfectly happy with the xDrive35d, which still gets to 62mph in a brisk 5.8sec.
What Car? says...
Engine size 3.0-litre diesel
Torque 516lb ft
Top speed 157mph
Fuel economy 41.5mpg (official combined)