Alpina has taken the twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel engine from the 123d model, given it a light tune, and stuck it in the front of the D3. There’s also a more free-flowing exhaust system. The result is an engine that isn’t afraid of higher revs and is punchy and smooth. Hot-hatch drivers should beware: the D3 Biturbo will give them plenty of food for thought away from the lights.
The 3 Series is already the sharpest car to drive in its class, and the D3 is almost as good. Grip is bullish and the steering is communicative, and while the Alpina springs feel softer than the BMW’s, body lean is still well suppressed. They do mean the Alpina has a slightly floatier ride at high speed, though, which is a little disconcerting.
The D3 Biturbo is generally a pretty quiet car and makes a good long-distance cruiser. Suspension noise is subdued over even the worst road surfaces, but there is some road noise on rougher Tarmac. The engine starts to clatter a bit when you work it hard, too.
The Alpina is very aggressively priced compared with its closest BMW counterpart, and because all of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics tech remains in place, the D3 also has very good figures for fuel economy and emissions. That, plus the strong residual values, mean the D3 is affordable to run long-term. However, while Alpina gives you a three-year warranty as standard, Alpina gives you just two.
This car oozes class. Everything has a solidly constructed, built-to-last feel, while the cabin materials are top quality. Alpina changes from standard include high-gloss back dashboard trim, mats, part-leather seats and a numbered plaque. Mechanical reliability won't be a concern, either.
The D3 Biturbo scores well for safety, with twin front, side and curtain airbags, electronic brakeforce distribution and stability control as standard. The standard 3 Series was also awarded a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. Deadlocks make life difficult for thieves.
A good range of adjustment for both the driver’s seat and steering wheel means people of all shapes and sizes can find a suitable position, but the manual seat mechanism is awkward. The standard dashboard layout features simple climate controls. Lux models get sat-nav, which brings BMW's iDrive central controller.
There's enough legroom for the longest limbs in both the front and back seats. Those over six-feet tall might brush their heads against the ceiling in the rear, however. The boot is big, but not as large as those of some competitors, and it's not as well shaped as an Audi A4's.
All models come with dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, an auxiliary input for your MP3 player and a self-dimming rearview mirror. Additional Alpina tweaks include door sill finishes, instruments, floor mats, a subtle bodykit and 19-inch Alpina alloy wheels.
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