The bad news? It’s a £50,000 3-series. The good? It’s amazingly versatile
Two years into its life, Alpina’s least expensive product has received the same mild facelift as the rest of BMW’s 3-series range. That was all the excuse I required to reacquaint myself with what I’d rank as not only Alpina’s best car, but the best based on any BMW, save perhaps the pure-electric i3 and i8.
The changes are largely cosmetic, but do a surprising amount to add a sense of purpose and presence to the D3. There’s a new and more pronounced front spoiler and, above, BMW’s latest, sharpest LED headlights. Do not underestimate their importance: I’ve never liked the headlights used in the 3-series and, in a car as fast as the D3, their limitations are all the more starkly apparent. You might think that being able to see properly when you’re going fast would come within the basic provision of such a car and I’m delighted to report that at last it does.
What hasn’t changed is the way this small diesel estate gets down the road. I’ve driven a few fast BMWs of late, but none has managed to offer as compelling a blend of entertainment and security. Its damping is as good as you’d ever imagine it might be in such a car, yet its ride quality on liquorice-strip side walls is implausibly good. Even the only issue that irritated me with its predecessor has been resolved: the car I drove has binned the silly steering wheel gearchange buttons in favour of a set of good old paddles.
But it is the engine that lingers longest in the mind. So long as you’re inside with doors closed, it might never occur to you that it’s fired by diesel, until of course you find yourself being batted up the road by the simply immense torque it is able to conjure at barely more than idling revs. Keep at it and the car won’t stop until it’s doing 173mph or, put another way, a single mile per hour short of the top speed of a Ferrari Daytona. Then again, it has just six fewer horsepower than a Daytona so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.
Yes, 50 grand is a lot to ask for a 3-series (though still less than you’d pay for an M3 or M4, neither of which is available as an estate), but when you consider the firepower, the civility and chassis sophistication it puts at your disposal, to me it represents value for money. And to cap it all it’s both rare and beautiful. Put it this way. If I lived my life another way and needed one car to do everything I required, for the money I can’t think of another that would do the job so well.
Engine 3.0 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged
Power [email protected]
Torque 516lb [email protected]
Transmission eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power to Weight 143bhp per tonne
Top speed 173mph