The Alpina B3 Touring is the BMW M3 we wanted
Before you make a massive mistake, look to the left.
Some time has passed since BMW scalded our eyes with the sight of their – frankly hideous – M3 and M4 twins.
Recently, I have begun noticing people crawling out from their craggy caves and begin declaring that the design of the M3 and M4 twins, complete with their beaver-teeth grilles, is somewhat acceptable. Some have even suggested that it is mildly attractive.
These people are delusional.
Such ocularly inept people are unconsciously mistaking familiarity with attraction. They have acclimatised themselves to the torrential retina-storm that is the M3’s design.
This is similar to the principle underlying exposure therapy: spend enough time in the presence of something you fear (without risk of harm) and you will eventually grow accustomed to it.
Which leads me to Alpina’s B3.
While the majority of us have been frantically trying to adjust our eyes to the M3’s design, Alpina have been quietly offering the M3 we have been pining for.
Isn’t it just?
The B3 serves as a reminder of just how appealing the standard 3-series face is.
Yes, the headlights are a little fussy, and some may find fault with its multi-spoke alloys, however, for the most part, staring at the B3 feels like stepping from a furnace into an air-conditioned suite.
That Alpina offers the B3 as a wagon (i.e., ‘Touring’) is all the more reason to sing their praises.
Is it just a tuned 3-series?
Calling the B3 a tuned 3-series is a major disservice to Alpina.
Alpina is a recognised manufacturer and its processes are integrated into BMW’s production lines.
The B3 shares its bones, body, transmission (8-speed automatic, albeit with a new torque-converter) and an all-wheel-drive system with BMW’s M340i. However, while previous Alpina’s have used non-M engines, Alpina managed to snag the M3’s S58 twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six for the B3.
For its application in the B3, Alpina attached a smaller pair of turbochargers along with a new exhaust and cooling system. Alpina claims this was done to imbue the B3 with a better response lower in the rev-range.
As such, while the B3 produces less power than the M3 Competition (340 kW/462 hp vs 375kW/520 hp), it churns out more torque (700Nm vs 650Nm). And it will return just 9.9 L/100km.
The end result is a car that will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds (3.8 for the sleeker saloon), 0-200km/h in under 14 s, and keep pulling like a freight train all the way to 300+ km/h. Three HUNDRED. In an estate. That’s brilliant.
How does it sound?
Pretty underwhelming, if I’m honest.
The B3 produces a muffled, muted noise. In some regards, that suits the suave, unassuming design of the exterior. Though I cannot help but wish they had dialled in a little more mongrel.
Mind you, the latest M3 is hardly a sonorous artist. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Sounding strained and tuneless.
Perhaps Alpina chose wisely.
How is it inside?
Though some of the materials used exceed the quality of those found in a regular 3-series.
Alpina prides itself on its luxury reputation. The company’s in-house leather workshop offers customers almost unlimited possibilities to personalise interior materials. Piping, stitching, embroidery and embossing, all of it is customisable.
You can even request the same leather that’s used by Rolls-Royce.
Plenty. The Touring offers 500 to 1,510 litres of luggage space.
The big question then: This or an M3?
This. Every day of the week.
There is not a doubt in my mind that the M3 would murder the Alpina around any given racetrack. You know what, though? I couldn’t care less.
The M3 may handle with more verve and be infinitesimally quicker in a straight line compared to the Alpina, but its design makes me dry retch and want to do unspeakable things to the designers.
Beyond quantitative metrics, the Alpina is ultimately a lovelier thing to behold both inside and out. And you can’t put a price on that. Except Alpina have. The saloon starts at AUD$142,900 before on-road costs, while the Touring starts at AUD$145,900. Considering the level of kit on offer, that seems pretty spot on to me.
So before you scamper out and let your craving for an M3 overwhelm your rational mind, try an Alpina B3 Touring on for size. You might just find it to be everything you want and more besides.
Albeit without the risk of a retinal rupture.