The BMW 3 series has always been the car which has represented a remarkable equilibrium in its class. A classic, fresh and understated design combined with a delightful sportscar behavior and daily-car practicality: can there possibly be anything better? Well, if you’re looking for more you’re presented two ways: choose the adrenaline of M Power Division’s philosophy or immerse yourself into a sophisticated world of torque and leather of Alpina.
The path to BMW’s Olympus is exciting and rewarding and is made of two different interpretation of an already great basis. The 3 series has been diligently serving on the roads worldwide since 1975. Now with the G20, the 7th generation it renews the classic formula of the medium-sized German Autobahn saloon.
It’s not by any chance that a Company like Alpina choose the 3 series to develop their go-to model over the years. At Buchloe , the B3 saga started back when the Burkard Bovensiepen begun offering power kits for the E21 320i’s. With the experience acquired by improving the Neue Klasse’s and the 02’s A series engines, Alpina was able to improve the performance beyond any expectation. With the success first cars being modified as soon as the first 3 series rolled off the line in 1975, Alpina begun developing ever-so-advanced models which culminated with the B6 2.8, which standardized the E21 offering. Developed around the M30 big-block 6 cylinder engine, it was the first standard 3 series model to be made available for purchase by customers. The first model to bear the B3 name was the 3.0, which was produced between April 1993 and December 1995. Based on the E36 platform, it was the first Alpina to feature the Company’s distinctive and successful Switch Tronic automatic transmission, from then on, all 3 Series-based Alpinas begun to be known as B3’s, with the sole exception of the F10 4 Series, known as B4.
When Alpina called us proposing to partecipate to the global launch of the new B3 we had more than one reason to rejoice: as they unveiled the car at the Bilster Berg race track in Northern Germany we had quite a joyful trip ahead of us. To get the feeling for the B3, we jumped on a brand-new M 340i and we hit the road. Cars are like food: they speak of the people who make them and as soon as you drive into Germany, you feel perfectly at home. Rational but also emotional the 340i is the best benchmark we have to drive through the countryside. Contrarily to what it might seem, he 340i has much of the character that has made M Division cars so loved across the globe.
M developed regular series BMW’s are quite hard to see these days and indeed the 340i will be a rarity on the streets in the years to come. It sets the benchmark for the market for this type of cars as it’s not overly-powerful such as an RS4 or a C43 AMG but it’s perfectly balanced between rev-hungriness and high-revving performance and practicality. It’s sure is another interpretation of the great G20 platform.
We’re quite enthusiasts of anything Alpina, simply because they’re superb road cars: refined, powerful and incredibly desirable. When the opportunity came to drive a brand new Alpina, we just hit the Autobahn and got there as fast as we could. This was a pure press launch an we’ve had the chance to drive both the petrol and diesel variants on road and track and also to sit down with Andreas Bovensiepen and chat on the new models.
The new B3 is the next logical evolution from the previous F10 generation. It’s not the first time that Alpina uses a M Division engine block and the new G20 uses the S58 engine, producing 462 hp and 700Nm of torque. Alpina uses smaller turbos to increase the torque and the low-end power to deliver the signature “relaxed” but consistent power delivery. The B3 comes with Eibach suspension and an electrically controlled limited-slip differential giving the best balance between sportiness and high-speed cruising. What the B3 achieves is a remarkable sense of cohesion between all different components and areas of the car. It’s a great point of balance for a road car, focused on delivering real-world performance rather than hard-to-exploit track focused numbers. 462 hp is a very well balanced figure today and so is the combination of an exclusive interior with daily-practicality.
The B3 is luxury you can use: with the auto gearbox to hold on to the gears when driving normally and the ever so satisfyingly wall of torque coming in handy in every time you press the throttle. The track is the perfect training ground to get acquainted with the new B3: it’s not its only habitat, but it’s definitely its the place to get the hang of it. The Bilster Berg is a mini-Nordschleife: it’s full of elevation changes, fast turns and difficult braking points. It’s a vehicle-dynamics tour-de-force and a great track able to emphasize the B3 excellent qualities. The soft-sprung suspension is felt when the car is truly under load but you never have the feeling of loosing it even when you brake hard under cornering. The track is not just the only place where you can experience the magical wall of torque of the B3 as it’s primarily a road car. Forget about trackdays and lap times, this is a car to be savored on the twists on any day, on your way to work. The magic of Alpina lies in the composed ride and in the remarkable feeling you get when you give inputs to it: you just know that you’re driving a car of another league in terms of quality and performance.
It’s something you desire, a car you’d be happy to be in for many years to come. In a world where you pay high prices for plastic, you come here and see the meaning of “superior” in automotive language. You can customize the car in the colors and materials you prefer while spending like an ordinary high-performance diesel SUV. On the Autobahn you know that you can cruise efficiently at high speed while not being bothered by RS6’s and Cayennes. An Alpina is money well spent, that’s for sure: on any road, you feel the car’s potential at any speed, not wanting to rush it just to feel alive behind the wheel. The B3 is achieve remarkable balance as it’s a fantastic motorcar for daily use. Torque and mid-range here are more important that outright speed and everyday enjoyment is what makes an Alpina a desirable motorcar.
It is a fresh reminder of how a balanced car, competent in every area and exclusive in many ways can be an object of true desire for many petrolheads. The feeling you’re getting just by driving is a sensation of accomplishment: sure enough, our thirst for Alpina was not quenched by this test, it only got bigger. While our heads roam for ideas for future Escapes, our wish for a new daily couldn’t just be clearer.