With 2020 being a “special” year, the last few months didn’t offer us many highlights across the automotive space. The current car world is attacked by a constant flow of new regulations and changes when it comes to emissions and noise. Still there are hidden gems that make us smile and appreciate our car passion.
Many of those gems come from Buchloe in Bavaria, Germany. This is the home of ALPINA, which was founded in 1965. The company doesn’t just take BMWs, acts like a tuner adding go-fast parts to create models like the beloved B5 and B7. No, they work closely with the car maker to engineer parts that are included in many different BMW models, while also producing their limited number of ALPINA vehicles on BMW’s own production lines.
The niche brand is known for their ultimate sleeper model lineup offering understated designs, enhanced performance and premium luxury upgrades to existing top of the line BMW models like the M760i, M550i, X3 M40d and now the new G20 M340i.
The Hot Wagon
With the brand new ALPINA B3 the Germans have outdone themselves once again. The new model available in both Touring and Sedan body styles was handed to us for 24 hours to experience the ultimate daily that not only is what we all want, but more importantly we all really need.
Up on our arrival at the ALPINA headquarters, we were greeted by an ALPINA B3 Touring dressed in a black individual color and almost completely blacked-out exterior except for the silver grille, silver 20-inch multi-spoke wheels (saving 13,7 kg of unsprung mass) shod in Pirelli rubber and the four signature tailpipes.
The free-floating ALPINA logo in the lower front splitter finishes off the exterior design. Unlocking and opening the door offered access to a standard cream interior in Dakota leather with a fine range of ALPINA refinements and subtle upgrades. More on those later! Let’s first dive into the performance side of things.
The B3 offers a unique combination of technical highlights, which are not yet available via their friends at BMW (M). The BMW M3 Touring is still in development and won’t arrive until 2022. Until then, the B3 Touring will have a unique position of being the only estate model carrying the S58 M-power 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight-six engine from the M3, M4, X3 M and X4 M.
Connected to a ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox, mechanical limited-slip rear differential and rear-wheel biased xDrive system, the engine produces 462 hp at the top end and an astonishing 730 Nm from about 2,500 rpm onwards.
Sprint Numbers Worthy Of A Sportscar
The combination of these features lets you catapult the B3 from zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds in the Sedan and 3.9 seconds in the Touring. In 13.4 seconds you get to 200 km/h (Sedan), and 13.9 (Touring). More importantly, this is faster than the recently released M3 and M3 Competition models.
The top speed is set at 303 km/h for the Sedan and 300 km/h for the Touring, which are the highest top speeds among their competitors. Specific aerodynamic changes to the bodywork make sure that these top speeds can be reached with ease.
Going back to the power source, the engine itself received a series of upgrades such as flow-optimized turbine housings for improved throttle response and higher torque, optimized cross-sections in the air intake system, large air intake housing and new engine software.
The eight-speed gearbox received reinforced gearing and specific transmission software for faster response and quicker shift times. The outcome of all these upgrades is a powertrain, which offers a lot of low-end torque and an impressive linear delivery of power all the way up to the 7000rpm redline. It is never explosive, mind-bending or ultra-sporty. More sophisticated and performance with a silky smoothness than absolute brut power or joyful playfulness.
During our drives on the German Autobahn and country roads around Munich, the B3 impressed when it came to ride quality. The hardware is upgraded with sport springs on the standard M340i adaptive dampers and stiff anti-roll bars from Eibach, while the variable damper control has been altered.
The standard setting among the four different suspension modes is Comfort, which offers a lovely standard base setup. The newly introduced Comfort Plus mode feels like a magic flying carpet ride, not something we experienced before in a 3 Series BMW.
The firmest Sport Plus mode is definitely more firm, but never harsh. The compliance in the suspension is sublime and offers a lovely weighted choice between Comfort, Comfort Plus, Sport and Sport Plus. The brilliance felt from within the ride quality is not something we see often in BMWs.
With regards to the stopping power we can only say that the 395mm discs up front gripped by four-pot calipers did their work excellently. The rears offer a combination of floating brake calipers with brake discs of 345 mm diameter and do what they need to do. There are four ALPINA blue-colored calipers, which feature a white ALPINA logo on the front calipers. If required, a high-performance brake system is available as an option, but we never felt the need for one.
The Interior – Exactly What You’d Expect From ALPINA
On the inside, you get the standard ALPINA interior treatment. A plethora of little metal emblems and logos on the door sills, seats, dashboard and carpets are complemented by a newly upholstered steering wheel dressed in hand-stitched LAVALINA leather and ALPINA production plaque with build number set on center console.
The digital dashboard cluster in front of the driver showcases the firm’s signature blue and green hue as part of the speedo and rev counter. If requested, a full LAVALINA leather interior can be fitted fully upon your own preferences and wishes.
Interestingly, even though we referred to the M3 throughout this story, it might not be the main competitor to the B3, which lives in its own space between all “its competitors”. ALPINA’s offering is not a true sports car or sedan, but positioned as a brilliant long distance cruiser made for Germany’s Autobahn network and country roads.
Like any of the other models across the ALPINA lineup, the B3 offers a softer and more comfortable ride combined with uprated performance features such as enhanced acceleration and stopping power.
An ALPINA is a relaxing and smooth car that you can get out of after long journeys and still feel good, according to the company’s spokesperson, who subsequently reminded us of the fact that their V8 race engine was placed in the front of the winning M6 GT3 during this year’s Nürburgring 24 hours.
It shows what kind of broad brilliance is available behind the walls of the ALPINA headquarters, which is often mistakenly referred to as a boutique shop with a wine cellar that only sells 2,000 cars per year.
Luckily true knowledgeable enthusiasts know what ALPINA is all about and the new ALPINA B3 encompasses this brilliance delivering anyone with a flawless experience that cannot be surpassed by anyone else in this market space.
In the end, it’s more original and better looking than a G80 M3 and miles ahead of what the G20 M340i has to offer. It is not only the ultimate sleeper, but it might well the best 3-Series you can buy at this moment until BMW M decides to initiate a highly required design de-tune and nose reduction procedure.