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Road tests

New Alpina B3 Touring 2023 review

The 488bhp Alpina B3 Touring offers a subtle alternative to BMW’s M3 Touring

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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Verdict

While all the fanfare around BMW’s M3 Touring is rightly deserved, the Alpina B3 is an alternative fast estate with an even wider spread of abilities. There would be no contest between the two cars on a track, but for the majority of the time the Alpina feels just as quick, even more luxurious and has a rarity value that even the M3 Touring can’t match. If that wasn’t enough reason to recommend it, the B3 starts from around £6,000 less, too.

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It’s been a big 12 months for BMW’s M Division. Munich’s motorsport arm celebrated its 50th birthday by releasing its first purpose-built M car since the original M1, which took the imposing form of the plug-in hybrid XM SUV.

A model much closer to M’s original core values was the new M3 Touring, the very first big-booted hot 3 Series. It didn’t disappoint, providing all the excitement of an M3 saloon but with the practicality of a 500-litre boot thanks to its wagon bodystyle.

Neither are cars for the shy or retiring, though, so if you want a more subtle way of going very, very quickly, there is an alternative: the Alpina B3 Touring. Recent updates have brought it in line with the latest 3 Series, including new, larger infotainment screens, but Alpina has made tweaks elsewhere, too.

Among the subtle cosmetic changes is a revised front bumper. It adds a little more menace to the face, but it’s still very conservative compared with the M3. Our test car rides on optional 20-inch alloy wheels, although 19-inch rims
are fitted to the B3 Touring as standard.

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Inside, the cabin feels very similar to the 3 Series, only more special. The leather on the steering wheel and the seats feels softer, for instance. The digital driver’s display has received a mild reworking with a new skin in the traditional Alpina blue colour, too. It’s all capped off with the Alpina logo on the steering wheel, to remind you that you’re sitting in something quite special.

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Even though being in the cockpit feels like an experience in itself, it’s the way the B3 drives that is truly special. But it’s one of the more mundane qualities – ride comfort – that sticks out the most.

One look at those 20-inch wheels, wrapped in the skinniest of tyres, and you’d expect the ride to shake your fillings out, but that couldn’t be further from reality. It soaks up bumps – both large undulations and sharp potholes – remarkably well. The M3 Touring, by comparison, is very firm, limiting its appeal as an everyday driver.

While the B3 could never be accused of being short on power, the S58 engine, which is shared with the M3 Touring Competition, gains unique exhaust gas treatment tech and a revised engine management system compared to the previous B3. The result is 488bhp, 33bhp more than before, which edges it ever closer to the M3 Competition’s 503bhp output.

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However, the more significant figure is torque. The pre-update Alpina B3 had 700Nm of torque, 50Nm more than the M3, but that has now climbed to 730Nm. That peak figure is also produced over a wider range, arriving at 2,500rpm and continuing to 4,500rpm.

The B3’s comfortable and compliant suspension makes the phenomenal speed on offer even more surprising. Officially, it’ll crack 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, just 0.1 seconds shy of the M3 Touring. With a fairly tasteful exhaust tone and a creamy six-cylinder rumble, there’s a contradiction with the strength of the punch and the drama that accompanies it, which not only suits the car’s demeanour, but is addictive, too.

Fortunately, the B3 has more than enough ability in the corners to keep up. There’s a more front-biased torque split from front to rear compared with an M340i. While it means that it isn’t quite as playful as the BMW M cars, there’s still lots of potential to adjust the car’s balance, plus impressive stability to go with it. This is most obvious at motorway speeds, where the B3 feels superbly planted. We can’t think of many better candidates for covering a long journey in supreme comfort.

Model:Alpina B3 Touring
Price:£80,700
Engine:3.0-litre six-cyl petrol turbo
Power/torque:488bhp/730Nm
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-60mph:3.7 seconds
Top speed:187mph
Economy:28.0mpg
CO2:229g/km
On sale:Now
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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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