In-depth reviews

Alpina XD3 Biturbo review

We test the Alpina XD3, a rival for the Audi SQ5 based on the BMW X3

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

  • Stunning straight line performance, engaging handling, exclusivity
  • Relatively high list price, running costs won't be cheap, little off-road ability
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The Alpina XD3 marks a first for Alpina. The BMW specialist has lots of experience with performance diesel engines, but the XD3 is its first SUV. The XD3 is based on the BMW X3, but it’s benefited from the same levels of fine-tuning that have made Alpina coupes and saloons so popular with enthusiasts. As with the rest of the range, it’s available from a select few BMW dealers. 

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Along with the standard X3 SUV, the Alpina XD3 has undergone a facelift, with the latest car still getting a beefed-up look with big alloy wheels, chunky bodykit black detailing around the car. 

Alpina XD3 vs Porsche Macan S Diesel

Engines, performance and drive

The big wheels and sporty suspension set-up mean the XD3 is firm, but body control is good, even in the car’s softest setting. Like most sporty BMWs, this Alpina gets a Drive Performance Control switch with four modes to choose from: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Comfort is best tuned for the road, and the ride is acceptable even on lumpy tarmac. Select Sport, however, and the XD3 takes on a new character. 

The dampers stiffen up, the engine and gearbox become more responsive and the steering weights up, although in such a big car, it still feels oddly light. It’s quick and responsive, though, so it means that despite the XD3’s vast dimensions, you can place the car on the road accurately, which is useful with this much performance on offer.

Alpina XD3 - rear tracking

Power comes from a tuned version of BMW’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder diesel engine that serves up 345bhp and a huge 700Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm – making this SUV incredibly rapid. Our test figures showed it sprinted from 0-60mph in five seconds flat, while the strong torque output made for in-gear acceleration times that were seriously impressive. From 30-70mph through the gears, the Alpina was also like lightning.

Part of this performance comes from the XD3’s eight-speed Sport auto box. It delivers superbly smooth, swift shifts at full throttle, but is docile, refined and easy in traffic and around town. Most of the car’s edge on pace is down to the engine, though, which is a masterpiece. Start it up, and there’s a deep rumble from the four shiny exhausts; rev it hard, and it turns into a deep, musical roar from under the bonnet as the Alpina charges towards the horizon.

While it might not be the most agile 4x4 on sale, it has plenty of composure and can carry lots of speed thanks to its huge grip levels, generated by the four-wheel drive and the same sticky tyres as fitted to BMW’s M4. But this car is all about its incredible straight-line oomph – and there’s enough to actually beat the M4 between 30 and 50mph in-gear.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

Even though it uses diesel, this performance SUV – and others like it – will never be cheap to run. Still, the Alpina returned a respectable 34.2mpg on test, which is good given its chunky 1,910kg kerbweight and high power output. Servicing costs should be no more than for a standard X3, either. And while our experts haven’t yet calculated residuals for the XD3, its exclusivity should keep values high.

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However, this is where the affordable running costs end. CO2 emissions of 174g/km attract a Benefit in Kind rate of 32 per cent, which means higher-rate business users will have to pay £7,181 per year. 

Plus, insurance came out at £1,269 for our sample driver, while £205 road tax is more than for the Porsche Macan S Diesel.

Interior, design and technology

Despite the pumped-up bodykit, the XD3’s origins are obvious: this car is based on the BMW X3 xDrive35d M Sport. The X3 was facelifted last year, and now Alpina has got its hands on the car, it’s taken it to the next level, with its trademark chunky bodykit, huge multi-spoke alloys and a graphics pack.

These features combine to give the XD3 an eye-poppingly muscular look. The front bumper skims the road with Alpina emblazoned in black – there’s extra black detailing to contrast with the bright red paintwork of our test car, too, including the BMW grille and highlights for the mirrors and roof rails. 

Alpina XD3 - static

Those £1,215 21-inch alloys – 20s are standard – are finished in black and combine with the XD3’s deep side skirts and flared arches to increase its imposing look. Along with the larger rear bumper and bright quad exhausts, the car’s design is hardly subtle and will divide opinion, but it undoubtedly grabs attention.

Bespoke badging outside hints that this car is a little different to a cosmetically enhanced X3, and inside, the special theme continues. The Alpina features a plaque commemorating the model’s low-volume, exclusive production, Alcantara for the centre console, blue dials and green and blue stitching for the steering wheel – turning it from a mass-produced BMW into something that feels more unique.

Alpina XD3 - interior

There’s Alpina branding on the heated sports seats, and when you take into account the generous standard kit, the XD3 feels a cut above your average SUV – and it needs that against rivals like the Porsche Macan.

The basic BMW interior is well laid out, and the car comes fitted with cruise and climate control, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, xenon headlamps and an eight-speed auto gearbox. You expect all this in a £55,000-plus SUV, but you also expect sat-nav to be standard; instead, you have to pay £1,990 for BMW’s Professional media package including navigation – nav will be standard from September, like on all BMW models. The £1,190 panoramic glass roof is a nice addition, however, and floods the classy cabin with light, marking out the bespoke Alpina touches.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

As it has a boxy shape, the Alpina offers definite practicality benefits. Its boot larger and square with the rear seats up and the rear seats fold 40:20:40 split, opening up a load space of 1,600 litres. The car’s loading lip is low, too, and the opening is wide – there’s also a load cover instead of a parcel shelf, which aids usability.

Alpina XD3 - boot

Extra touches inside mean the XD3 treads the line perfectly between tactile, special and versatile. The SUV interior provides plenty of storage, with a good-sized glovebox, a big cubbyhole and four large door bins. Thanks to the wide-opening doors and raised ride height, access is easy, too.

Reliability and Safety

The XD3 didn’t feature in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, but as it’s based on the standard X3 xDrive35d M Sport, it should be reliable. The X3 was the 24th best car to own in this year’s poll, while BMW was the 14th best manufacturer. Yet while the XD3 can be serviced at any BMW dealer, it can only be purchased from 18 authorised dealers in the UK.

When it comes to safety, the Alpina should be just as strong and reassuring as the standard BMW. Euro NCAP gave that car a five-star rating, so with six airbags, ESP, adaptive cruise control with collision warning and lane departure alert, the XD3 should do its best to keep you and your passengers protected.

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