The thinking man’s M3, in wagon form, and earlier than expected.
A less ostentatious addition to last week’s Frankfurt Motor Show comes from Alpina, the fairly legendary BMW tuners, who brought their latest creation out for its first public appearance. The dark green wagon looks fairly unassuming, but to a certain kind of enthusiast, it’s quite possibly the highlight of the event.
The new B3 Touring, as it’s called, marks the first run Alpina has in augmenting BMW’s new generation of G21 3 Series, replacing the identically named version that spawned from the older F31. Crucially, it provides hungry admirers of the Munich automaker with a high performance version - albeit, an estate - of the newest 3 Series before BMW themselves roll out this their newest M3.
Like their other cars, the B3 tailors its experience more towards the bespoke and luxurious. You’ll find no traces of exposed carbon fibre or gaudy expressions of aggression here. Everything is sedate, supple, even dignified. Thus is the Alpina way, conveniently filling in the gaps left by BMW’s M division.
The B3 Touring is, naturally, the more practical of the new Alpina B3, sporting a wagon bodystyle and the extra boot capacity that it affords. In terms of its mechanical package, the car bears much resemblance to the BMW M340i xDrive. However, the Alpina magic lies in the cumulative impact of many small alterations, transforming the car into a wholly different machine to experience.
Under the bonnet, the S58 motor retains its 3.0-litre displacement and its bank of 6 rowed cylinders are fed by two turbochargers paired to an upgraded cooling system - an engine modification package developed and tested in-house. The result is 345kW and 700Nm living under the right pedal and a top speed is quoted at beyond 300km/h, though Alpina has yet to confirm acceleration times - expect an easy sub-5 second century sprint.
In between, we find the ZF 8-speed torque converter automatic and Alpina have made adjustments to its shift logic to yield quicker gear changes. Similar recalibrations were made to the xDrive all-paw system and limited slip rear differential to better suit the B3’s character.
Oddly, the German tuning house is especially proud of the fuel economy relative to the performance they have been able to extract from the 3.0-litre unit. The company says the gains are attributable to the “state-of-the-art exhaust gas treatment” technology they’ve built into the B3 Touring, amounting to a preliminary figure of 9.8-litres/100km according to the WLTP cycle.
To better cope with corners while delivering Alpina’s signature levels of comfort and refinement, much work has been put into the car’s suspension tune, aided by a new set of adaptive dampers, Eibach springs, and multiple drive modes unique to the car.
There’s no telling how the B3 Touring will fare against the upcoming M3 except for the latter confirmed to be lacking a wagon bodystyle. The next hotted-up 3 Series is rumoured to produce over 373kW through an engine with the same water-injection tech found in the previous M4 GTS. Sharper dynamics are bound to be in tow, likely edging out the Alpina as expected.
On the outside, the new B3’s design is one characterised by restraint with only the usual Alpina cues subtly telegraphing its enhanced capability. Its bodykit adds a stronger chin splitter, more aggressive rear diffuser with integrated outlets for the quad exhaust exits. Meanwhile, there are optional side decals and ’Classic’ 20-inch forged multi-spoke alloys that are staples of the brand. We must admit, though, that the 19-inch options are also very fetching.
The bespoke Alpina treatment is carried into the B3 Touring’s cabin as well. Among other touches, the standard upholstery and trim have been replaced by softer, finer grain Lavalina leather and pale wood inserts; even the infotainment graphics have been changed to match. There’s a clear emphasis on added comfort over the BMW on which it is based, warranting its premium asking price.
Alpina is expected to have first deliveries of the B3 Touring midway through 2020, at which point the saloon variant will have likely surfaced along with a diesel alternative of the pair. Hopefully, they’ll reach Australian shores before long.