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Headline:FastSaloons.com ALPINA D3 RoadtestDate:03/12/2006
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com ALPINA D3 Roadtest

FastSaloons.com
Review


ALPINA D3



Our Thoughts
What in the world has made
ALPINA create a car based on the 320d ?

Background

ALPINA normally fits between the top of the range model and M power version. Right? Well thatís not quite true, many would argue that the cars were every bit as fast as M power cars, and provide an alternative approach to achieving stunning performance. But ALPINA is also about filing the gaps in the BMW range and offering cars with a unique proposition.

And that was the thinking behind the D3, and more crucially the decision to base it on the 320d rather than the 330d. This lateral thinking is not the first time ALPINA have produced such a car, take the B10 3.3, based on the BMW 528i SE, it provided all the advantages of a straight six 5 series with the grunt of a V8.

Choosing the 320d gives the D3 a lighter footprint, from which it can exploit both performance and economy. An often overlooked design goal for ALPINA is that they are as much interested in economy as wringing out eye-watering power and torque figures. No truer has this been with the D3 which can in real world situations exceed 50mpg.

Whatís more is that in order to price the car aggressively for the UK market, ALPINA UK, ALPINA and BMW have worked together to get the carís price point some seven percent lower, This has been achieved by building the car in groups of cars vs. individually and effectively limiting the spec of the car, it can be offered at £26,995(*).

Finally, the inspiration for the car follows Andy Bovensiepenís success in the 1998 24 hours race of Nurburgring. This was achieved in a 320d race diesel powered car.

Exterior Styling

Those familiar with ALPINAs will recognise all the normal styling cues. The front gets the low lip spoiler, which in this case has the ALPINA wording highlighted in silver to contrast with the ALPINA Blue paintwork. Whilst being functional the cars looks very low to the ground, which makes the front view of the car look very sporty and purposeful.



All the right Styling cues
From the side, the car is differentiated by a set of 19-inch ALPINA Classic wheels (the traditional 20-spoke alloys). Owners can opt for a no cost option of 19-inch ALPINA Dynamic wheels to give the car an alternative look. In my book the Classics suit the saloon shape more than the Dynamics. But each to their own and both wheels certainly give the car an individual feel. The Standard 3 series gets 18-inch wheels on the 330 M Sport and 17-inch wheels on the 320 M Sport.

The rear gets a boot lip spoiler, ALPINA and model designation, the normal 3 series bumper and a rather nice set of oval pipes protruding out of the passenger side of the car.

The overall affect is very positive and it on one hand differentiates the car from its BMW cousins and also elevates the car in terms of perceived value. Easily looking like a £40 grand car in my mind.

The car is offered in four colours: Blue, Black, Silver and Grey. The car being reviewed is in a cost optional colour of ALPINA Blue(*).

Click Here to compare the 330i M Sport to the D3.


Interior Styling

The interior of the latest 3 series is perhaps one of the more successful interiors of the recent BMW cars. So much so, that even with a relatively low spec level, the D3 never strikes you as being so. In fact I felt very comfortable in the car and never particularly felt wanting additional toys etc. You get in and get on with enjoying the drive.


Not massive spec but enough to keep you happy.
For the record the D3 gets part leather sport seats, business stereo, auto air condition... For the full list click here.

The ALPINA-specific bits of the interior consists of:

ALPINA steering wheel. An exceptionally satisfying wheel covered in soft leather and thanks to its suitably proportioned rim, it fits just right in your grip.

ALPINA gear lever. As with most diesels the rev range is not massive and the D3 is no different, luckily the 6-speed box works well and is painless to use.

ALPINA dials. The traditional orange on blue dials show both a 160mph top speed and also diesel, perhaps to remind you that the car is not petrol after youíve been blasting down the whatever road you may have been travelling on.

ALPINA plaque. Mounted on the roof the plaque denotes the unique number of the car you are driving. Our blue test car is the second such example and therefore has 002 on its plaque.

ALPINA sill trims. On all four doors.

ALPINA floor mats.


Ride, Handling & Steering

The D3 rides on stock springs and stock sway bars but crucially rides on different dampers. The effect is amazing and I can happily say that the car rides and handles as Iíve come to expect with ALPINA. Ride is very comfortable and as Iím always surprised so is the handling. This is a key capability of ALPINA cars, the ability to fuse both of these traits. It is something that seems to regularly flummox other much large manufacturers, but something that ALPINA has seemed to be able to carve a niche in.


Ride and Handling - no compromises here.
One look at the low-profiled tyres on the 19-inch wheels and you expect the worst. A car thatís ride has been compromised in the pursuit of looks. Not so, the ride is among the best in the sector.

Iíve sampled several D3s both from the driverís and passenger's seats, and no more so the later, than around Donington park where the cars turn in and general poise was monumental. Earlier in the year I sat alongside a normal driver and was amazed with the way that the D3 kept pace with a 5.0-litre V10 M5 that we followed around the track, thanks mainly to its ability to maintain its speed through the corners.

On the roads too, the car is a joy to drive and, is as usual the complete package, where the car equals far more than its constituent parts.

Those comparing the car to its donor vehicle the 320d will be interested to hear that its kerbweight remains the same


Engine, Gearbox and Performance

The D3 engine starts life as the 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged diesel that you find in a normal 320d. ALPINA use a combination of other BMW model parts plus some of their own grown technology to breathe more life into the engine.



ALPINA fettled 320d now produces 197bhp and 302lb ft
yet returns a combined 47.9mpg
From the 330d they use the exhaust half of its turbo. This is bigger and therefore can accommodate more airflow. They also use the 330dís intercooler to accommodate the new engines thirst for cold air.

From the 535d they use its injectors.

Finally, the inlet half of the turbo is a patented ALPINA/Garrett/ Honeywell unit.

The goal of these changes was simple: to double the throughput of fuel that can be delivered per millisecond. Effectively this allows the car to rev higher and thus give a much more exploitable engine. If you drive the 320d you will find that the power tops out between 3,800 Ė 4,000 rpm; in the D3 this is extended to between 4,500 Ė 4,600rpm on to its redline at 5,000rpm.

The car also produces more torque and so turbo lag is reduced over the 320d. This is still present and whilst off the line it may be a momentary issue, once you're moving I found the engine very flexible and pretty easy to keep within its sweet spot.

Power is increased to 197bhp available at 4000rpm, Torque is 302lb ft available at just 2000rpm. O-62mph is 7.4secs, a standing km is reached in 27.9secs and the car's top speed is 145mph.

Unlike the previous 3 series ALPINA, the D3 comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The last ALPINA based on the e46 3 series, the B3, had both manual and switch-tronic (semi-automatic) gearboxes. Although in the UK only the switchtronic was offered.

For the D3 the decision to use manual made sense as it suited the car and it also ensured the car could be delivered quickly to the market. In addition ALPINAís biggest markets for the D3, Germany and the UK, have an 80:20 and 60:40 biase towards manuals. An automatic is possible but would require engineering effort to get a suitable box matched up to the 4 cylinder engine, at time of writing this is not being pursued.

Interestingly ALPINA have chosen to not alter the brake setup, a decision based on the fact the D3 has the same kerb weight as the 320d and because it actually already has a shorter stopping distance. This is due to the 19 inch ALPINA wheels which not only look great but also promote airflow through the brakes, thus keeping them cooler and more effective. In addition bigger wheels mean wider tyres and therefore a greater contact patch with the road and again better braking.




Practicality

The D3 scores well in many respects around practicality. The new 3 series on which it's based increased both cabin and boot capacity is 460litres which is pretty impressive.


Practicality and great economy make D3 a winner.
In addition the D3 has impressive economy figures: 35.8mpg (urban), 61mpg (extra urban) and combined figure of 47.9mpg.

This is especially good news to the Company car buyer as the D3ís emission figures are also very low at only 156g/km.

Insurance group wise the D3 *****

(*) The launch price of the D3 was £26,995, this gave you a D3 that was of fixed spec Ė albeit you could change the colour (from a choice of four) and could choose the wheels (from a choice of two). If you wanted to spec the car any different then you needed to pay an additional (£2000) premium before you begin adding your options.

From March 2007 the price of the D3 rises to £27,550 and rear park distance control is added to the standard spec.


Conclusion

The signs are ALPINA has a winner as their original estimate of 56 D3s being sold in the ten months from March onwards have already been exceeded with over 100 cars already in the UK and at least another 100 arriving early in 2007.

For many reasons the D3 doesnít makes sense. You would have thought there wasnít room for it within BMWs line up. Initially, it was sandwiched between the 320d M sport and the 330d M sport. Subsequently, BMW have further muddied the water by introducing the 325d. However despite all this the D3 stands tall, with almost the same power of the 330d and almost the same economy of the 320d it is hard to ignore it. Factor in that it visually stands out a mile and looks far more expensive. Then drive the car and understand what the ALPINA package means and youíll be hard pressed to not want this car.

Trouble is you arenít alone and if you want one youíll be looking at April 2007 before you can get one. And by that time the price will have increased slightly to £27,500 Ė although you will get the benefit of rear parking sensors as part of the standard spec.




Neil
Related Links:†††††††††



Our review of the ALPINA B5 Saloon




Our review of the ALPINA Roadster S



Full Set of Photos taken during the test


ALPINA's UK website

ALPINA UK D3 Microsite

Main ALPINA website

Quick Section Links:†††††††††
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion
Cars:Alpina D3 - (e90 (06 - ))

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