Meet the 2019 Alpina XD3, a bahn-storming twin-turbo diesel version of the Bavarian marque's mid-sized luxury crossover, pitched as the "perfect everyday companion for every lifestyle".
The XD3 starts at $109,900 before on-road costs, which is a cool $9000 more than the BMW X3 M40i ($100,900), though this is a very different beast.
For starters, there's what's under the bonnet – the 3.0-litre inline six turbo-diesel from the xDrive30d has been given an extra turbo to make 245kW between 4000–4600rpm, and a meaty 700Nm from 1750–2500rpm. That grunt is channelled to all four wheels via an active limited-slip rear differential and eight-speed ZF sports automatic.
By comparison, the X3 xDrive30d makes 195kW and 620Nm, while the M40i develops 285kW and 500Nm.
Unfortunately, right-hand-drive markets like Australia miss out on the full fat of the XD3 offered in LHD regions like Germany, which gets a quad-turbo version of the 3.0-litre diesel making 286kW and 770Nm.
Fire up the double-blown oiler and you'll notice there's little clatter from the diesel engine inside the cabin. In fact, the company's engineers have done a great job with insulation and synthesised trickery to make the XD3 sound as little like a diesel as possible.
The driver is greeted by an Alpina-badged steering wheel and a model-specific version of the X3's 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which takes on Alpina's signature blue dials with red needles, and a speedo that tops out at 330km/h – the XD3 only claims to have a top whack of 254km/h, though – along with a colour head-up display.
Get out onto the road and the XD3 presents a very interesting character. It has a very GT vibe about it, offering silky smooth, effortless acceleration, while doing a good job of isolating occupants from the outside world.
Whether you're around town or on the highway, the XD3 rarely puts a foot wrong. It wafts along in town barely lifting a finger, then really muscles up when you plant your right foot.
Alpina claims a 0–100km/h time of 4.9 seconds, which is quick no matter how you put it given the XD3 weighs a little over two tonnes. Without testing that figure with GPS equipment, the XD3 feels every bit as quick as the claim suggests. Just for reference, the X3 M40i claims to hit triple figures in 4.5 seconds, while the xDrive30d wears a 5.8-second claim.
Many other diesel engines seem to run out of puff at the top end and don't like to be revved out. However, the XD3's twin-turbo oiler seems happy to send that tacho needle towards the 5000rpm redline, with all 700Nm available nice and low in the rev range, while peak power is on tap right up until 4600rpm.
Despite our test car riding on positively massive 22-inch forged wheels ($4449) shod in 255/35 front and 295/30 rear Pirelli P Zero tyres, the Alpina XD3 is very comfortable and quiet on the move, with a well-cushioned ride (most of the time) and low levels of perceived road noise, even on coarser surfaces.
Helping this is Alpina's exclusive 'Comfort Plus' drive mode, which tailors the drivetrain and adaptive suspension, and dials the 'Comfort' setting up another notch, much like how 'Sport Plus' is a degree sharper than just 'Sport'.
If the regular Comfort setting isn't quite plush enough on those huge wheels, Comfort Plus definitely helps to live up to Alpina's comfortable grand tourer pitch.
However, you will still feel sharper hits, as you can't defy physics at the end of the day. And the super-skinny tyre sidewalls will make more noise than the standard 20-inch wheel/tyre package on rough and unsealed roads no doubt.
As for handling, the XD3 isn't going to be quite as sharp as the M40i or X3 M. The big heavy 3.0-litre diesel can be felt up front, and the steering, while direct, isn't tuned to be as quick or communicative as something with an M badge.
Flick the Alpina into Sport or Sport Plus mode, though, and everything does feel more alive. Breathe on the accelerator pedal and you'll shoot towards the horizon, while the response and feedback from the steering and firmer damper setting will be engaging enough for most people.
It's also worth noting that digital instrument cluster changes its clothes in the two Sport modes, shifting from the blue dials with red needles to navy with green needles – and we know I'm a bit of a green enthusiast...
In terms of fuel consumption, we couldn't quite match the manufacturer's combined claim of 6.4L/100km, instead achieving somewhere between the high 8.0s and low 9.0s with a skew towards peak-hour commuting to and from the CarAdvice Melbourne office.
With more highway driving you'd easily match that combined claim, meaning you can achieve anywhere between 750km and 1000km per fill of the XD3's 68L fuel tank – not bad given its performance potential.
There's a really good balance of performance and economy, and for me the XD3 represents the all-round potential of the diesel engine despite widespread negative perceptions since the VW Dieselgate scandal. It's worth noting the XD3's oiler is Euro 6d-ISC certified, meaning it is compliant with the latest European regulations and equipped with a range of technologies to reduce toxic exhaust emissions (like NOx, for example), and wears a CO2 rating of 173g/km – not that this really matters in the Australian market given our lax emissions regulations.
Plenty of assistance features are fitted as standard, too, helping you from avoiding collisions and also kerbing those massive wheels.
The XD3 comes with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise assist with stop&go and lane-centring functions, Parking Assistant Plus with 360-degree cameras, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, along with LED headlights and fog lights.
On the numerous highway stints we completed with the XD3, we found the adaptive cruise system to work very well regardless of whether we had an open road or heaps of traffic, while the blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping systems were intuitive and helpful on the move.
Like other BMW models with Surround View, the 360-degree camera system is also crisp and clear, unlike some of the half-baked efforts by other manufacturers.
When you're not driving it, you may spend a bit of time admiring the Alpina XD3 – I sure did. Externally, the typical Alpina modifications bring a muscular and imposing, yet understated aesthetic.
Personally, I'm a sucker for quad exhaust tips and I love how the 22-inch alloys fill the arches, even if they reduce the top speed by 5km/h. It makes other X3s looks really generic and common, even in the standard Alpine White paint you see here.
You can customise the exterior with a range of Alpina bits, too, with the company's signature pinstriping and different colour badging available (silver, gold and black).
In the cabin, there's less differentiation between the XD3 and other X3 models bar the aforementioned instrument cluster and steering wheel modifications (which include blue/green stitching and button-like paddle shifters along with the different badge), along with the Alpina-branded door sills and build plaque on the centre console.
Like the exterior, though, you can up-spec the XD3 for a more luxurious, personalised feel. The standard Vernasca leather can be swapped out for smoother Merino leather with extended upholstery, even the super-fine Lavalina hide, all in various colours.
As you'd expect, too, you can also choose from a range of interior trim inserts like aluminium, wood and carbon fibre – the aluminium with pearl chrome shown here is a no-cost option. Should you want to remind yourself and your passengers that you're riding in an Alpina, the company's logo or name can be embossed on the headrests and badged in roundels on the seatbacks.
The XD3 runs the X3's iDrive 6 infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay as standard, which is unfortunately a generation behind BMW's latest products like the 3 Series and X5. It still works very well, and the graphics haven't dated too much, though it's a shame the XD3 (and the X3 for that matter) hasn't been upgraded to BMW OS7.0.
We also had a couple of times where the wireless Apple CarPlay connection didn't cooperate with my iPhone XS Max. Small annoyance, but frustrating nonetheless.
The infotainment system also comes with BMW Online Services including ConnectedDrive, DAB+ digital radio, and a Qi wireless charging pad beneath the centre stack.
Being based on the BMW X3, the Alpina XD3 offers plenty of space for passengers and cargo. Head and leg room in the rear are good for taller occupants, even behind a six-foot-plus driver like myself and with the optional panoramic sunroof ($2690) as fitted to our tester.
Rear passengers are also treated to separate climate controls and air vents, a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, and map pockets on the back of the front seats. Parents can also use the ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats for the littlest ones, too.
Behind the split-folding second row there's 550L of luggage volume, expanding to 1600L with the rear seats folded flat.
The overall perception of quality throughout is typical of BMW's latest models, which is very high. In its standard form, the Alpina does little to really differentiate itself as a high-end product, though ticking a few options boxes gets you smoother leather and extended upholstery as mentioned above.
From an ownership perspective, the Alpina XD3 is covered by the same three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty as the related X3, with Alpina-specific parts warrantied by Alpina, and others by BMW.
The XD3 is also available with the BMW Service Inclusive maintenance program like its X3 donor vehicle, meaning you can have five years or 80,000km of scheduled servicing covered for $1750 – though given the company's 'Condition Based Servicing' program, there are no set maintenance intervals, rather the car's sensors will tell you when it's time to visit the workshop.
All told, the Alpina XD3 is a very interesting package. While it's not as fast or sharp as an X3 M40i, it's still a fast, efficient and exclusive way to cart your family around.
You could almost see it as an entry-level boutique offering, like a Bentley Bentayga Diesel 'Jnr'.
For someone like me that likes the idea of driving something a little different to the norm, the Alpina XD3 offers a fantastic package to a very specific set of buyers, who will appreciate its uniqueness and abilities.
It really is in a league of its own.