First Drive: Alpina XD3 Bi-Turbo 3.0


The magic of Alpina finds its way into BMW’s compact SUV, and instantly transforms it into an winning proposition

The subtle change from the BMW interior is the Alpina badging

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of performance SUVs. To me, they’re always been a bit of an oxymoron. An SUV is supposed to be tough, rugged, looming large on the landscape (be it urban or unbeaten), and lumbering through everything in its way. Performance SUVs take all of that and throw it away, putting in place go-faster bits like lowered suspension, excessively powerful engines (to shift all that hefty SUV weight), and the occasional loud body kit. The result is something that feels a bit half-hearted, with a car that is neither sporty nor utilitarian. It’s not a real sports car, and now it’s not quite a proper SUV either.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but they are rare. As rare, in fact, as the Alpina XD3. Now, the idea of an Alpina SUV may seem like a travesty to some, but it is probably testament to the good folks from Buchloe (Alpina’s hometown in Germany) that they manage to pull this off with little damage to their credibility.

Like all Alpinas, the modifications from regular X3 to full-fat XD3 are subtle but noticeable. The lower front bumper treatment is obviously different, with larger air intakes and neat ‘Alpina’ lettering gracing the front spoiler lip, instantly giving away this car’s identity. At the back, the slightly redesigned rear bumper houses the new quad tailpipes, while the standard Alpina side detailing and multi-spoke Alpina classic wheels complete the look. It’ll take a seasoned spotter to pick this car out from the sea of SUVs that’s for sure.

There remains a tinge of body roll, as you can’t defeat physics entirely, but it’s not enough to detract from the experience.

No matter, because subtlety is what Alpina does best. This is a car that is all about substance over style, and boy does it deliver in spades. Under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre straight-six turbo diesel (yes, diesel) that has been tweaked to produce 350bhp and a colossal 700Nm of torque. And despite weighing in at nearly two tonnes, the XD3 is capable of rocketing from 0-100km/h in an eye-popping 4.9 seconds.

But it’s the way it gets there that makes the XD3 truly stand out. It is never brutish, but rather gets the business done in a refined, unruffled fashion, as is characteristic of all Alpinas. Punch the accelerator and the car simply whooshes you along, reaching triple digit speeds in the blink of an eye.

The slick-shifting eight-speed automatic certainly helps things along, and the XD3 offers a near perfect combination of plush refinement and driving entertainment, with its well-damped ride and excellent road-holding manners. Steering turn-in is sharp and precise, and the XD3 mostly tracks true to your input, thanks in part to the car’s all-wheel-drive system. There remains a tinge of body roll, as you still can’t defeat physics entirely, but it’s not significant enough to detract from the experience.

And it is quite the experience, especially from your vantage point from inside the cockpit. The interior is familiar BMW, but with notable added touches that inform you in that ‘nudge-nudge-wink-wink’ way that you’re in something rather special indeed. The unique blue-backed instrument dials, the numbered plaque down on the centre console, and Alpina badging everywhere makes sure that you know that you’re driving no ordinary BMW.

Certainly, the XD3 feels like quite an extraordinary feat of engineering. It’s not easy to make an SUV feel so entertaining to drive, but the masters at Alpina have managed to pull it off. They still remain the exception to the rule however, but I can live with the occasional bright sparks of excellence, especially if it’s from Alpina.



Phenomenally well-engineered SUV from the performance masters themselves, the Alpina XD3 proves to be a beguiling package for those seeking practical performance


Price  $370,800 with COE
Engine  in-line six, 2,993cc, turbocharged, diesel
Power  350bhp at 4,000rpm
Torque  700Nm from 3,000rpm
Gearbox   8-speed automatic
Kerb weight  1,985kg
0-100km/h  4.9 seconds
Top speed  251km/h
Economy  6.6L/100km
CO2 174g/km
Rivals Porsche Macan Turbo, Audi SQ5