Another day, another crossover? Not quite. The BMW Alpina XD3 is a different animal altogether actually. If ever the Bavarian car maker intended to create an X3 M, it would probably turn out to be very similar to today’s test-drive car.
Based on the diesel equivalent of the X3, Alpina (an automobile manufacturing company based in Buchloe, in the Ostallgäu district of Bavaria, Germany that builds and sells souped up versions of regular BMW cars) has created a beast of a crossover and that is just skimming the surface.
You see the XD3 Bi-Turbo combines performance, traction and diesel efficiency with crossover features like a superior sitting position, everyday functionality and practical dimensions plus a drivetrain that would would allow you to keep up with almost any supercar off the lights.
Looking at the numbers, 350hp with a mind-warping 700Nm of torque, allows the fairly large XD3 to hit 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 250km/h. What’s even scarier is with all that power at your right foot, fuel economy has been rated at a staggering 6.6l/100km. Its a performance crossover package that I dare say is almost impossible to beat.
On the exterior the Alpina XD3 clearly distinguishes itself from the standard X3 thanks to a redesigned front end that features a sportier, more dynamic air-inlets, grille, twin-circular headlights, LED foglight, an Alpina front spoiler and horizontal aluminium satin inserts that pitch down slightly towards the centre.
The sides also feature an additional Alpina side skirt along with a chrome piece just aft of the front fender. At the back, you get an Alpina rear valance that houses the Akrapovic-sourced quad exhaust system that gives off a sporty growl whenever you floor the throttle – nothing about it sounds in anyway diesel at all! Topping off the extensive list of visual bits are the massive Alpina Classic 20-inch 20-spoke lightweight alloy wheels with 255 tyres upfront and 285 ones at the back.
Speaking of features, the XD3 includes an extensive list of options, which are standard on the Alpina like leather upholstery, Alpina Sport Seats (that feature the Alpina badge), Xenon headlights, Cruise Control, Park Distance Control and Automatic Air Conditioning, Driving Assistant (Lane Departure Warning), Central Information Display and iDrive Controller, Tyre Pressure Monitor, Bluetooth Telephone Preparation with USB Audio Interface, BMW Emergency Call and Passenger Airbag Deactivation.
At the heart of it all is of course the BMW all-aluminium 3.0-litre straight-six with modern common-rail direct injection and two turbochargers packing variable turbine geometry. The optimised larger diameter air intake ducts upfront are not just for show, they actually lend a 30% reduction in pressure loss, allowing the engine to breathe more freely as the air flow between the air intake and air filter have lesser restriction.
This of course has a direct influence on the stability and output of turbocharged engines, thus in the XD3, the cooling system is of crucial importance. In the XD3, a large volume intercooler with an optimised inlet and outlet design feeds the engine with constant air while two separate water coolers situated in front of the wheelhouse lie perfectly within the air flow from the front spoiler. This ensures that all cooling systems, be it oil, water-heat exchangers are kept cool even during maximum thermodynamic loads.
Alpina has also fitted high-strength exhaust manifold that allows up to 50˚C higher exhaust gas temperatures that gives rise to increased power output. The mid-pipe silencer all the way till the tailpipes are also made from stainless-steel. Sound engineering and a reduction of silencer volume has also given the diesel engine a surprising throaty exhaust sound made evident at higher revs. The engine itself revs more freely past 4,500rpm, unlike conventional diesel lumps.
Moving onto the ZF adapted and tested Switch-Tronic 8-speed automatic transmission, which features specific hardware modifications like special mechatronic components and an adapted torque converter – requirements needed by the high torque produced. Alpina’s engineers have spent extensive amounts of time developing the software to ensure that the transmission provides unparalleled levels of refinement and performance. As a result, you get ultra smooth gear shifts with literally no hesitation in power delivery.
Leaving the XD3 to its own devices, the crossover is a solid cruiser at speed with ultra-low rpms – this benefits consumption and comfort of course. Shifting it into Sport mode though, you would notice the transmission become dramatically faster and more crisp, gear shifts are lightning fast and happen at higher shift points. The Alpina Switch-Tronic buttons that replace the paddle shifters are located at the back of the steering wheel, allowing the driver to take complete control of the shifting.
As contradictory as it sounds, comfort, everyday usability and dynamic handling are part and parcel of the XD3 package thanks to electronically-adjustable dampers that have been recalibrate by Alpina. The system is also tied to other parameters that control steering assistance, torque cushioning and Dynamic Stability Control. With the earlier mentioned drive modes, the XD3 transitions effortlessly refined cruiser to sporty bruiser in milli-seconds .
Its light steering, comfortable suspension, silky smooth gearbox and BMW’s impressive xDrive all-wheel-drive system make the XD3 the ideal everyday crossover – whatever the situation. Its got the raw power to dive straight into and accelerate out of corners with such ferocity and traction that you will be left wondering if this is crossover or sports car that you are driving.
Let’s not forget that the low profile 20-inch tyres have forego run-flat technology for the sake of slow-speed damping, combine that with BMW’s Variable Sport Steering and you get a turn-in that is precise and very satisfying. To sum it up, the BMW Alpina XD3 stands as the benchmark for high-performance crossovers, blending amazing dynamics, agility, efficiency and raw power, there is nothing on the market quite like it.