Next year is a big year for BMW M Division, as 2022 marks 50 years since its formation. We all know how M is celebrating the half century, too - the XM, its first bespoke car since the M1. And we all know that hasn't been received tremendously well, either. Don't forget, however, that 2022 will see the debut of the M3 Touring, which means that one of the longest standing models in the M lineup will finally get the estate model that fans have yearned after for so long. Given how impressive the new M3 has proven itself, expectations are understandably very high for the new Touring.
It'll be doing very well, however, to be a more appealing fast estate than the Alpina B3. For almost as long as there hasn't been an M3 Touring, Alpina has offered an alternative, making the fastest available 3 Series wagon quicker, more luxurious and even better to drive. No surprise, then, that B3s have proved popular over the years - and why BMW has finally relented on its M3 Touring position.
But it's doing so with the B3 at its most competitive yet. Not only does the current Alpina B3 do without the grilles that have proved so contentious on the BMW, but it also has an M engine for the very time as well. It's in a lesser state of tune, yes, but in excess of 460hp from the 3.0-litre 'S58' straight six is enough for most - especially with more torque than the BMW (516lb ft against 479lb ft). And you get the nice set of wheels that the M3 so conspicuously lacks.
So the M3 Touring has a job on its hands, especially with the B3 having proven as superb in reality as the spec suggested. It really was hard to imagine wanting more from a fast 3 Series, so it'll be fascinating to see what the M3 offers. Assuming this doesn't appeal more, of course...
Launched last year, a few Alpina B3s have already been sold in the UK. Given the various issues facing new cars at the moment, it's unlikely a bespoke order will arrive any time soon. But what could be better than this one? It's Portimao Blue and goes without the Alpina decals (which may actually suit it); black Vernasca leather and Alcantara inside works very nicely, too. That's just the beginning of a very long options list, with the brake upgrade, electric sunroof, and leather dash included. The fact it's for sale at £81,995, said to be less than the optioned-up price, says a lot - the base RRP is £67,495.
But then this Alpina B3 has also only covered 191 miles, making it about as close to brand new as it's possible to get without being the first name on the V5. The original owner of this one is the chairman of the selling dealer, interestingly. Perhaps they're getting an M3. But they'll be paying more money for the wagon, what with xDrive M3 saloon already almost £80k without options - the last we tested was £95,000. Which makes the Alpina, surely, more affordable, better looking and more available, and probably rarer in the long run. Quite the array of talents, then, although given what BMW has already achieved with the M3 - despite all the doubts - it would be a brave person that bets against the new Touring. Tantalisingly, though, there's not much longer to wait to find out whether Alpina or BMW makes the best wagon. Sounds an ideal distraction from the XM come 2022.
SPECIFICATION | ALPINA B3 TOURING
Engine: 2,993cc, twin-turbocharged straight six
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 462@5,000-7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@2,500-4,500rpm
MPG: 28.5 (WLTP)
Year registered: 2021
Recorded mileage: 191
Price new: £67,950 (before options)
Yours for: £81,995
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