Part of the joy of owning an Alpina must be that sense of satisfaction that comes from driving a car that, to the untrained eye, looks like any old BMW, but will garner the occasional nod from those in the know. Well, we assume that’s what owning an Alpina is like, because not only are they fairly rare – they’re also rather expensive.
There’s good reason for it, of course. Alpinas are traditionally opulent inside (depending on how much option box ticking has been done) and provide enough punch to give their M counterparts a run for their money. Perhaps it's not surprising then that some people choose to slap an Alpina body kit and alloy wheels onto their regular BMWs for a little extra street cred; it is likely this sort of behaviour which encouraged the tuner to offer a cheaper entry point into Alpina ownership in the mid-noughties - the mighty D3.
The look was conventional enough. There's no mistaking that beefy front bumper with the company name stamped in the middle of it, along with deeper side skirts and a twin exhaust. Not to mention the 19-inch alloy wheels, which instantly lift the car above the regular 3 Series. Throw in the optional decal pack, and you're a paid-up member of the good life. Or as close to the good life as anyone could hope to get with a four-cylinder oil burner for a companion.
Yep, it's fair to say the D3 was a product of Europe's peak diesel madness. You couldn't move for worthy 2.0-litre black pump drinkers back then, and the BMW 320d was (of course) a ginormous seller. Alpina had sold diesel-powered models before, but none as humble as the D3. 'Humble' being a relative phrase in its case, because Buchloe immediately did away with the M47 inline-four and replaced it with a heavily modified version of the N47 motor from the 123d, comprising Alpina-fettled turbo, larger injectors, 330d intercooler and exhaust, plus an ECU remap. The result was a considerable increase in performance. The D3 produced 200hp, 302lb ft of torque and rapturous reports from anyone in the automotive press usually assigned to more humdrum motorway-furrowers.
Okay, so a 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds might not sound blistering these days, but the additional 40hp and 52lb of torque had a transformative effect on the 3 Series and it was promptly declared a real-world marvel - not least because it claimed to manage 47.9mpg. That said, with a manual six-speed gearbox and originally offered with part leather, part cloth seats, the D3 perhaps didn't lean too heavily on the kind of luxury experience one might expect today - but it still featured Alpina badging, a multi-function steering wheel with blue and green stitching, not to mention the firm’s signature blue instrument panel. It may have been somewhat basic, but the D3 delivered on the fundamentals.
The model's ethos still rings true on the used market, where it’s comfortably the most affordable way into Alpina ownership. Take this D3, for example. It’s an original 2006 car with just 81,000 miles on the clock, which is barely run in for an Alpina, and those coveted alloys look as though they’ve been kept away from kerbs. Sure, there are a few questionable mods inside, but any misgivings are likely to be assuaged by the £8,495 asking price and assured Q-car status.
SPECIFICATION | ALPINA D3
Engine: 1,995cc inline four, turbo diesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 302@2,000rpm
Year registered: 2006
Recorded mileage: 83,000
Price new: £24,995
Yours for: £8,495
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