Alpina XD3 2020 road test review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 20 October 2020

Tim Nicholson puts niche brand Alpina’s XD3 to the test.

  • Thumbs up

    Exclusivity, impressive ride comfort, torquey twin-turbo diesel engine, sharp steering, well equipped.

  • Thumbs down

    Could have more Alpina touches to differentiate it further from BMW donor car, expensive options.

  • Perfect for

    Family commuting during the week and long-distance cruising on the weekend.

  • Verdict

    The Alpina XD3 isn’t a hardcore sports machine, but it offers the perfect blend of performance and comfort. And no one does that better than Alpina.

Front view of white Alpina XD3 on road with trees in background

 

Alpina has been tuning BMW models since 1970. Fifty years on, it is still a niche brand, but it offers premium buyers a level of exclusivity they can’t get with a stock-standard BMW. In Australia, Alpina sells the hulking X7-based XB7 SUV, the 3 Series-based B3 sedan and wagon, and the XD3, which is based on the BMW X3 medium SUV. We put the latter to the test to see if the exclusive badge lives up to its promise.

Price and positioning

Alpina takes base BMW models and tunes them at its facility in Buchloe, Bavaria. Most tuning arms like Mercedes-AMG focus on performance above all else. Alpina is different. Yes, the vehicles are modified to enhance performance, but Alpina also focuses on ride quality. The models are less high-performance sportscars and more high-performance grand tourers. Where the ballistic X3 M is all about raw performance, Alpina takes a softer approach with the XD3. 

The XD3 is based on the BMW X3 xDrive 30d which retails for $88,900 before on-road costs. The XD3 costs $109,900 but adds a beefier engine, revised suspension setup and luxuries like heated seats and steering wheel that are optional on the BMW.

The Alpina aesthetic is subtle so don’t expect too many visual flourishes. The XD3 is differentiated from its donor car by Alpina badging, wheels and rear valance. Our test car was fitted with $4449 Alpina Classic 22-inch wheels (up from the standard 20-inch hoops) and a $2690 panoramic glass sunroof, bringing the price to $117,039 before on-road costs.

Rivals include Audi’s diesel SQ5 performance SUV, priced from $104,900 and Jaguar’s F-Pace 30d S at $105,523.

White Alpina XD3 on country road with trees in background
Side view of white Alpina XD3 parked in front of trees

 

Safety first

The XD3 is covered under the X3’s five-star ANCAP crash safety rating from 2018. The Alpina’s adaptive cruise control with braking maintained the speed of the vehicle ahead and stopped when required, much like it did in the X3 M. The lane-keeping aid’s automatic steering tends to get too close to one line then attempts to centre itself, only to then get too close to the other line.

The inside story

There are a few giveaways that you’re not in a typical BMW, like the individual build plate on the console, ‘Alpina’ blue digital instrument cluster graphics, Alpina badging and steering wheel, but it could do with more Alpina touches to set it apart. The brand-specific green and blue stitching on the steering wheel would look great on the seats, for example. As it is it just looks like a mid-grade BMW X3.

Up front the sports seats are super supportive but not as firm as the X3 M seats. There’s that Alpina focus on comfort. The steering wheel is thinner than typically chunky BMW performance models and it’s a welcome addition. BMW’s infotainment system with central control dial is well executed, as is the overall layout of the dash.

The X3 is a sizeable SUV these days so there’s plenty of space for second-row occupants, as well as knee-level air vents and ample door storage.

Open the tailgate with a kick motion under the rear bumper and it reveals a cavernous boot capable of swallowing 550 litres, or 1600 litres with the rear seats folded. The XD3 has no spare wheel, making do with a tyre repair kit instead.

Close-up wheel detail of white Alpina XD3
Interior view of Alpina XD3 showing front seats and steering wheel


On the road

The market for high-performance diesel cars is small in Australia, particularly compared with Europe. But they offer performance characteristics that differ greatly from a petrol-powered model.

Alpina has tweaked the 3.0-litre diesel engine from the X3 xDrive 30d, adding a second turbocharger and squeezing an extra 50kW and 80Nm for an output of 245kW/700Nm. Left-hand-drive markets get quad turbochargers and even more power.

From a standing start, the XD3 doesn’t feel as brutally fast as the X3 M, but it’s still very quick. Zero to 100kmh is dispatched in 4.9 seconds – 0.8 seconds slower than the X3 M. The huge well of torque from 1750rpm makes for enthusiastic acceleration, prompting the nose of the car to lift slightly on take-off. The diesel engine has a pleasant note from behind the wheel too.

The torque and power delivery is smooth and there’s plenty of grunt for overtaking. The eight-speed gearbox shifts gears effortlessly, which is typical of BMW transmissions. The steering is alert, offering quick responses to inputs in Comfort mode, but it firms up artificially in the various Sport modes. 

For a 2155-kilogram diesel SUV, the XD3 shines on dynamically challenging roads. It stays flat through corners – more so than the X3 M – and hugs corners like a car half its size. It got a little tail-happy on an unsealed section of road but maintained traction on other loose surfaces.

What sets the XD3 apart from other performance SUVs is its supple ride. The suspension and damping tune that the wizards at Alpina developed makes for a comfortable cruiser that glides over potholes and speed bumps, but with the dynamic prowess of a full-bore performance model. Aside from some engine noise, Alpina has done an admirable job of insulating the interior.

Our week of mixed driving ended with a fuel use figure of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres, not far off Alpina’s 6.4L/100km claim.

Alpina XD3 2020

PRICING

List price: $109,900 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $117,039 before on-road costs.

Model range: $109,900 before on-road costs.

DRIVETRAIN

3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive.

Power: 245kW@4000rpm.

Torque: 700Nm@1750rpm.

Wheels: 255/35 ZR22 front, 295/30 ZR22 rear.

FUEL

Diesel, 68-litre tank. 

Consumption: 6.4L/100km (government test), 7.9L/100km (RACV test).

Emissions: 173g/km CO2.

STANDARD SAFETY

Five-star ANCAP rating, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping aid, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, emergency-call function, front and rear cross-traffic alert, tyre-pressure monitoring.

STANDARD FEATURES

Adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry and start, head-up display, wireless device charging, 10.25-inch multimedia display with Apple CarPlay, DAB digital radio, 16-speaker surround sound system, heated front seats and steering wheel. 

WARRANTY

Three-year/100,000-kilometre warranty. Servicing schedule every 12 months/15,000 kilometres.

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