High Roller #2016
The Alpina XD3 has undergone its midlife makeover and it’s still king of the luxury diesel 4x4s. The XD3 has been subtly enhanced with a series of revisions to accompany the X3’s face-lift but is it still a great sporting 4x4? Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.
At the recent anniversary celebrations to commemorate Alpina’s 50th year the company’s founder, Burkard Bovensiepen, admitted that he’d wanted nothing to do with the company’s first sporting SUV, the XD3. Perhaps it didn’t initially fit in with his idea of what a ‘Manufacturer of Exclusive Automobiles’ (the company’s strap line) should be producing, but given that everyone (Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin) seems to be at it these days it made good business sense to enter the fray with its XD3. And it’s been a decision that’s been wholeheartedly vindicated by the fact that the company simply can’t make enough of them.
When we first tested it in 2013 we were impressed, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to see what improvements have been made with this facelifted machine. The X3 didn’t go through many noticeable changes during its Life Cycle Impulse and, as with the vast majority of BMWs these days, styling changes are relatively minimal. And so you would think it was with the XD3 when you see the #BMW-F25-LCI
machine in isolation, but if you compare its looks with the pre-face-lift example, quite a lot has changed. As per the #BMW
model on which it’s based the headlights and kidney grilles are more shapely – on the older car the headlight units did look a little like they’d just been plonked on to the car, but the new units are more sculpted and look much better for it.
It’s perhaps the new front bumper treatment on the XD3 that does most to bolster the car’s looks. While Alpina can take some of the credit for this, much of it should go to BMW as it’s equipped the M Sport X3 (on which the XD3 is based) with a more shapely and aggressive front bumper assembly and to this Alpina has fitted its traditional lower front lip spoiler which not only looks good but will be aerodynamically efficient too. Alpina, after all, doesn’t do things by halves. Having said that the rear aspect of the XD3 looks to be virtually unchanged with a simple rear valance and an additional piece of trim that wraps around the quad exhausts, two of which have Alpina etched onto their tips while the other pair feature the #Akrapovic
script as it makes the exhaust system that was designed in conjunction with Alpina.
Inside there are a few upgrades that accompanied the LCI changes such as switches and whatnot with additional chrome highlighting but the main change in this car from the standard X3 is the lovely Alcantara covering that goes across the centre console around the gear lever and iDrive controller, along part of the dash and onto the doorcards. It’s such a tactile material and really lifts the interior of the car, endowing it with a sporty ambiance and at £580 we reckon it’s an option that’s worth ticking. The standard fit electric front sports seats have the Alpina logo inset into them and this car also has optional Alpina rhombs stitched into the headrests which looks classy and is one of the cheaper items on the options list at £235. It almost goes without saying that there’s an Alpina Lavalina leather-clad steering wheel complete with buttons for the #Switch-Tronic
side of the gearbox and that there are also a set of blue-faced classic Alpina dials with their red needles. Overall it feels like a superb place to spend wheel time.
However, it’s what goes on under the skin that’s equally important and while there aren’t that many changes for the LCI XD3 it’s worth recalling what we’re dealing with here. The engine might have the same swept volume as BMW’s 35d unit on which it’s based but a quick gander at the power and torque figures demonstrate just how hard Alpina had worked on finely-honing this engine. With 350hp and 516lb ft of torque its performance is impressive, with 0-62mph being knocked off in just 4.9 seconds. At the same time its combined economy figure is an excellent 42.8mpg with emissions of 174g/km – both pretty stunning figures for a nigh-on two tonne four-wheel drive SUV!
No doubt part of the impressive economy and performance figures are also down to the eight-speed #ZF
transmission. In its standard form it’s a great ‘box as we’ve seen throughout the current BMW range but Alpina has thoroughly reworked it for the XD3. It’s a given that it runs on Alpina’s software, but in conjunction with ZF the company has changed and uprated about a third of its internal components.
The proof of the pudding though comes with the eating of the cake so it’s time to slip behind the wheel and see how the XD3 fares. As mentioned I love the cockpit and it engenders a real feel-good factor as you get yourself comfortable and adjust the mirrors to your satisfaction. The diesel ‘six erupts into life with a decent burble – no, it’ll never sound as good as a petrol, but it certainly sounds better than most other machines that sup from the black pump. Trundling out of Nottingham it’s quiet and refined, and provided you don’t tread on the accelerator too sharply it’s remarkably docile. You could be forgiven for asking whether it really has all this horsepower and torque at its disposal.
Once we’re out of town though I can delve a little deeper into the XD3’s performance envelope and as I pass a derestiction sign and am greeted with a deserted stretch of road I squeeze the throttle pedal to the carpet and even though I’ve driven one of these before I’m still slightly caught out be the ferocity of its forward momentum. The horizon is being reeled in rapidly and it would appear that snapper Smithy who’s following behind in my VW Passat has jumped on the brakes as he’s a diminishing speck in the XD3’s rear view mirror. There seems to be no let up in its quest to overtake the horizon – it just keeps piling on speed at a seemingly unrelenting rate. All good things have to come to an end though and in my case this is because up ahead I can see that what was an arrow-straight ribbon of Tarmac is about to turn into a mini section of Nürburgring so it’s hard on the anchors to discover how the XD3 feels when you barrel into the corners.
Despite its high centre of gravity there isn’t a huge amount of roll when you throw it through a series of corners and given the roads are dry and I’m riding on a set of gumball (and optional) 21-inch rims its grip levels are huge. Just about the only thing it could do with is a little more feel to the steering as every now and then I find I’m having to wind a little more lock on than I expected. This could be due to unfamiliarity with the XD3, but just a tad more feedback would allow me to place the car a little more precisely.
Playing with the various settings while doing cornering photography runs tell me that in Sport mode there’s significantly better throttle response but at the same time the chassis has perhaps firmed up a little too much for the road I’m on. Alpina reckons it has made a number of changes to the suspension of the XD3 for the LCI machine, including softening things up in Comfort mode. This seems to be born out with experience behind the wheel as it rides better than a machine running 21-inch rims has a right to but for my taste Sport is too jiggly. On smoother Tarmac it may be fine, but best of luck finding some of that in the UK these days. On the motorway the ride is fine, but what you do encounter is a fair amount of tyre roar… another reason for perhaps sticking with the standard 20-inch alloys rather than these 21s, even if they do look fantastic.
Just about the only other cause for concern is a certain amount of creaking and rumbling that seems to be coming from the door trim panels – I’m sure it can easily be cured, but it’s not quite what you’d expect from a machine in this price category. As all X3s are made in BMW’s Spartanburg plant in America the XD3 is finished by hand at Alpina in Germany where completed X3s are partially disassembled and then rebuilt with the #Alpina
specific components, and I can’t help but think that this is why there’s that bit of creaking from the trim. It’s also the reason why the XD3 will remain such a low-volume seller for Alpina as it simply doesn’t have the manpower to make more than it currently manages.
It’s not a deal-breaker though as bar the creaking trim the XD3 is a cracking piece of kit. It’s uncannily rapid and can be remarkably economical given the performance on offer. Personally I’d be more tempted by a D3 Touring, but if you like the raised ride height offered by the XD3 and the security of four-wheel drive then it really should be on your shortlist.
CONTACT:: Alpina GB Tel: 0115 934 1414 Web: www.alpinabmw.co.uk
The Alpina’s cockpit feels like a classy place to spend wheel time, helped by a couple of options such as the Alcantara trim and the rhombs in the headrests.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Alpina
XD3 / #ZF8HP
ENGINE: Twin-turbo diesel, 24-valve / #BMW-N57
MAX POWER: 350hp @ 4000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 516lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm
0-62MPH: 4.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 156mph
PRICE (OTR): £56,450
There’s no let up in its quest to overtake the horizon – it piles on speed at an unrelenting rate.