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    BUYING GUIDE #BMW-E90 #BMW-E91 #BMW-E92 #BMW-E93 #Alpina-E90 tuning B3 and B3S

    All the important things to know about buying an E9x #Alpina-B3 . With plenty of power and performance capabilities that gave the M3 a hard time the Alpina B3 Bi-Turbo was a very special car. Indeed, they still are today… Words: Simon Holmes Photography: Dominic Fraser and Dave Smith.

    When the #Alpina-B3-Bi-Turbo burst on to UK roads back in #2008 it came in with a bang. Based upon the 335i, Alpina had transformed an already very capable road car into an M3-chasing monster but with even more diversity and subtlety than its M-badged brother. Plus there was the extra air of exclusivity that comes with #Alpina . The B3 was available as a saloon, Touring, coupé or convertible straight from the off and, typical of Alpina, there was little to give the game away from the outside except for a couple of small spoilers and the classic Alpina wheels.

    But underneath there had been plenty of smaller changes that equated to a vastly improved overall package. It helped that the 335i was a good starting base but with room for improvement Alpina began with the engine. Powered by the glorious #N54 3.0-litre straight-six fitted with two turbochargers, in #BMW-335i-E90 form it made a healthy 306hp and 295lb ft. But with more in mind Alpina first of all replaced the pistons with bespoke items from Mahle in order to lower the compression ratio down to 9.4:1. This was to ensure the engine would be able to withstand the extra boost pressure it added, now peaking at 1.1bar. To keep everything running smoothly an additional oil cooler was added to maintain optimum running temperatures, even in extreme conditions. It was then coupled to a modified version of BMW’s six-speed sport automatic transmission, which now included Alpina’s Switch-Tronic buttons located behind the steering wheel to change gear if required.

    Power rose to 360hp at 5500-6000rpm and torque was up to 369lb ft over a range from 3800- 5000rpm, some 74lb ft more than an M3, and the engine was happy to rev all the way to the 7000rpm redline. The spread of power also was also very broad and it made 294lb ft as low down as 1300rpm, the kind of power band usually reserved for diesels. On the road that led to sensational performance. 0-62mph came in just 4.8 seconds for the saloon and coupé versions, the same as a manual M3, whilst the Touring took 4.9 seconds and the convertible 5.0, presumably due to their extra weight. As they weren’t limited like BMWs were, top speed was a blistering 177mph for the saloon and coupé whilst the Touring managed 175mph and the convertible 174mph.

    Emissions took a little bit of a hit, ranging between 232 and 237g/km, but it was a small price to pay for the level of performance, and when it comes to an Alpina then emissions aren’t one of the first things that comes to mind anyway. Economy is a little more important and all of the models hovered around the 28.8mpg mark as an average, dropping down to the high 19s or low 20s depending on the model, a touch behind a regular 335i.

    Aside from the power and performance hike there was much more to the B3, as you would expect. Alpina had spent plenty of time fine-tuning the chassis setup to deliver a superior handling package that was still practical. Uprated springs and dampers were fitted in place of the originals and although the ride was slightly firmer, it was far from harsh or uncomfortable. The ride was helped by the use of softer non-run-flat tyres fitted to the classic Alpina multi-spoke wheels measuring 18-inches in diameter and eight-inches wide at the front and nine-inches at the rear. They were fitted with 245/40/18 and 265/40/18 tyres and 19-inch Classic or Dynamic wheels were an optional extra.

    Exterior styling was typically Alpina. There was a small lip spoiler added to the bottom of the front bumper and four exhaust tips emerged from underneath the modified rear bumper. All but the Touring models featured a subtle lip spoiler mounted on top of the bootlid, which finished off the additions nicely.

    On the inside the dials were, of course, blue with red needles, as with all Alpinas, and the analogue mpg indicator mounted below the rev counter was replaced with an oil temperature gauge showing from 70 to 170º Celsius. The digital display between the clocks showed a speed readout as well as all of the usual mpg calculations. Alpina logos were fitted to the backs of the seats and the steering wheel featured green and blue stitching, finished with a centre Alpina badge to replace the BMW roundel. There was also a build plaque with an individual build number fitted, too. The price for all this was £44,500, which was a lot of money but then you were getting a lot of car.

    After two years of production along came the B3’s replacement. Named the B3 S, it was an evolution of the previous car that seemingly did the impossible by coupling improved performance, power and torque with reduced fuel consumption and better emissions. Based upon the face-lifted E9x range it was available in the same choice of platforms as before. However, whilst BMW chose to move on to the newer, updated #N55 engine, which did away with the twin-turbo setup in favour of a single twin-scroll turbo, Alpina instead decided to stick to what it knew. So the same N54 engine found in the B3 was kept on but further modified. The key changes were to the air intake and filter setup which were redesigned to optimise minimal pressure loss. The exhaust system was also improved to address backpressure and together the modifications effectively allowed air to pass into the engine more efficiently and gases to leave more efficiently. Boost pressure was also slightly increased, again to 1.2bar.

    Despite the relatively minor touches the end result was a class-leading 133hp per litre, or 400hp peak at 6000rpm. Torque was also up to 397lb ft at 4500rpm and the same 294lb ft of torque available at just 1300rpm. That equated to an even faster 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds and a top speed of a truly staggering 186mph for the saloon and coupé versions. The convertible again trailed slightly behind, at 185mph, but the Touring was quoted as touching 189mph, which were all supercar-baiting speeds not so many years ago.

    On the outside the front lip spoiler was of a different design to match the BMW’s face-lifted front bumper and whilst the rear lip spoiler was the same there was now a matching diffuser fitted at the rear underneath the bumper to house the four exhaust tips. The wheels, tyres and interior details remained virtually the same though.

    The car didn’t come cheap: a convertible cost a whopping £55,250 back in 2010. The B3 S wasn’t quite as successful as its predecessor, largely due to the D3 Bi-Turbo diesel version now accounting for a majority of Alpina sales. It was replaced in 2013 with the new F3x model.


    Bodywork

    The E9x range isn’t really affected by rust issues so when it comes to the B3 and B3 S it’s far more important to make sure everything is present and correct. Replacement spoilers are available but they are very expensive and if the car has been in an accident before they may not have been replaced with the correct item, so check carefully. Both the B3 and B3 S models should have an Alpina front lip spoiler below the front bumper although they are different in design between the two models due to the shape of the front bumpers. Check to make sure it’s not damaged as they do lower the car’s front-end ground clearance. There should be a small lip spoiler on the bootlid for all models except the Touring and the B3 will have what looks like a standard 335i rear bumper but with larger cutouts for the four-tailpipes. Only the B3 S has an additional diffuser added to the bottom of the rear bumper. Items such as graphics/stripes can still be ordered from Alpina.


    Buying one

    The big concern with buying an Alpina has always been to make sure you are actually buying the real thing and not a replica. It’s a lot easier to tell nowadays than it used to be but you should still make sure you know what you’re looking at as some cars are particularly subtle. Aside from the front and rear spoilers, key signs will be on the inside. Look for the blue dials and an oil temperature gauge in place of the mpg indicator. Make sure the correct Switchtronic buttons and build plaque are there. The plaque is mounted up on the roof by the interior lights. If any of these aren’t present find out why. The other easy way to tell should be by the engine. From opening the bonnet, the B3 should have a badge on the front of the engine cover, and the B3 S will have an Alpina badge in place of the BMW roundel with Alpina Bi-Turbo written on the cover to the right-hand side. It should be obvious from the way it drives, too. On the road, it’s a very fast car and it should feel every bit of it with a pleasant accompanying soundtrack to go with it. Although they are quite heavy cars they hide it well and in the real world they can hold their own against an E9x M3 in most scenarios. The steering is sharp and the ride is still firm enough to be fun but usable on even the bumpiest roads.

    Your other big concern when buying a B3 or B3 S will be finding one. As mentioned, the more practical D3 Bi-Turbo was available at the same sort of time and it outsold the B3 by ten to one in some cases. As a result, the petrol versions were rare cars when they were new so be prepared to take what you can get if you want one. The earlier B3 was the more popular of the two but only 111 examples were sold in the UK, made up of 50 coupés, 44 convertibles, 15 saloons and just two Tourings. The B3 S was even rarer and only 43 UK examples were sold, made up of 24 convertibles, 12 coupés, four saloons and three Tourings. Based on those numbers and how rare they are it’s best to have an idea of what model you want, be realistic about how likely you are to find one and then keep an eye on what comes up and be willing to compromise. Price-wise, there are never many for sale but search the internet and specialist forums enough and you should find one or two pop up. The cheapest we found was £18,995 for a 2008 B3 saloon with 57,000 miles on it and some nice options fitted. We also found a 2008 B3 saloon in white with the optional 19-inch wheels and 38,000 miles under its belt for £22,950. Top of the pile was a 2011 B3 S convertible with just 13,000 miles for a wholesome £33,000. If you’re after a Touring be ready to wait it out.

    On the road, it’s a very fast car and it should feel every bit of it with a pleasant accompanying soundtrack to go with it.

    Interior

    Alpinas have always been famous for the sometimes extravagant choice of their interior colours, so don’t be surprised if the leather trim is finished in a loud colour, although most of the time it will be black. If the steering wheel is worn or stitching is discoloured you can still order a replacement direct from Alpina, but be warned, it is extremely expensive.

    Have a good look over the interior’s general condition; these cars are usually well-looked-after with low mileages but make sure it’s all as it should be and all of the individual Alpina items are in place. Also, make sure the convertible and coupé models hand you the seat belt as you close the door as this mechanism can fail.

    Steering and suspension

    The suspension setup on the B3 models was specially modified by Alpina and doesn’t use regular #BMW components for the important bits. Instead, it features Bilstein dampers with Eibach springs to give the firmer ride and although most B3 and B3 S models haven’t covered many miles, those that have might find these becoming a little tired now. It’s not hard to get replacements though as these can still be bought direct from Alpina.

    Aside from any unusual noises to listen out for there shouldn’t be too much to worry about otherwise, although be aware the stiffer suspension and larger wheels with lower profile tyres will give a harsher ride than you perhaps might be used to, although it’s still good for a sports saloon.

    Also, brakes always seem to wear out quickly on the E9x models and the Alpina puts added strain on them due to it enhanced performance, so expect brake wear to be a common occurrence.

    Wheels, tyres and brakes

    Needless to say all cars came with Alpina wheels and the standard fit items were the multi-spoke Classic in 18-inch diameter with staggered rears an inch wider. Also fairly common were the upgraded 19-inch wheels in either the Classic or Dynamic design, the latter featuring spaced spokes in a star-shaped pattern. All Alpina cars ran Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres from new and none were run-flats, so make sure there are provisions in case of a flat tyre as the E9x was never designed to carry one.

    Alpina B3/B3S Bi-Turbo

    ENGINE: Six-cylinder, twin-turbo #N54B30
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    BORE/STROKE: 84.0x89.6mm
    MAX POWER: 360hp (400)
    MAX TORQUE: 369lb ft (397)
    PRICE (NEW): From £46,950 (49,250)

    Saloon #BMW-E90-Alpina-B3
    0-62MPH: 4.8 seconds (4.7)
    TOP SPEED: 177mph (186)
    ECONOMY: 28.8mpg (29.1)
    EMISSIONS: 234g/km (224)

    Coupé
    0-62MPH: 4.8 seconds (4.7)
    TOP SPEED: 177mph (186)
    ECONOMY: 291.mpg (29.1)
    EMISSIONS: 232g/km (224)

    Touring
    0-62MPH: 4.9 seconds (4.8)
    TOP SPEED: 175mph (189)
    ECONOMY: 28.5mpg (29.1)
    EMISSIONS: 237g/km (225)

    Convertible
    0-62MPH: 5.0 seconds (4.9)
    TOP SPEED: 174mph (185)
    ECONOMY: 28.5mpg (29.1)
    EMISSIONS: 237g/km (225)
    Figures in brackets (in all above panels) refer to B3S
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