With cities around the world imposing limits on cars due to the ever increasing hazard of particulate emissions, VW’s infamous dieselgate scandal and recent tests suggesting many modern oil-burners pollute a lot more than they’re supposed to, the future of the diesel car is looking decidedly dicey. Governments across the globe pushed the things for years due to their temptingly low cO2 figures, without thinking about nasty stuff like nOX and particulate matter, a pertinent issue given that most new clean diesels aren’t anywhere near as clean as we thought.
For the most part, you’d think die-hard petrolheads wouldn’t care much for the demise of the devil’s fuel, but there are a few stupidly quick diesels we hope stick around. The BMW 335d XDrive Touring is one example, since it seems to tick every box going. It’s fast, it handles well, has a massive boot and is very economical. It’s all things to all men, and laughs in the face of every single other car that motoring journalists have labelled as a ‘great all-rounder’. Well, all except one: the Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo Touring.
That’s because the D3 Bi-Turbo is Alpina’s take on the 335d. It has the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel unit stuffed behind those kidney grilles, only here, the intercooler has been tweaked and the stock turbos have been swapped for a pair of smaller, variable geometry blowers. We’re now looking at 345bhp and a monstrous 516lb ft of torque, up from 309bhp and 465lb ft.
That means this big chunk of 3-series with its massive boot and 50mpg+ capability can do 0-62mph in an astonishing 4.6 seconds, just a tenth off the official figure for the previous-generation M3. Oh, and it’ll do 171mph. On paper at least, the D3 seems about as close to existing as an F80 M3 Touring has ever come. But what’s it like in reality?
Certainly when you fire it up, there’s not quite the same sense of drama. BMW’s straight-six diesels are among the smoothest oil-burners out there, but even the Alpina exhibits a little unrefined clatter after twisting the key and settling to a relatively quiet idle. But once you’re moving, the raw speed means you cease to care about noise.
The mid-range punch is simply absurd, thrusting you back into your seat and pinning you there from 2000rpm and up. However fast you’re going, wherever you are - all it takes is a quick pivot of your right ankle and within seconds you can be doing triple figure speeds. It’s a bloody quick car, this.
Peak power comes in at 4000rpm, at which point you’ll want to change up, as it’s after that where the engine’s relatively satisfying - albeit hushed - six-pot hum transforms into a harsh, industrial din, and of course the power starts to drop off. Then, you get to flick the right-hand paddle to swiftly bang home another gear on the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, which is as slick and effortlessly fast as ever.
An interesting quirk of the D3 is that it’s rear-wheel drive - four-wheel drive isn’t even optional. Apparently it’s a packaging issue, which is weird considering you can have the BMW 335d in all-wheel drive form. In fact, you can only buy it with all four wheels powered in the UK. So, it won’t be quite as useful if the weather’s crap, but it makes it much more playful. The D3 will happily spin up its rears on a hard launch, as if to insist it isn’t your usual humdrum diesel.
It’ll also wiggle its bottom on corner exits too, but this is never a worry. Sure, it’ll still roll a bit, but never enough to be a problem, and there’s enough give in the suspension to let you hammer down the most broken up B-road without feeling like you’re battling to keep it on the road. Quite how Alpina has managed these levels of suspension wizardry without employing a bearded bloke with a cane who likes to shout ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS’ at people, we’re not sure.
It’s important to remember that behind those gorgeous multi-spoke 20-inch rims and the low-slung, Alpina-branded splitter, this is still a 3-series Touring. So you’ve got all the luggage space you could ever want, a comfortable interior and iDrive, which is one of the best infotainment systems out there. Oh, and its rotary control is the most satisfying knob I’ve ever had the joy of twiddling in a car.
This is all shaping up like there should be a catch, and there is one: the price. A BMW 335d xDrive Touring will set you back £42,350, which is quite a lot of money. The D3 Bi-Turbo? £49,950, damn near an £8000 premium. And that’s before you start speccing extra equipment - you’ll almost certainly want to tick the £1890 limited-slip differential option our test car had, for example.
But is it the M3 Touring BMW never made? Supremely competent though it is, it doesn’t offer up quite the same thrills. It doesn’t have that juggling with hand grenades feel to it that the boisterous M3 possesses, so I’d have to say no. But in a lot of ways - thanks to the comfort, the suppleness and the economy mixed with that ridiculous pace - it really is better than that.