This £4750 E46 B3 Isn’t The Only Cheap Alpina Around Right Now

If you like your BMWs to stand out in a subtle and superbly engineered way, Alpina is right up your street – and there are bargains to be had

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Alpina - This £4750 E46 B3 Isn’t The Only Cheap Alpina Around Right Now - Used Cars

The classy king of BMW E46s can now be yours for less than five grand. As bargains go, you want in on this one; you want in deep.

If you’re not familiar with Alpina, it’s the company that takes BMWs and makes them even better. Leaning towards a luxury GT kind of attitude Alpina works not just on increasing power and torque, but also making the interior a truly special place to be. Just take a look at the B4 S Edition 99 revealed this week, and you’ll see what we mean.

Alpina - This £4750 E46 B3 Isn’t The Only Cheap Alpina Around Right Now - Used Cars

That’s why any used Alpina is something worth looking at. They’re rare and just a little bit exotic. This generation of B3, named in line with the 3-Series on which it’s based, was a peach. It was built on a 328i or 330i base car; both shared the same basic straight-six engine. Either way, the cylinders were enlarged to create a new 3.3-litre bottom line and a healthy output of 276bhp. Torque rose to a creamier 247lb ft through the midrange.

Alpina - This £4750 E46 B3 Isn’t The Only Cheap Alpina Around Right Now - Used Cars

The enlarged six revved to 7200rpm and ran as smoothly as an electric motor as it whisked you to 62mph in 6.6 seconds and on to a 165mph top speed. It was a gentleman’s take on the E46, which was already a well-balanced handling package. Alpina wheels, a unique shade of green and a rather lovely beige Alpina-branded leather interior (including heated front seats) were among the model’s perks.

Alpina - This £4750 E46 B3 Isn’t The Only Cheap Alpina Around Right Now - Used Cars

This saloon version, the only one on Auto Trader UK at the time of writing, looks in need of a few cosmetic touches to be perfect: various bits have been resprayed badly, the steering wheel looks a little tatty and there’s some predictable wear on the driver’s seat side bolster, but nothing major to speak of.

It’s a Switchtronic automatic with up and down shift buttons on the wheel (a manual would be our preference, but beggars can’t be choosers). All this and a very reasonable 118,000 miles for £4750? That’s a steal.

Alpina - This £4750 E46 B3 Isn’t The Only Cheap Alpina Around Right Now - Used Cars

On the other hand, fuel economy isn’t so great and it’s still an 18-year-old car, so plenty of parts will be tired – not least the suspension. A less fizzy but newer alternative is a four-cylinder diesel D3, from 2007.

You’ll recognise the Alpina wheels again, but this E90 car is packing the base engine from a 320d. Tuned up to 197bhp with 302lb ft behind it, it’s otherwise a similar story – just with fresher legs. The half-leather interior is a little less classy than the B3 here’s, but a more modern cabin that still feels pretty current today could swing it for some buyers. The price? Just £4980 for this fully-documented 160,000-miler. Which would you choose?