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Driving

What is it like to drive?

For all of the B3’s startling acceleration and top speed figures, its most staggering stat of all concerns its weight. The B3 Touring you see here totals 1,940kg, which is plain bonkers for a 3 Series. And yet it drives with the panache of Threes of old, only with the extra dollop of comfort and luxury Alpina is famed for.

It’s set up so comfortably that our ‘individual’ setup within its drive modes ended up using the stiffer suspension option, which basically never happens. The best combination in a modern performance car is usually its keener engine tune with its softest damping, yet Alpina’s built in so much comfort as stock, you might end up dialling it back when you’re really in the mood.

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Which is also when you’ll really dig into how much power its AWD sends rearwards. This is a car that appeared to have learned its manners from BMW’s own luxury offshoot – Rolls-Royce – the bulk of the time, but which tenses up its muscles and really indulges you when you want.

It’s not brutish like a Mercedes C63, nor is it quite as locked-down in torrid weather as an Audi RS4. Rather it treads a delightfully judged line between the two of them. And there’s no need for gimmicky drift modes when your AWD system is this well calibrated. You’d only crave its missing layer of fully rear-driven mischief if you took it on track. But it’s a two-tonne car once you and a passenger are on board. So you won’t.

On the optional 20in forged alloys you see here, the ride does have a slightly brittle edge on really gnarly roads. But so would anything with wheels so ginormous wearing a Pirelli P Zero with a sidewall so slim. And toggle everything back to Comfort – or even super-squidgy Comfort Plus – and this is as effortless as driving quickly gets, the eight-speed auto smart enough left to its own devices that you might just reserve its paddles for special occasions.

And yikes, is it fast. Its monstrous peak torque figure is just starting to subside as peak power arrives, so despite lashings of low-rev muscle, you ended up wringing out all 7,000 revs whenever the opportunity arises. The B3 sounds brilliant as you do so, suggesting Alpina’s own exhaust system has extracted more character from this engine than BMW’s X3 M managed. Where this all leaves the new M3, we’ll find out in due course.

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