What is it?
The Alpina B3 GT3, the official BMW tuner’s take on the wild M3 GTS. Just 99 have been built, celebrating the company’s success in the German GT championship with a B6 GT3. It costs £66,950.
The GT3 versions of Alpina’s iconic multi-spoke Classic wheels are 25 per cent lighter and the titanium Akrapovic exhaust saves another 11kg. Behind the Himalaya Grey front wheels are blue six-pot calipers clamping 380mm discs. Nestled beneath the bonnet is essentially the same 3-litre straight-six as the standard B3 S Biturbo, albeit with an 8bhp increase to push it up to 402bhp (42bhp down on the M3 GTS) and 398lb ft (74lb ft up on the GTS). The propulsion then reaches the back wheels through a Drexler limited-slip diff.
The biggest mechanical change, however, is reserved for the suspension. Although it obviously doesn’t get the wider rear axle of an M3, it does get fully adjustable coilovers at each corner. Not only is the ride-height tuneable, but the dampers are also 12-way tweakable in compression and 18-way in rebound. Thankfully Alpina doesn’t leave you to make a hash of it all and there are three pre-determined, progressively firmer set-ups for the chassis. We’re trying it in the ‘road’ setting (the least firm of the three).
What’s it like to drive?
Rarely have I driven a car that felt so right so quickly. The steering weight, handling balance and chassis grip all seem perfectly matched – there’s not a particular aspect that jumps out, but the whole package is beguiling. There’s slightly less hardcore grip than a BMW M3 at each end, but that’s part of what makes it feel so friendly and encouraging every time you start linking corners and working the Michelin Pilot Sport 2s.
The twin-turbo engine is as silky-smooth and effortlessly punchy as you’d imagine, and it sounds good too, the straight-six regaining some of the old E46’s metallic timbre as you rev it harder. Although the six-speed automatic perhaps lacks the edge that you’d expect from something called GT3, it is super-slick in its changes and somehow matches the delivery of the engine. Suspension-wise the car feels perfectly set-up for a B-road: firm enough to give you confidence and feedback, but with enough compliance to soak up any mid-corner lumps and not get distracted from your line.
Despite not being as hardcore as you’d expect, the end result of the Alpina is definitely more than the sum of its parts.
How does it compare?
It’s a different car to the BMW M3 GTS, not least because it costs half the price. The Alpina B3 GT3’s more conventional rivals are the £59,150, 444bhp Audi RS5 Quattro, £54,720, 414bhp BMW M3 and £58,130, 451bhp Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe. All of them are V8-powered and more potent, but not as special or rare.
Anything else I need to know?
The Alpina B3 GT3 competed in evo Car of the Year 2012, and you can see Tiff Needell enjoying some sideways action on track in this video.