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Alpina vs M: Which recipe for ultimate BMW performance is best?

The XD3 will be Alpina Australia’s newest model, powered by a 245kW/700Nm turbo-diesel powerplant.

If you wanted a go-fast BMW in the past, the clear choice would be a German car with an M badge.

The M car line-up currently encompasses models from the baby M2 Competition coupe, all the way up to the bahn-storming M5 Competition sedan, and as also recently filled out with the likes of the X3 and X4 M SUVs.

But M division aren’t the only ones to build high performance BMWs, as Alpina has stepped up its game – and Australian presence – to offer a more luxurious alternative to the track-focused M offerings.

Launched in late 2016, Alpina products are available locally through eight outlets beginning with BMW Doncaster in Melbourne and expanding to Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney.

More than just a bodykit and wheel upgrade, Alpina aims for a more comfort-oriented tune of engines and transmissions without sacrificing any performance.

Unlike other tuners however, Alpina has nearly unfettered access to the BWM production line as its models are produced right alongside the standard cars.

So close is their relationship, the Alpina B3 Touring (revealed at this year’s Frankfurt motor show) is actually the first production passenger car to be fitted with the S58 engine – the same one rumoured to be featured in the yet-to-be-revealed new-generation M3 and M4 pair.

The new B3 generates 340kW and 700Nm from its turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine. The new B3 generates 340kW and 700Nm from its turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine.

Though the engine made its debut with the X3 and X4 M mid-size SUVs, producing as much as 375kW/600Nm in Competition form, under the bonnet of the B3 Touring, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo in-line six produces 340kW/700Nm.

Crucially however, the B3 Touring is available exclusively in a wagon body style, while BMW has stated the new M3 will strictly be limited to a sedan form.

With outputs in the B3 Touring sent to the road via an Alpina-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel-drive system, expect to see the zero-to-100km/h sprint knocked over in less than 4.0 seconds, bettering the outgoing rear-drive-only B3’s and rival Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate’s 4.3 and 4.0s times respectively.

Though the B3 Touring has not been confirmed for an Australian launch, the local arm is building a business case for the new model, but expect to see the B3 sedan Down Under late next year with the same powerplant priced around $140,000 before on-road costs.

Alpina Australia also offers a 4 Series-based 324kW/660Nm B4 S, which retails for $149,900 and $159,900 for the coupe and convertible respectively, compared to the 331kW/550Nm M4 Competition that costs $156,529 and $167,829 in fixed-roof and drop-top form.

The 5 Series-based B5 is available in both sedan and wagon formats. The 5 Series-based B5 is available in both sedan and wagon formats.

Meanwhile, the B5 – Alpina’s take on the 5 Series – is now available in both sedan and wagon formats, whereas the M5 is only available in the former body style.

Sharing the same 4.4-lite twin-turbo petrol V8 engine, the B5 develops 447kW/800Nm compared to the M5 Competition’s 460kW/750Nm output, while both send drive to the road via an eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

While the M5 Competition is quicker from 0-100km/h with a time of 3.3s, compared to the B5’s 3.5s time, the former is also more expensive at $229,900 than the latter’s $210,000/$217,000 sedan/wagon pricing.

For those wanting something a bit bigger, Alpina also offers its 7 Series-based B7, which shares the same 447kW/800Nm 4.4-lite engine as the B5, for $369,720.

Though BMW do not offer a full-fat M version of the 7 Series large sedan, the closes B7 competitor would be the 448kW/850Nm twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12-powered M760Li that retails for $378,900.

The Alpina B7 is armed with the same 447kW/800Nm 4.4-lite engine as the B5. The Alpina B7 is armed with the same 447kW/800Nm 4.4-lite engine as the B5.

Alpina Australia will also launch its first SUV locally soon with the XD3 mid-size crossover, expected to be one of its most popular models given the healthy appetite for high riders.

Wearing a pricetag of $109,900, the X3-based XD3 is positioned more as an $99,900 X3 M40i alternative than a $157,900 X3 M Competition rival, but boasts a 245kW/700Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six diesel engine as a point of difference.

In overseas markets, the XD3 is also available with a quad-turbocharged engine producing 285kW/770Nm, while the X4-based XD4 coupe SUV is built exclusively with the higher-tune engine.

A business case is still being made to bring the XD4 to local showrooms, and given that the X4 accounts for about a quarter of BMW’s mid-size SUV sales, the outlook is looking positive.

A business case is still being made to bring the XD4 to local showrooms. A business case is still being made to bring the XD4 to local showrooms.

Those hoping for a cheaper Alpina though, might be disappointed to learn that the company won’t tune anything smaller than the 3 Series, leaving the likes of the new-generation 1 Series and 2 Series off the table.

As such, there will be no Alpina alternative to the M2 Competition and the new-generation all-paw M135i, while electrified models, such as the i3, 530e and plug-in X5 SUV, are also off the table for the luxury-focused tuner.