Over the last couple of years I’ve gotten very familiar with the G01 X3 platform. You could almost say I’m an expert on the subject though I had no intent on becoming so acquainted with it. In 2018 I drove the X3 x20d across Italy, in 2019 I drove the bi-turbo diesel Alpina XD3, and a few months ago I drove the M-fettled X3 M Competition on a 1000km road trip in Japan. Now I’ve tested what’s perhaps the strangest interpretation of this platform yet – the quad-turbo diesel Alpina XD4.
As the name suggests the Alpina XD4 is based on the X4, which is based on the X3. Still with me? The XD4 is only available in left-drive with an Alpina fettled version of BMW’s monstrous B57 3.0-litre inline-six quad turbo diesel engine. I spend a couple days with the $200,000 XD4 to see if it’s worth the extra coin over the sublime XD3 and if those extra pairs of turbos actually make a difference.
Five Things I Like About The Alpina XD4
Torquey smooth diesel engine
Diesel engines are slowly dying away after a certain incident five years ago. But of the few that remain, this quad-turbo engine is one of the best. Actually, it’s easily the best diesel engine I’ve experienced. It’s incredibly torquey, 770NM worth and it’s even packing some power with 285kW. That’s more than sufficient. I remember the first time I floored it, there was some delay with the kickback but then it just shot off. It’s not supercar fast but it does surprise you at how quickly it catapults all 2100kg of its bulk into the horizon. 0-100 km/h is done in 4.6 seconds, making it the fastest accelerating diesel SUV. It’s top speed of 268 km/h isn’t anything to scoff at either. It’s a surreal experience when all four turbos spool up but if I’m being perfectly honest the bi-turbo XD3 is probably as much as you’d need. Being able to say you have a quad turbo engine is a nice novelty though.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no performance car rides as well as an Alpina. No car with low profile 22 inch wheels (standard XD4 sits on 20 inch wheels) should have a ride as supple and relaxing as this. It dampens the harshest of bumps unlike any other car this side of a Rolls Royce. I took on some familiar roads near where I live, roads I know are rough and bouncy in most cars, but in Alpina it felt like they’ve been repaved overnight. It’s incredible. With forgiving suspension and dampers you’d expect the pay off would be roly-poly behaviour around corners but it even manages to keep that in check.
So much refinement
Ride and handling are definitely more on the comfort side but the rest of the car gets a bump in refinement too. You get double glazed windows, soft premium leather, and the ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox has seamless shifts making the whole driving experience of the XD4 more refined than anything in this segment. I just can’t get over how comfortable this car is compared to the X3M I had previously which had a ride harsher than falling down some stairs. Not only that but the rest of the XD4 just felt like it was there to make your life easier. The stop/start was smooth and worked perfectly all the time, the adaptive cruise control was one of the best in the business, the automatic headlights and wipers came on at the exact time they needed to without any delays. Best of all, even when you had the speakers on full volume the rear view mirror didn’t vibrate at all. Now that’s quality.
BMW tech is still class leading
Despite Alpina being a low volume manufacturer, their cars are built alongside their BMW counterparts on the same production line so they all have the same up-to-date technology. That means you benefit from the latest iDrive (which in my opinion is still the best OEM infotainment on the market), BMW’s suite of safety features including the aforementioned adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, blind spot assist, lane keep assist, parking assist, and adaptive LED headlights. I also like the ‘Hey BMW’ feature which is a great gimmick to entertain you on longer trips.
It’s a low key flex
You’re unlikely to ever come across another one of these. Of the 1600 or so cars Alpina is able to produce per year, about 400 of those end up in Japan. Of those 400, about half are made up of B3 and D3 sales. The XD4 is about as exclusive as exclusive gets. In the two years it’s been in production less than 200 have been made. That makes it significantly rarer than most exotic supercars today but to the untrained eye it looks just like any other BMW. I like that about Alpinas. It’s a car appreciated by people in the know. If you didn’t know what it was you wouldn’t give it a second look. That’s why Alpinas in Japan are the daily driver of choice for the discerning supercar owner.
Five Things I Dislike About The Alpina XD4
Where’s all the headroom gone?
To make it look more like a coupe, even though it’s a SUV, BMW’s designers gave it a swoopy rear end. If you squint hard enough you can almost see a coupe silhouette from the side. Anyway, because of this styling decision the rear headroom is significantly less than that in a X3. I’m not particularly tall, I’m about 5’10 and I got in the back of the XD4 and wondered where all the headroom had gone. I remembered in the X3 it was plentiful. Not only that but the boot is smaller as a result of the tapered rear end.
Another negative of the swoopy coupe-like rear end of the X4 you don’t get the same visibility you would in the more practical X3. In fact, seeing out the back was like looking through a letter box. BMW really took the coupe thing literally and gave it the visibility of a sports car. All the glass in this car is narrower than they would be in the X3 and since I was sitting on the wrong side of the car it felt larger.
Just a tad too big for most of Tokyo roads
Adding on to that, the X4 is a smidgen wider than the X3 but throws in the fact you’ve got less visibility and you’re now sat on the wrong side of the car and it makes the XD4 a bit more awkward to drive around most of Tokyo’s narrow roads. As great as it would be to daily drive this car, it’s certainly more at home on the motorway.
Only available in left-hand drive
Another negative is that the XD4 is only available in left hand drive markets. So if you want one you’re going to have to source one from Japan or another left-hand drive market where Alpinas are sold.
Not convinced by the SUV-Coupe trend
This one is more personal preference but I’m not entirely sure about the looks of all these SUV-Coupe things. The XD4 with its Alpina extras, stripes, quad exhausts, and gorgeous 22-inch wheels certainly help on the styling front. I think this is about as good as a X4 can look. If the XD3 came with this engine it’d be one of the most complete all rounders.