Long before BMW stuck an M badge on a Series, ALPINA was making faster, more exciting 3ers of its own. The E21 ALPINA B6 2.8 it a nutty little thing; a tiny two-door coupe stuffed with a relatively massive 2.8 liter inline-six pulled from a 5 Series and then tweaked by ALPINA. Back in 1981, it must have felt revolutionary. While its modern counterpart, the ALPINA B3 BiTurbo isn’t quite as revolutionary, it’s ever bit the old car’s spiritual successor.

In this new comparison test from Top Gear, we get to see those two very cars go head-to-head. Although, it’s not really a battle between the two but more of a retrospective of where ALPINA’s been and how those qualities translate to modern day cars.

The new ALPINA B3 BiTurbo is an incredible car, especially in its Touring-spec, as it is here. It uses the same S58 engine as the new BMW M3 but only as a starting point. From there, ALPINA gives it new turbochargers, a new intake manifold, new exhaust manifold, a new intercooler and new pistons, just to name a few. So while it makes similar power to the M3, it makes more torque and feels very different. Whereas the M3 engine is high-strung and manic, the ALPINA engine is smooth and sophisticated, even if it’s every bit as powerful. It’s also a smoother driving car than the M3, and really any other 3 Series.

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When you drive the old car, you can see exactly where that smoothness comes from. The old E21 ALPINA B6 2.8 has very similar qualities to the new B3. While it’s obviously much less powerful and uses a five-speed manual, it still prioritizes silky smoothness over hard-edged performance but it still has a naughty side and a playful character all of its own.

All BMW fans love ALPINA and an article like this shows exactly why that is. Long before BMW was building M cars, ALPINA was crafting BMWs that were faster, more exciting, more comfortable and more characterful, all at the same time, and that hasn’t stopped with today’s ALPINAs. The brand’s consistency is a breath of fresh air in a time when BMW is changing so rapidly. That’s why we love ALPINA.

[Source: Top Gear]