BMW’s Activehybrid 3 was always going to be great…but it’s brilliant! Clearly BMW wasn’t about to short-change its hallmark driving pleasure by adding fuel-saving hybrid technology to its top-selling 3 Series and the resultant engineering genius again shows the German marque is right at the top of the game.
As we know, with the launch its ‘i’ sub-brand imminent in Australia, BMW has embraced the global trend to environmental friendliness and sustainability perhaps more so than rival German brands. But the global market is still with internal combustion engines, so the Activehybrid lineup allows BMW to have the best of both worlds.
After a week in the BMW Activehybrid 3, Car Showroom is ready to go hybrid too – a turbocharged six-cylinder hybrid to be precise.
BMW Activehybrid 3 Overview
In a nutshell, for $97,700, BMW gives you a 335i sedan plus a 40kW/210Nm electric motor. Capable of running at low speeds (80km/h maximum) on pure electric power, the zero-emissions addition cuts the combined cycle fuel consumption to 5.9l/100kms.
What it doesn’t cut is BMW’s high-performance driving dynamics. In fact the BMW Activehybrid 3 is rapid – zero to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds ranking it at the front of the ‘non-M’ 3 Series range in that department.
Our test car scored the optional M Sport package with the excellent 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and external aero add-ons. Combine that with the usual rorty turbo-six exhaust note and you get the 3 Series we all love – looks fast, sounds fast, is fast…and it’s a hybrid.
BMW Activehybrid 3 Engine
Typical BMW, engineering the hybrid version of the 3 Series is gob-smackingly brilliant…and complex of course. That’s why sometimes automotive engineers must be bewildered by the environmental enthusiasts and media-grabbing pollies who try to portray the industry as not doing enough.
Consider this: in order to provide the packaging and 3 Series dynamics demanded by its customers (they’re the ones who pay the bills don’t forget), BMW engineers developed a hybrid system which fits in the driveline between the petrol engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Just think for a moment how complex that is…remarkable to say the least.
And that petrol engine is one of the world’s best – BMW’s 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder. Combined with the electric motor, maximum power is 250kW/450Nm.
Drive is to the rear wheels via that eight-speed auto with sequential manual mode.
BMW Activehybrid 3 The Interior
BMW’s 3 Series presents one of the best interiors of the current generation – period. Sure the sports seats in the M Sport package make a difference behind the wheel, but we’re liking BMW’s current interior style – gorgeous instruments in a curved binnacle, the massive 8.8-inch colour LCD multifunction display and the clever off-set for the centre console BMW i-Drive controller (now more compact and allowing extra storage space).
Rake/reach adjustment for the thick M Sport three-spoke steering wheel and plenty of seat adjustment deliver the usual BMW sporty driving position and the upscale Harmon Kardon audio system is right on-par for a vehicle in this price range.
Like its major German rival, rear seat accommodation in the BMW 3 Series isn’t massive but the Car Showroom juniors (ages nine and 10) had no complaints and neither did our golf buddies.
Cargo space is 390-litres (rear seats in place). This is impressive as the BMW Activehybrid 3 places its lithium-ion battery pack under the boot floor (unlike some rivals who reduce cargo capacity rather significantly to house their batteries).
BMW Activehybrid 3 Exterior & Styling
Apart from the ‘Activehybrid 3’ badges tastefully adorning the C-pillars you’re hard-pressed to pick this BMW 3 Series from the regular 335i.
The M Sport pack for our test car brought the glorious 19-inch alloy wheels.
BMW Activehybrid 3 On The Road
Here’s the ‘Ace’ hybrid vehicles like the BMW Activehybrid 3 hold: we left the Car Showroom office in peak hour and negotiated the Melbourne CBD gridlock all without emitting one gram of C02 from the exhaust pipe. In fact it wasn’t until we accelerated past Rod Laver Arena and onto the South Eastern freeway that we heard the familiar growl of BMW’s wonderful turbo-six getting into play.
Same in our local shopping mall while driving, driving and driving looking for a miracle (aka a parking spot) – all electric power and no emissions. And in the car park at Sanctuary Lakes golf club, our BMW 3 Series was emitting no more exhaust CO2s than the electric golf carts.
But hit the open road, in particular our high-speed mountain roads test route, and this thing is BMW 3 Series at its high-performance best: the rapid-fire acceleration, precision turn-in, sublime mid-corner balance, incredible traction and massive stopping power corner, after corner, after corner.
As usual with a BMW 3 Series we just had to select manual for the transmission and lower the windows to hear that glorious six-cylinder working hard.
Now that’s a hybrid we could love!
BMW Activehybrid 3 Challenges
Criticizing a hybrid four-door sedan as good as this is a bit like criticizing Black Caviar’s race record…where’s the downside?
However it must be noted after a day of hard work over the mountains, the BMW Active3 Hybrid was showing fuel consumption on the wrong side of 9.0l/100kms.
BMW Activehybrid 3 Verdict
Seen a pure electric car on the road in the last week? No. What about a hydrogen-fuelled car? No.
You need look no further than its ‘i’ sub-brand vehicles to realize BMW is investing ‘kabillions’ into alternative power sources for cars, but – like all other automotive companies – the German marque is working tirelessly to make internal combustion engines more efficient and less harmful to the environment. Because for at least a decade, if not two, these will be the vehicles demanded by customers.
In that context, the BMW Activehybrid 3 is the best hybrid sedan we have driven. Everything that’s good about the BMW 3 Series with a zero-emissions capability and reduced fuel consumption.
No matter which side of the ‘environmental/green’ fence you sit on, the BMW Activehybrid 3 is a winner.
BMW Activehybrid 3 The Competition
There’s surprising choice already for those shopping for a luxury sports sedans with hybrid drivetrains.
Infiniti has the M35h GT Premium priced at $99,900 and, much like the BMW Activehybrid 3, apart from anything else, keen drivers will appreciate the Infiniti’s 3.5-litre V6 when the going gets twisty.
The same money provides entry to the Lexus GS450h range which runs to $121,900 for the Sport Luxury Model (our pick is the mid-range F Sport model at $111,900).