The ActiveHybrid 3 is the gas-electric variant of BMW's 3-Series compact luxury sedan. Though it handles better than the vast majority of hybrid vehicles on the market, a steep price and thoroughly unimpressive fuel economy mean the ActiveHybrid 3 doesn't make much sense from a financial or environmental standpoint.
The ActiveHybrid 3 shares a 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with the conventially-powered 335i. This gas engine gets a boost from an electric motor housed within the car's eight-speed automatic transmission that essentially takes the place of the torque converter and provides 54 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. Total system output is a healthy 335 ponies and 332 lb-ft of twist (hybrids require some fuzzy math), enough to scoot the sedan from zero-to-60 mph in a scant 5.3 seconds.
Despite those performance credentials, the ActiveHybrid 3's electric motor is also capable of propelling the car by itself at speeds of up to 45 mph for as far as 2.5 miles, provided the driver has a light right foot. Electric power is sourced from a battery mounted in the floor of the trunk, where it doesn't intrude into cargo space.
The hybrid powertrain adds just under 300 pounds to the ActiveHybrid 3's weight, however, which plays a role in the sedan's dissapointing efficiency ratings. It returns 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway - not terrible figures, but virtually identical to much less expensive 335i's 23/33 mpg figures. This begs the question - why, exactly, would you bother paying extra for the ActiveHybrid 3?
Better Living Through Technology
The ActiveHybrid 3 comes standard with Driving Dynamics Control, which includes numerous modes that alter accelerator response characteristics, engine response, power steering characteristics, stability control settings, transmission shift characteristics, and, if the vehicle is equipped with Adaptive M Suspension, the damping characteristics as well. A hybrid-specific setting is ECO PRO mode, which is essentially a mode for those looking to hypermile.
In ECO PRO mode, the combustion engine can be switched off and fully decoupled while coasting at speeds of up to 100 mph. Like all gas-electric hybrids, the ActiveHybrid 3 is also equipped with start-stop to eliminate fuel waste at traffic lights or in stop-and-go traffic.
The ActiveHybrid 3's navigation system (when equipped) analyzes driving conditions based on a selected route, and adjusts the car's powertrain and systems accordingly. This enables the drive components to be primed to deliver maximum economy based on available data.
Hybrid To the Power Of 3
Hybrid powertrain aside, the ActiveHybrid 3 is essentially identical to the standard 3-Series, which recently received a complete redesign inside and out. The exterior remains faithful to BMW's current, understated design language, with one flashy exception being a unique rendition of the automaker's dual kidney grille that protrudes from the headlights. ActiveHybrid 3 badging on the C-pillars and trunklid set the car apart from its conventionally-powered siblings.
Inside, the interior is standard 3-Series fare, meaning it features a fixed information display above the dashboard, loads of high quality materials and good rear-seat space for the segment. Differences include displays for the electric motor's boost function, energy flow and energy recuperation located within the tachometer.
Standard and Optional Features
The ActiveHybrid 3 comes well-equipped with leatherette upholstery, power adjustable front seats, an AM/FM/CD stereo system with HD radio and an iPod input jack, an 8.8-inch full color flat-screen display, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, automatic climate control, dynamic cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Highlights from the options list, which rivals Infinite Jest in length, include a navigation system, a heads-up display, heated seats, genuine leather upholstery and a 13-speaker, 420-watt sound system.
Standard safety features include dual front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems. A blind-spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system with cross traffic assist are optional.
The ActiveHybrid 3 is currently all by its lonesome in the compact sport-luxury hybrid sedan segment. Buyers could conceivably cross-shop rides like the Lincoln MKZ hybrid and Lexus ES 300h, which are larger and less expensive but significantly less powerful and athletic. Larger, pricier hybrids like the Lexus GS 300h and Infiniti M Hybrid might also be worth a look.