Celebrate a winning hybrid
The BMW 3 Series is available in petrol, diesel and now a petrol/electric hybrid form. But this is a hybrid that resolutely refuses to conform to the common stereotype.
Instead of being a mimsy city runabout, this one uses the 306bhp twin-turbo 3.0-litre and then adds the boost of an electric motor to that, resulting in a 340bhp bunch, yet it will return almost 48mpg and 139g/km of CO2.
We've enthused in the past about the performance of the rather wonderful BMW 335i M Sport and the ActiveHybrid 3 takes this platform as a basis and just builds, edging performance towards M3 levels. The 306bhp straight six petrol engine is augmented by a 34bhp boost from the electric motor, helping it to scorch through the 62mph barrier in just 5.3 seconds, helped by a total of 450Nm of torque. Make no mistake, this is an extremely quick car and after some acclimatisation, you'll soon learn how best to harness the electric motor's vast torque to dispatch dawdling traffic.
Drive is deployed through an excellent eight-speed gearbox and BMW has worked hard to ensure that the usual 3 Series trademarks of good steering, a reasonable ride and well balanced handling make the transition relatively unscathed. Most commentators have come to the conclusion that the additional weight of the car is best kept in check by specifying the optional adaptive dampers, which offer a flatter ride through corners. The ActiveHybrid 3 features both regenerative braking and the usual hydraulic setup and you will be able to feel the transition when it switches from one to another.
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There aren't too many clues from the outside that you're looking at something other than a standard 3 Series saloon. There's a subtle badge on the boot, some specific ActiveHybrid alloy wheels and, when the bonnet is propped open, you'll notice a blue stripe on the car's rocker cover. That aside, it's business as usual, which means a decent amount of space inside. This generation 3 Series is 50mm longer in wheelbase than its predecessor, so that perennial gripe of insufficient rear legroom has been remedied to a certain extent.
We should celebrate cars such as the BMW ActiveHybrid 3. After all, it's easy to lose sight of exactly what it represents. It's a smart compact executive car with decent space and equipment levels which then combines the performance of a junior supercar with the economy of a family hatch. Factor in typical BMW build quality, after sales care and residual values and you have a hugely compelling proposition.
BMW has always been a company that looks at technology as an enabler to a more enjoyable driving experience and the ActiveHybrid 3 embodies this philosophy better than many of the recent M cars. This then, is a very BMW BMW. True fans of the marque will know exactly what I mean.