2013 BMW 3 SERIES REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury mid-size sedan.
Price: $97,700 (plus on-roads), $108,560 (as tested)
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.9 l/100km | tested: 9.9 l/100km
It’s cool to be green.
Even top-end automotive manufacturers are getting in on ‘the green thing’. In Europe in particular, the rush is on to be in the game.
Like BMW’s luxo-hybrid, the BMW Activehybrid 3.
You could of course be fooled by its green credentials, but don’t be - this car is as much about performance as it is about tree-hugging.
So it’s green with a twist; lots of twist in fact.
Quality: Materials are superb and build quality is hard to fault.
Equipped with the optional M Sport package ($6100), our tester featured classy patterned aluminium trim, which contrasted nicely with the sea of black throughout the rest of the cabin.
Silver accents on the centre console, air-vents and door handles also break up the unrelenting black, and the thick-rimmed M Sport steering wheel is nicely trimmed in smooth leather.
Hard plastics on the lower portion of the centre console however detract from the overall premium feel of the cabin (but they’re not easily noticed).
Comfort: As a part of the M Sport package, our car came with the optional Sports seats with thicker bolsters on the squab and backrest.
There’s an enormous range of adjustment to the steering column and the flexible seating adjustment makes it easy to get cosy behind the wheel - whatever your size.
As a RWD medium sedan, rear seat legroom is at a premium in the 3 Series.
Transmission tunnel height also means the centre seat is for emergencies only, however face-level air vents and headrests on all three rear seats means back seat comfort is generally good.
Equipment: The Activehybrid 3 boasts an extensive list of standard equipment, with bi-xenon headlamps, keyless ignition, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, high-end sat-nav package, trip computer and an 8.8-inch colour LCD multifunction display.
A thumping Harmon Kardon sound system is also standard, with USB/aux input, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth.
The optional M Sport package ($6100), bundles in 19-inch alloys, sports seats, blacked-out exterior trim and external dress-up bits.
An electric glass sunroof ($2920) was also fitted.
Storage: After becoming accustomed to hybrids with severely-compromised boot spaces (we’re looking at you, Infiniti M35h), the Activehybrid 3’s boot is a real surprise.
Instead of a giant battery pack lurking behind a bulkhead, there’s... well... nothing. The floor is flat, there are no obstructions to the rear seat pass-through and for all the average punter knows there isn’t a battery there at all.
Instead, the low-profile lithium-ion battery pack is squeezed into the small gap between the boot floor and the lower sheetmetal.
Of course this means there’s no provision for a spare wheel, and with 390 litres of seats-up storage space the Activehybrid 3 is 90 litres shy of its non-hybrid brethren. At a glance though, you’d be hard-pressed to tell.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: What do you get when you combine BMW’s outstanding 3.0 litre turbocharged inline six with an electric motor? V8-shaming acceleration, that’s what.
The Activehybrid 3’s electric assistance motor is sandwiched between BMW’s by-now-familiar turbo six and eight-speed automatic, and adds a substantial 25kW and 50Nm to the petrol six’s 225kW/400Nm outputs.
The combination is perfect. The electric motor adds punch down low in the rev range where the turbocharger is off its game, while the petrol engine sings smoothly and delivers great power right up until its 7000rpm redline.
It’s a tremendously linear powertrain and it’s got noticeably more muscle than a regular ol’ 335i sedan.
In fact, with a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds, it’s not only the fastest 3 Series sedan currently available (at least until the next-gen M3 4-door arrives), but the fastest hybrid production car on the planet.
The eight-speed auto delivers seamless shifts and rev-matches cleanly when going down through the ratios, but - even in manual mode - automatically upshifts at the redline.
So the performance is fantastic then, but what about its eco credentials?
On its own, the electric motor produces 40kW and 210Nm, and it’s enough to (slowly) propel the Activehybrid 3 to 80km/h on electric power alone for up to 4km (bettering the 2km EV range of most other hybrids).
With a gentle right foot, it’s possible to slug through heavy traffic without awakening the turbo six. This is where the Activehybrid shows its worth. It’s blisteringly quick on the open road, but it can very easily morph into a fuel-efficient daily driver.
However, we didn’t get close to the factory quoted combined fuel economy figure of 5.9 l/100km. Instead we recorded an average of 9.9 l/100km over the space of a week.
A pretty average figure for a supposedly eco-friendly car, but more frugal than what we could achieve with a 335i (11.0 l/100km, for the record).
At speeds of up to 160km/h the Activehybrid 3 can coast with its petrol engine switched off. However, unlike the Infiniti M35h the Activehybrid 3 can’t maintain triple-digit speeds solely on electric power while on level ground.
As a consequence, its highway fuel consumption rating of 6.4 l/100km is markedly higher than its city fuel consumption of 5.3 l/100km
It is, however, able to sustain an 80km/h cruising speed in EV mode, so significant fuel savings can be had if your commute includes sections of 70-80km/h roads.
Refinement: With the petrol engine off, it’s as quiet as a church inside the Activehybrid 3.
There’s only a slight vibration as the engine stops and starts, and the transition between electric and petrol power is nearly seamless.
Suspension: Handling is always a highlights of a BMW, and the Activehybrid 3 doesn’t disappoint.
The electric power steering could use a little more feedback, but turn-in is swift and direct, and traction in corners is excellent.
It’s comfortable around the suburbs too, thanks to a suspension tune that’s relatively soft for a performance sedan. It can feel a little under-damped over bigger undulations, but BMW offers adaptive dampers ($1400) for a more buttoned-down feel.
Braking: There’s some inconsistency to braking force at low speeds, which is typical for cars with regenerative braking systems.
At higher speeds, though, the brake pedal is firm, responsive and linear, and the powerful opposed-piston calipers and ventilated discs generate strong stopping power.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Safety equipment includes six airbags, stability and traction control, ABS brakes with emergency brake assist and cornering brake control. Adjustable headrests and three point seatbelts are fitted to all seats.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres, additionally paintwork is warranted for three years, and body panels for up to 12 years against corrosion.
Service costs: BMW does not set servicing intervals for the 3 Series; servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Here we have an issue. What do we compare the Activehybrid 3 to?
There are no direct competitors with a similar powertrain configuration (at least, not until the Lexus IS hybrid arrives).
Logically, you could line it up against luxury sedans of a similar price, but, for now, the BMW Activehybrid 3 is all by its lonesome in a niche of its own.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Forget the old cliche of “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. The BMW Activehybrid 3 is more a 100m sprinter wearing hemp pants and a rastacap.
It’s perhaps a token effort at environmental friendliness, but BMW already has a broad range of diesels for those who really care about fuel consumption.
Rather, the Activehybrid 3’s strengths lie squarely in its scalding performance - it’s a deceptively-fast machine.
It isn’t too shabby around a corner either; we’d confidently call the Activehybrid 3 the best performance hybrid on the market today.
It is expensive, sure, but for those who crave more performance than the 335i can offer out of the box, but don’t want the fuel bills associated with an M3, the BMW Activehybrid 3 offers a very convenient solution.
- Related News & Reviews at TMR ▼
- 3 Series | Activehybrid models | BMW | Hybrids
- Green Cars | Family Cars | Prestige Cars