Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan & Sammy Chan
There's nothing but silence when you push that new START/STOP ignition button. Lights flash all around the dashboard and you'll hear a soft ghostly echo from what science students like to call electrons. Sounds like a true hybrid. Hit the SPORT button and a whole other manic world emerges from the depths of the new BMW Activehybrid 3. Summing up this car in one word; bipolar. In one second it's silently cruising with nothing but trees coming out of its exhaust, and in the other it's bulleting like a 50 cal. Get this thing some Epival.
Joining the family of BMW Activehybrids, the $58,300 Activehybrid 3 is all about luxury, power, and lowering fuel consumption. As the priciest 3-series in the BMW lineup, you will find the notorious N55 twin-scroll turbocharged inline-six in the front, along with a lithium-ion battery hidden under the rear trunk floor producing a staggering total of 335 horsepower and 330 lb-feet of torque. Costing $7,100 more than a 335i and $14,700 than a 328i, this rear-wheel-drive pony can be quite a hard sell even with the hybrid technology helping its fuel economy (BMW claims it can do a combined 7.0L/100km, which is 2.1 less than the standard automatic 335i).
Even with an extra 35hp, its top speed remains the same as the 335i, but is 0.1 seconds slower from 0-60mph/h, probably due to that 400 pound battery it’s lugging around. For the enthusiast the in-line six is essential, but it seems to make more sense for the price-tag if this hybrid had the four cylinder turbo from the 328i instead.
This techno-savvy car is all about its state-of-the-art ActiveHybrid technology. Being able to run purely on electric power produces a unique and soundless driving experience. On a full battery charge it can go up to four kilometers and to a top speed of 60km/h without the gas engine kicking in. Oh no, 20% battery left? No problem. During overrun and braking, the electric motor automatically acts as a generator and uses the braking energy to continuously charge the battery back up to 100%. While it took some practice, we were actually able to make several daily trips to local restaurants and supermarkets using electric power alone (and of course taking 40km/h residential roads). The trick is to be very delicate with the throttle and feather it lightly when accelerating. The digital dashboard underneath the tachometer shows how much electric power you are applying and it is wise to keep an eye on it. Too much throttle acceleration gives way to the gas engine tapping back into play. Although running only on electric power is a challenge, the Activehybrid 3’s reduced fuel consumption can be quite rewarding, sparing us a few dollars here and there.
Fuel savings don’t end there. Pressing the ECO PRO button makes the Activehybrid 3 OCD-conservative. It lightens the throttle to deliver less power, changes the automatic transmission to up-shift sooner and delay downshifts, reduces energy consumption from the car’s heated mirrors and seats, and also adds a brilliant function called coasting mode. When cruising at speeds of 50-160km/h, simply let go of the throttle and the engine will decouple and turn off, leaving your revs at zero and no harmful exhausts coming out from its pipes. The instrument cluster also changes and lets the driver know how much their driving range has been extended and provides useful tips in saving fuel.
While all this hybrid fuel-saving technology is useful and practical, we can’t seem to justify the $58,300 price tag. The driving experience in ECO PRO mode feels like a 335i trapped behind a closed electric gate, as the electric motor becomes so unpredictable and turns on and off whenever it wants, hindering the turbocharged inline six.
Break the seal by flipping the Driving Dynamics Control switch into SPORT mode (aka manic mode) and everything changes. The electric gate that once hindered the in-line six opens its doors, giving a sharper throttle response and stiffer suspension. The electrically assisted steering becomes more direct and mechanical, giving the driver a better sense of where the wheels are facing on the road. The Activehybrid 3’s fuel-saving gizmos become obsolete and though the exhaust doesn’t give us the growl of a 335i, it still manages to spew out a nice roaring soundtrack when pushed to the maximum torque at 5000rpm. This is more like it.
As with all the BMW 3’s, there are four separate trims you can choose from; Luxury, Modern, Sport and M-Sport, each giving its own unique colour and style to the kidney grilles, air intakes, exhausts, door entry sills, dashboards, and car keys. Our car was fitted with the Modern Line package which wrapped all the above in satin aluminum into a matt chrome finish. Unique to this model is the Activehybrid 3 badging on the C-pillar and rear trunk. The $800 Metallic Liquid Blue paint divinely complements the overall hybrid theme and displays an image of environmental satisfaction.
The interior is similar to that of a normal 3-series, with the exception of some Activehybrid 3 badging next to the gear selector. Oyster Dakota Leather from the Modern trim blankets the interior from the dashboard to the sport seats. The big hefty steering wheel gets a suntan and the instrumental panel a spiral makeover. The driver-oriented cockpit gives the driver a complete sense of awareness, with all the instrument panels and the 6.5” iDrive display angled towards the driver seat. Switching into ECO PRO, SPORT or SPORT+ mode allows the user to choose between different dynamic displays specific to the mode chosen. In ECO PRO mode, you can view your driving efficiency and electric motor status. SPORT mode stimulates your racing urges, as you can view how much horsepower and torque the car is generating.
Our Activehybrid 3 was outfitted with the $4500 Premium package, which delivered a luxurious and comfortable commute with Rear Park Distance Control, Lumbar Support, Auto Dimming Exterior Mirrors, Rear View Camera, Comfort Access, Alarm System, Universal Remote Control, and a booming Harmon Kardon Sound System. The $800 Driver Assistance Package becomes our guardian angel, as it included Lane Departure Warnings (which will vibrate the steering wheel if you are veering off into another lane) and Blind Spot Detection (a triangular light flashes on the side mirrors when there is a car in your blind spot). If you have a smartphone, the $300 BMW Apps Package and $850 extended Bluetooth is quite a steal, letting you pair up your phone to the BMW to sync music and phone calls.
Now the real question is if $7,100 justifies the Activehybrid 3 over the traditional 335i. The Activehybrid 3 delivers its promise as a performance hybrid, giving the best of both worlds with dynamic speed and noticeable fuel savings. Competitive hybrids like the $64,650 Lexus GS450h and $68,500 Infiniti M35h give similar performance and fuel efficiency, but are bigger and more expensive. The much cheaper $43,900 Lexus ES300h is a favourable option, but it doesn’t give the excitement and handling of the BMW. We will just have to wait for the 2014 Lexus IS300h to competitively stack up against this one. Being an outstanding piece of technology, the Activehybrid 3 is for those who can't decide; those who long for a high performance engine but are also adamant on low fuel consumption. If you desire pure speed and handling, look no further than the standard $51,200 335i. The Activehybrid 3 is meant for the indecisive that want both cookies in one jar, and yes I am one of them.
型号 Model: 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $58,300
Price as Tested: $65,550
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2810
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4636 / 1811 / 1429
引擎 Engine: 2979cc inline-six TwinPower Turbo, Electric Drive System
最大馬力 Horsepower-HP: 335 / 5800-6000rpm
最高扭力 Torque-LB-FT: 330 / 1200-5000rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: MacPherson Strut
後懸 Suspension-Rear: 5-link
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: Vented disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: Vented disc
循跡操控系统 ABS/Traction Control: Standard
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 8.0 / 5.9 / 7.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 18-inch Pirelli Cinturato P7