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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2013 BMW 3 Sedan

Munich, Germany – When it comes to the manufacture of gas-electric hybrid vehicles, there are two approaches. The Toyota Prius uses every possible technological nuance to extract maximum fuel economy, resulting in a very frugal and equally joyless motoring experience. Conversely, the upcoming BMW ActiveHybrid 3 Series sedan uses electric assist as much for maintaining the brand’s performance image as it does for the reduction of fuel consumption.

2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3
2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3. Click image to enlarge

Conventional wisdom would have BMW hybridizing its already efficient 2.0L turbo-four 328i sedan, but here we see the potent 335i with its TwinPower Turbo 3.0L inline-six-cylinder getting the hybrid treatment.

Flexing the right Birkenstock has this conservative-looking four door zipping to 100 km/h in a scant 5.3 seconds thanks to its 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 13 percent and 11 percent respectively over the gasoline 335i.

Another notable increase is in the price. Arriving in the fall, the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3 carries a list of $58,300 versus $51,200 for the comparably equipped 300-hp 335i.

So what to we get for our $7,200? Another 135 kg in mass, a whole raft of cool technology, a marginal gain in fuel economy, and presumably a clearer conscience.

2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3
2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3. Click image to enlarge

The ActiveHybrid 3 is rated at 8.0 L/100 km city and 5.9 L/100 km highway. The auto-equipped 335i sedan on which it is based matches the highway number at 5.9 L/100 and is not far off the city figure at 9.1 L/100 km. Sure it’s something, but certainly not enough to have the polar bears high-fiving.

BMW is betting there are customers who will pay a premium for a six-cylinder 3 Series that will hum about the ‘hood for up to four kilometres on electric power as well as do the things expected of this iconic sports sedan. That is to say, provide a level of driver involvement and a silken power delivery that has kept the competition in its mirrors for decades.

Indeed, this ActiveHybrid 3 does all that. Negotiating the smooth and winding roads of rural Bavaria, this hybrid was quite literally at home, unraveling these black ribbons with uncanny swiftness and poise. The eight-speed auto shifts smoothly and responds quickly to shift-paddle inputs if you are so inclined. The seats are superb and the thick-rimmed wheel meaty in the palms.

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