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      07-15-2012, 10:03 AM   #1
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Arrow BIMMERPOST First Drive: 2013 Active Hybrid 3

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BIMMERPOST First Drive: 2013 Active Hybrid 3
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Sometimes, we are victims of stereotypes. I, for instance, have always hated the idea of hybrid cars. Surely, a true car fan can’t possibly find anything good about a car which is obviously made for one reason only: Economy. Things are a bit different about the Active Hybrid 3, however. Here’s the story about my first experience with BMW’s latest hybrid.

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At first sight, the Active Hybrid 3 [full official info thread] doesn’t look too different from any other F30 3 Series. BMW likes to introduce their hybrid models in a light blue color, but our test car’s Liquid Blue color is also available for other F30 models. Both the exhaust tips and the window trim are finished in a matte aluminum. The Active Hybrid 3 badges at the C-pillars and the boot lid are a bit over the top, but there's a debadge option for those. BMW offers a dedicated set of 18" wheels to optimize airflow and reduce wind resistance but, as a no-cost option, the aerodynamic wheels can be replaced with traditional standard BMW wheels. Gladly, BMW also allows the Active Hybrid 3 to be combined with any of the design lines. So you can choose Modern, Luxury and Sport line for your Active Hybrid 3. My personal favorite is the idea of having the Active Hybrid 3 with the amazing M Sport package – yes, that’s possible too.


How does it work?

The Active Hybrid 3 combines the award-winning 300hp N55 3.0-litre Twinpower petrol engine and a synchronous electric motor. The electric motor is good for 55hp and 210Nm alone, while combined with the petrol engine the system’s maximum output is rated at 340hp and 450Nm of torque. In case you’re curious about the numbers not adding up: BMW doesn’t limit the total output for some reason but rather is conservative with their total rating. The electric motor can’t retain its maximum output of 55hp for too long. For this reason, it’s possible that the electric motor has passed its maximum output by the time the petrol engine reaches its maximum. So BMW chose a rating that’s replicable on any dynamometer. Under good conditions, the actual output can be even higher than the quoted 340hp and 450Nm for a short period. According to BMW, the Active Hybrid 3 sprints to 62mph in 5.3 seconds, 0.2 seconds less than the 335i.

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The electric motor sits inside the 8-speed automatic transmission and replaces the torque converter. A high performance lithium-ion battery supplies the energy; it’s located in the boot between the wheel arches. About half of the hybrid system’s additional weight of 135kg is for the battery while the electric motor, electronics and the cooling system account for the other half. The air conditioning is connected to the hybrid battery as well, which is necessary for it to work in eDrive mode.

The optional Navigation System Professional (yes, the new Navigation) is integrated with the car's electronics as well. The system anticipates upcoming road inclines and declines and charges/discharges the batteries accordingly. *Also, when the end of the navigation route is in an urban area, the Active Hybrid 3 charges the batteries early so it can go into eDrive mode upon arriving.


What does it drive like?

This is the fun part: You don’t notice any of the technical stuff covered above. It drives like any other car – and I mean it in the best possible way. You hit the start button and it’s ready – without the petrol engine starting. When the lithium-ion battery is fully charged it can go up to 4km and reach a speed of up to 75kph on electric power only. During my test drive, I managed to do about 3km and a speed of about 70kph at a time. Equally impressive is the Active Hybrid 3’s ability to go into coasting mode. When you lift the throttle fully, the car disengages the clutch and shuts off the engine. As soon as you apply the throttle again (and are beyond the electric motor’s speed range) the engine starts again. All of this works in Eco Pro mode only, and it works flawlessly. As Dr. Negele, Head of BMW Active Hybrid 3 development, mentioned to me, they have spent a lot of money to make the transition from electric to petrol mode and vice-versa seamless, and it was worth it. You wouldn’t notice any of these transitions if it wasn’t displayed in the instrument cluster. It’s amazing. The result of my test drive was an average consumption of 6.5 liters per 100km which is impressive for a 340hp midsized sedan.

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If you’re like me, there are days where you don’t care about any hypermilling and all you care about is having a bit of fun in your 340hp 3-Series. I was afraid that the additional weight would detract from the Active Hybrid 3 being a fun car, but I was mostly wrong (again?). Yes, it feels a bit heavier than the 328i and even the 335i. But, as weird as it sounds – the lithium-ion battery proved to be helpful here too. Compared to the ever so slightly front-heavy 335i, the additional weight in the rear of the Active Hybrid 3 makes for that perfect 50/50 weight balance BMW is famous far. Switch into Sport or Sport+ mode and welcome Mr. Hyde. The car negotiated corners really well, the compelling 8-speed auto switched gears within the blink of an eye as usual, and the electric motor was willing to offer additional boost when necessary. Average consumption for a couple of kilometers of fun: 9 liters per 100km.


Who is this car for?

One thing is for sure: The Active Hybrid 3 isn’t meant to offer the lowest fuel consumption possible in the hybrid car segment. Nor will it be easy to recoup the premium spent over a 335i in fuel savings. In other words, it’s a niche product targeting people who like the fun of a 335i combined with improved fuel consumption. It's for people who don’t like or don’t have access to powerful Diesel cars. Or it's for people who want to leave their neighborhood in electric mode but also want to have fun at times.

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The Active Hybrid 3 will be available in the U.S. this fall at an MSRP of $50,195. What you get is a car with personality. To end this review in the same way as it began (and speaking of stereotypes), I still don’t like hybrid cars. But, what's changed is that the the Active Hybrid 3 left me deeply impressed. When I returned my test car, I found myself hoping that I would one day have more time with the Active Hybrid 3.


For full official specs and info on the Active Hybrid 3, see our BMW ActiveHybrid 3 (F30) Thread.



Alpine White Active Hybrid 3

Active Hybrid 3 Media Presentation



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      07-16-2012, 01:19 PM   #2
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I wonder if the car has a provision to ensure the a/c continues to operate if the hybrid battery is dead?
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      07-16-2012, 01:27 PM   #3
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I want! Up to ~360hp and 40mpg? Sounds like fun to me!
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      07-16-2012, 01:42 PM   #4
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I probably would have left this part off: Nor will it be easy to recoup the premium spent over a 335i in fuel savings.
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      07-16-2012, 01:46 PM   #5
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Great stuff! Thanks for this review, South! Really looking forward to getting the car (whenever that is)!
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      07-16-2012, 01:49 PM   #6
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I love this car. Would've been financially viable for me if it was on the market in time! Dayyum :P
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      07-16-2012, 02:02 PM   #7
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i get what bmw is trying to do here and i respect that - all the fun of a 335i, with the added bonus of incredible fuel economy. You won't make up the MSRP difference in fuel savings, but you will have the convenience of fueling up less. This does not compete with a diesel, it gives you high-revving petroleum fun.

Personally, for me, I cant justify it over a 335i. My decisions are usually a little too rational. Also, I'm not personally in love with the amount of extra technology this AH3 incorporates. But kudos to BMW, they obviously did a great job on this to-be low-volume seller.
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      07-16-2012, 02:19 PM   #8
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Of course another added bonus is that in some states, including my own state (VA), you can take this car on HOV lanes during rush hour. That in and of itself might make the extra price worth it!
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      07-16-2012, 02:19 PM   #9
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i wonder where else they can put those AH3 badges.. getting little badge happy are we..
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      07-16-2012, 02:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lkw15
Of course another added bonus is that in some states, including my own state (VA), you can take this car on HOV lanes during rush hour. That in and of itself might make the extra price worth it!
Nice! Wish I could in California but they don't permit hybrids anymore, only fully electric cars can take the HOV lane with single occupancy.
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      07-16-2012, 02:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wdeerfield View Post
where else they can put those AH3 badges..
Agreed, what's up with the C pillar badging anyway? From the pictures it would appear it's on both sides of the car?

Would be the first thing I do upon delivery is remove all those.
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      07-16-2012, 02:49 PM   #12
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Agreed, what's up with the C pillar badging anyway? From the pictures it would appear it's on both sides of the car?

Would be the first thing I do upon delivery is remove all those.
its also on the shifter trim and door sills as well
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      07-16-2012, 03:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jraymond View Post
I probably would have left this part off: Nor will it be easy to recoup the premium spent over a 335i in fuel savings.
Well, it's the truth even BMW execs are agreeing with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BMWCali View Post
Great stuff! Thanks for this review, South! Really looking forward to getting the car (whenever that is)!
Thanks, I'm glad you like it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gerbs View Post
Agreed, what's up with the C pillar badging anyway? From the pictures it would appear it's on both sides of the car?

Would be the first thing I do upon delivery is remove all those.
Yes, it's on both sides. Even though the badging is somewhat an Active Hybrid trademark feature I'd have it removed on my car.


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      07-16-2012, 03:39 PM   #14
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I wonder if the car has a provision to ensure the a/c continues to operate if the hybrid battery is dead?
Wondering the same thing. The review mentioned the air conditioner is connected to the lithium battery, but does not say if there is an electric compresor. The 2012 3 series utilizes an extra reservoir of compressed Freon to provide climate control when the petrol engine is off in the start stop mode.
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      07-16-2012, 03:41 PM   #15
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This is all great for BMW and the eco's, but why not use the new 4cyl turbo engine. That would bring the price down a bit= more sales.
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      07-16-2012, 03:49 PM   #16
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Will this be available in xdrive?
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      07-16-2012, 03:50 PM   #17
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Will this be available in xdrive?
Nope, it's only available with rear wheel drive.


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      07-16-2012, 03:54 PM   #18
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I probably would have left this part off: Nor will it be easy to recoup the premium spent over a 335i in fuel savings.
Why?

As far as I know, that's the case for every hybrid one can today buy.
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      07-16-2012, 03:56 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diver View Post
Wondering the same thing. The review mentioned the air conditioner is connected to the lithium battery, but does not say if there is an electric compresor. The 2012 3 series utilizes an extra reservoir of compressed Freon to provide climate control when the petrol engine is off in the start stop mode.
Hopefully it works better than what they put on my 5 series. When it's truly hot outside, I have to disable that start/stop foolishness.
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      07-16-2012, 04:02 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lkw15 View Post
Of course another added bonus is that in some states, including my own state (VA), you can take this car on HOV lanes during rush hour. That in and of itself might make the extra price worth it!

I wonder how long that'll last? In truth, I would have thought that by now, so many in NOVA would buy hybrids and thus use 66 and 395's HOV lanes during rush hour that the governments would have ended the hybrid dispensation of which you speak. I live downtown and usually work outside the USA, so I almost never encounter bad traffic; maybe rush hour commuting around DC isn't as bad as I think.
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      07-16-2012, 05:17 PM   #21
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Quote:
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Wondering the same thing. The review mentioned the air conditioner is connected to the lithium battery, but does not say if there is an electric compresor. The 2012 3 series utilizes an extra reservoir of compressed Freon to provide climate control when the petrol engine is off in the start stop mode.
The car does have an electric (only) AC compressor and it is powered by the HV battery alone.
The battery itself will never discharge fully (if SOC goes below 7% the ICE will start to recharge). If the battery breaks you will have to get the car serviced anyway.

A good thing about the electric AC compressor is that you can pre-condition your car after parking it in the sun on the press of a button on your key fob with full AC support - provided the HV battery is sufficiently charged.
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      07-16-2012, 09:04 PM   #22
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Only a matter of time before they put an ///M badge on it .....
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