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by Tim Beissmann

BMW Australia is hopeful of launching the BMW ActiveHybrid 3 for under $100,000 when the first examples of the 3-Series-based petrol-electric mid-sized sedan arrive in showrooms at the end of this year.

BMW Australia’s Piers Scott says the local brand is targeting a five-figure sum for the ActiveHybrid 3, which pairs the 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine from the $91,900 BMW 335i sedan with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery for enhanced performance and significantly better fuel economy.

A sub-$100,000 price tag would see the ActiveHybrid 3 go head to head with the larger Lexus GS450h hybrid, which is priced from $99,900 in Luxury spec.

Scott confirmed a handful of ActiveHybrid 3 vehicles would land down under late this year but said the new variant would not get a proper launch until early next year once the dealer network was tooled up to service the new hybrid technology.

It will be a similar case with the local brand’s first hybrid – the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 – which is set to land around two months earlier in October, but will also be in limited supply until the beginning of 2013. Sharing its powertrain with the ActiveHybrid 3, the petrol-electric 5-Series will be priced just north of the $115,600 BMW 535i sedan.

The 225kW/400Nm petrol engine in the ActiveHybrid 3 teams with a 40kW/210Nm electric motor for a combined output of 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, the extra power helps the ActiveHybrid 3 sprint from 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds, making it two-tenths quicker than the 335i.

With its combined cycle fuel consumption rated at 5.9 litres per 100km, the ActiveHybrid 3 is the most fuel efficient petrol-powered 3-Series in the range, easily beating the 335i (7.2L/100km) and bettering even the four-cylinder 320i (6.0L/100km).

The ActiveHybrid 3 can cover up to four kilometres in pure electric mode and is capable of reaching 75km/h before turning to the petrol engine for support.

The hybrid’s ‘coasting mode’ boosts efficiency further by switching off the petrol engine and disconnecting it from the drive shaft when the car is cruising. In Eco Pro mode, the coasting function is available at any speed up to 160km/h, while it operates between 60-80km/h in Comfort mode. With coasting engaged, the ActiveHybrid 3 runs silently with zero emissions and no engine braking.

Auto stop-start, regenerative braking and low rolling resistance tyres contribute to the fuel-efficient package.

Standard features include dual-zone climate control and an 6.5-inch display screen with iDrive controller, while features like adaptive headlights, rear-view camera, lane departure warning and head-up display will either be standard or optional depending on the market.

Exact pricing and specifications of the BMW ActiveHybrid 3 will be revealed closer to its arrival in showrooms later this year.




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