A prototype of the upcoming BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid has been spotted camouflage-free while undergoing winter testing ahead of its anticipated unveiling later this year.
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Sharing much of its exterior styling with the current conventionally-powered 3 Series, the BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid is easily identifiable by the charging port flap clearly seen on the test car's front left quarter panel.

Rumoured to be called the BMW 320e, the 3 Series plug-in hybrid is expected to share some of its drivetrain technology with the forthcoming X5 plug-in hybrid production model, which will be based on the X5 eDrive concept that debuted at September's Frankfurt motor show.

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The X5 eDrive teamed a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a 70kW electric motor and lithium-ion batteries to claim average fuel consumption of 3.8 litres per 100km and CO


emissions of less than 90 grams per kilometre. The concept also promised a pure-electric range of 30km and a 120km/h top speed.

Other reports suggest the plug-in 3 Series could instead feature a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine based on the engine found in the all-new Mini Cooper, potentially leading to even greater fuel savings.

Plug-in versions of the 3 Series and X5 are expected to be joined by similar high-efficiency variants of the 1 Series and 5 Series models and the X3 SUV over the coming years.

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The 3 Series plug-in promises to be considerably more efficient (and possibly more expensive) than the existing $99,700 ActiveHybrid 3. The six-cylinder petrol engine/electric motor-powered ActiveHybrid 3 claims 5.9L/100km and 139g/km - figures bettered by the non-hybrid $50,900 316i, $56,400 318d and $60,900 320d - although BMW does market the car as a performance hybrid.

BMW will launch its first plug-in hybrid in Australia in September when it introduces the all-new i3 city car.

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