As is typically the case for hybrids offered by German automakers known for their high-performance heritage, BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3 is as much a sporty sedan as it is a fuel miser.

Actually, it’s more of a sporty sedan with the same engine displacement and just about the same horsepower as a Porsche Panamera S Hybrid or Cayenne S Hybrid, and combined EPA-rated estimate of a modest 28 mpg – no real gas-saving threat to a 40 mpg Lexus ES 300h, for example.

But this is a fine BMW 3 Series we’re talking about; a cut-above German motoring experience, and priced $12,000 more than the Lexus too.

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Known also as the 335ih, BMW’s rear-wheel drive sedan is a hybrid version of the 335i and is about as quick, although 320 pounds heavier.

The car is now the third BMW hybrid in production – the other two being an ActiveHybrid 5 Series and 7 Series – and BMW has since discontinued the two-mode hybridized 6 Series of a couple years ago.

If BMW had its preference, it might just as well have emphasized a diesel offering, as these do very well in Europe where they are better set up for it, diesel is less expensive, and people have a taste for them. For the U.S. market, we have a somewhat greater taste for hybrids as an attempt to mitigate fuel consumption and emissions.

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Being from the maker of Ultimate Driving Machines, the ActiveHybrid 3 is not about to depart from its lineage just to save the planet however.

So it is a qualified offering among “green cars,” and in any case, it is a thoroughly designed solution, among BMW’s most complexly engineered, and worth taking a closer look.

Motive Power

The ActiveHybrid 3 is a full hybrid so it runs on either its 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six or its in-house built electric motor powered by a 1.3-kwh A123 Systems lithium-ion battery pack held in the trunk, or both.

Being not a plug-in hybrid with larger capacity battery – a plug-in is reportedly in the works – the vehicle more often relies on the bulk of its power requirements from its 335 horsepower, 332 pound-feet torque gas engine. The electric motor is capable of powering the ActiveHybrid 3 emissions free for speeds up to 45 mph (70 kph) for distances up to 2.5 miles (four kilometers).

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Said power is routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission – not a CVT like a comparatively tame Lexus would use – and has four drive modes to choose from: eco pro, comfort, sport and sport-plus.

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Fuel saving can be especially accomplished in eco pro in which the engine can be decoupled at speed and the electric motor can propel the car at up to 100 mph.

Other energy saving features include automatic stop/start, regenerative braking, and a water pump that only runs when needed, not continuously.

For a few more details on the powertrain, please see also our report written when BMW first announced them

A Few More Details

Apart from the unique power supply, this is a BMW 335 and the rest is pure BMW from its body styling, interior design and technology, and driving experience.

Cross sampling of official mpg ratings for a variety of 3 Series.

Cross sampling of official mpg ratings for a variety of 3 Series.

Fuel economy is not anything that motivates a Prius buyer, but the Bavarian machine zips to 60 in around 5 seconds, instead of closer to 10 mustered by the Toyota, which is an eon in automotive terms.

Road reviews speak of the BMW as being a hoot to drive, tracking well, and taking on corners with all adroitness. It reportedly hides its 320-pounds of extra curb weight – total being 3,649 pounds – reasonably well.

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It is top-speed limited to 155 mph the same as the 335i, and priced $6,500 more, with an MSRP of $50,195 including destination and handling charges.

One technology the ActiveHybrid 3 will receive is the new Dragon Drive! Messaging.

We hope to be able to drive one of these soon, and report further in a full review. In the mean time, more info can be found at BMW’s Web site.

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