It’s true: Perhaps the ultimate Ultimate Driving Machine—the BMW 3 Series—is going hybrid for the new model year. In fact, the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3 is already up on the brand’s retail website, priced from $49,300 (before $895 worth of destination charges). The BMW 3 Series hybrid is the latest in a growing green(-ish) lineup from the Bavarians, who have been taking an increasingly aggressive approach to improving fuel efficiency in recent years. This has included adding a number of hybrid and diesel products to their U.S. lineup, preparing for the launch of EVs like the BMW i3 city car and the 1-Series-based BMW ActiveE, and relying on more efficient turbocharged I4 engines (instead of naturally aspirated I6 powerplants) as motivation for cars like the 3 Series, BMW 1 Series and BMW Z4.
Now, not all of these vehicles have been fuel sippers. The EPA rated the 2011 BMW X6 hybrid at 17 mpg city/19 mpg highway/18 mpg combined, numbers weak enough to cancel the vehicle entirely, while the current BMW ActiveHybrid 7—the hybrid version of the BMW 7 Series—only achieves 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. But BMW does appear to have switched gears lately and taken a more serious approach to fuel economy, as evidenced by the current BMW 328i. By swapping its six-cylinder engine with a BMW TwinPower Turbo I4, the car went from supplying 230 hp, 200 lb.-ft. of torque and EPA marks of 18/28/22 to delivering 240 hp (+4.3 percent), 255 lb.-ft. of torque (+27.5 percent) and fuel-economy grades of 23/34/27 (+22.7 percent in combined driving).
Offering a hybrid setup on the 3 Series, the automaker’s highest-volume model, does seem like a logical next step, so let’s see exactly what’s on tap with the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3.