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Swift hybrid BMW 3 Series to nudge $100k

On Tour: BMW hopes the new-generation 3 Series Touring will be more successful in Australia than the outgoing model and even tempt people out of SUVs.

BMW to launch hybrid 3 Series by the end of this year as Touring tees up for 2013

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BMW logo6 Jul 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

BMW expects to price the 3 Series hybrid at less than $100,000 when limited numbers arrive in Australia towards the end of this year, putting it at a premium of about $8000 over the turbocharged six-cylinder 335i on which it is based.

A 3 Series Touring is also on the way, due to be launched early next year with the same efficient four-cylinder petrol and diesel entry-level engines as the sedan.

The petrol-electric ActiveHybrid3 will offer more performance than the 335i yet consume less fuel than the four-cylinder 320i entry-level model.

Its 5.3-second 0-100km/h sprint time is two tenths quicker than both the 335i and incoming Infiniti M35h – which holds the title of world’s fastest-accelerating hybrid.

CO2 output is rated at 139 grams per kilometre and official fuel consumption is 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres, 0.1L/100km lower than the 320i and 0.4L/100km better than the larger Lexus GS450h, which at $99,000 will compete with the BMW on price.

Achieving the sub-$100K price point will be helped by the ActiveHybrid3’s sub-7.0L/100km fuel consumption rating, which makes it eligible for luxury car tax breaks, unlike the 335i, which consumes 7.2L/100km.

BMW Group Australia head of corporate communications Piers Scott told GoAuto that achieving a small price premium for the hybrid was important.

“If we are really serious about getting interest in these cars we have to make them attractive from a customer perspective,” he said.

Mr Scott added that unlike the larger ActiveHybrid5, which uses the same drivetrain, there are no other models within the 3 Series line-up that compete with its power and efficiency equation.

The ActiveHybrid5 arrives in October but the grunty six-cylinder turbo-diesel of the $120,900 535d makes it two tenths quicker to 100km/h while being at least 1.0L/100km/h more fuel-efficient on the combined cycle.

Based on the ActiveHybrid3’s $8000 price premium over the 335i, the hybrid 5 Series also looks likely to be around $2700 more expensive than the 535d.

A hybrid 7 Series will launch in Australia next year and Mr Scott said small numbers of 3 and 5 Series hybrids would be released on to the market until the end of this year to provide dealers time to familiarise themselves with the technology.

“There is a process to get our local dealer network up-skilled and up-tooled to be able to deal with hybrids from a training and servicing perspective,” he said.

“We are allowing us a bit of a ramp-up phase before we start putting significant numbers of cars into customer hands.” Like the hybrid 5 Series, the ActiveHybrid3’s 40kW electric motor can provide zero-emissions travel for a maximum of 4km and can achieve 75km/h in this mode, 15km/h faster than its bigger brother.

At other times, a turbocharged petrol straight-six from the 335i kicks in, boosting total power output to 250kW and torque to 450Nm and, helped by regenerative braking, recharging the lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the boot.

As with the rest of the 3 Series range, an Eco Pro mode is available, prioritising battery charging through regenerative braking and using the electric motor to assist the engine while accelerating.

In addition to standard idle-stop, the ActiveHybrid3 can coast at speeds of up to 160km/h with the engine turned off and decoupled from the transmission in Eco Pro mode, while the optional satellite navigation system can switch the engine to charge mode to make sure the battery is ready to reduce fuel consumption on hills.

As one of the flagship 3 Series variants, the ActiveHybrid3 will come equipped with plenty of on-board gadgets including dual-zone climate control with air-conditioning that can be powered by the battery pack when stationary and a suite of ConnectedDrive infotainment and in-car internet services.

In addition to the aforementioned entry-level 3 Series Touring engines, BMW Australia hopes to make a 328i wagon available to do battle with the popular Mercedes-Benz C250 Estate.

As a result of the more competitive engine selection, Mr Scott said BMW expects a sales volume and customer interest boost for the new 3 Series wagon, even suggesting it will tempt Australians out of luxury SUVs.

“I think this slightly larger sportswagon – compared to the outgoing model – will lure people out of compact SUVs on the basis that it looks good is extremely practical and fantastic to drive,” he said.

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