Promis­ing pro­to­type

The po­ten­tial au­di­ence for a plug-in hy­brid 3 Se­ries is huge, so un­der­stand­ably BMW is tak­ing gi­ant strides to make it re­al­ity. Matt Joy took the pro­to­type for a spin.

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kent Motors -

From the out­side, there’s al­most noth­ing to dis­tin­guish the plug-in hy­brid from any other 3 Se­ries – and that’s ex­actly the in­ten­tion. De­signed to fit neatly into the rest of the range rather than be­ing a stand­alone model, the 3 Se­ries Plug-in Hy­brid Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle (PHEV) has all its changes un­der the skin. Un­der the bon­net, there’s a new gen­er­a­tion 2.0-litre tur­bocharged petrol en­gine de­liv­er­ing 180hp while, at the rear, there’s a sub­stan­tial bat­tery pack pow­er­ing an elec­tric mo­tor. LOOKS AND IM­AGE If you want to know what the 3 Se­ries looks like, then just peer out of your win­dow; it’s the ar­che­typal com­pact sport­ing sa­loon with its short front over­hang, square-jawed nose and gen­er­ally slightly ag­gres­sive de­meanour. That’s ex­actly what the thou­sands of peo­ple who buy one ev­ery year want how­ever, and despite the changes un­der­neath, you won’t be able to tell the PHEV ver­sion from any other. SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY Adding a load of bulky tech­nol­ogy to an ex­ist­ing car comes at the cost of space, but BMW has done a good job of min­imis­ing the im­pact. The only no­tice­able change is in the boot, un­der which sits the bat­tery pack and as­so­ci­ated com­po­nents. BE­HIND THE WHEEL A lot of thought has been put into mak­ing the PHEV drive as well as a reg­u­lar 3 Se­ries and be able to suit all kinds of driv­ing con­di­tions, so there are a num­ber of modes that change the whole op­er­a­tion of the sys­tem. Start it up and it op­er­ates silently, go­ing straight into pure EV mode un­less the tem­per­a­ture is be­low 10 de­grees Cel­cius. You can switch be­tween Com­fort, Sport and EcoPro modes. The up­shot is that the 3 Se­ries PHEV drives with the same re­spon­sive­ness and vigour as the stan­dard car; ac­cel­er­a­tion is pleas­ingly brisk in pure elec­tric mode and use­fully rapid when mo­tor and en­gine com­bine. It re­mains great fun to drive at pace too, with no ap­par­ent com­pro­mise.

£35,000 (est)

2.0-litre petrol unit and elec­tric mo­tor, com­bined 242bhp and 295lb/ft of torque Trans­mis­sion: Eight-speed au­to­matic driv­ing the rear wheels Per­for­mance: Top speed 155mph (est), 0-62mph in 6.0 sec­onds (est) Econ­omy: 130mpg com­bined Emis­sions: 50g/km of CO2 This car summed up in just a sin­gle word:

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