BMW AH3 Active Hybrid Road Test

Although this car owes its existence to the Prius, it approaches the hybrid question from the other side – How eco can a high
performance car be while still being practical?
For large parts of my time with this car I really didn’t care. I just wanted to thrash its wheels off.
This is in essence a 335 with batteries, a motor and some software thrown in, and none of the extra bits detract from the purety of purpose that defines a powerful 3-series BMW.
There are a lot of things about this vehicle that fall into the “remarkable” column on my factsheet, but top of the list is the sheer lack of awareness you have thrust upon you that you are in a massively complex and intelligent green machine.
The best technology simply works and makes your life a little better with no effort or specialist knowledge; The AH3 comfortably fits the bill alongside iPad, Microwave and the Hammer.
As far as applying no effort goes, I would positively encourage you to not try to be overly economic in this car. Simply enjoy it and let the tech take care of the environment.
Over a hilly 10 mile run I gave it my all to get high economy figures. Every trick I have developed or been taught was used to maximise efficiency and I achieved a mundane 44.4mpg. Day to day driving, making liberal use of the near 350hp available still gave me 39mpg, while being a far more entertaining proposition.
39mpg from a 335 hp engine is highly impressive, and it uses petrol, cheaper at the pumps and much lower particulate pollution. The quoted eco (47.9mpg) and CO2 (139g/km) figures are in line with a typical 1.6 petrol or 2l diesel motor, but they do not make half the power and few can compete on the quality of the drive.
After not too many minutes the price tag in the low to mid £40k bracket seemed very reasonable, and not long after even underpriced. After all my tests, this is only the second ever car to have left me with a feeling of bereavement when it went back to Beemer HQ, it really is that good. (the other car was the Skoda Yeti. I am not your typical “BMW man”)
A huge widescreen display dominates the middle of the dash. This tells you far more than you ever need to know about what the car is doing. The bulk of my driving was in Eco-pro mode, which makes maximum use of the batteries and regeneration while only marginally diluting the drive. Were it not for this display I would have no idea that I had driven mile after mile on batteries alone or the amount of free power gained by lifting off on downhill sections.
It is positively swan-like, serenely gobbling great chunks of tarmac above while frantically scrabbling to save every joule of energy below
There would be plenty more to distract the driver too, were the car not such a fantastic drive. Connect your phone using the highly intuitive i-drive system and you can read / write text messages remotely. The sound system is crystal clear and bright, infact the whole infotainment system was a pleasure to use and experience.
But the drive is what matters most in a car, and this car exemplifies all that is great about the 3-series.
Mundane driving tasks such as roundabouts and nipping past trucks become little moments to treasure as the car harmoniously carries out your commands; it will both compliment your abilities, and improve them.
The German styling may put use-ability ahead of flair, but it is a pleasant cockpit none the less, and all four seats will give great support and comfort. The boot too, at 390 litres, will hold more than I at first expected, only marginally reduced by the battery pack behind.
This is a car that will satisfy most of your needs, as well as your desires. The sporting overtones allied to the green-ability make it pretty much unique and without peer, seems it can move goalposts as quick as it moves itself.
words and pics – Mark Wolens