For the past two decades the BMW 3 Series has come to define the mid-size luxury segment, and it’s done so without buying into any tech fads. Plug-in cars are far from a fad though, and the BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid prototype not only has electric all-wheel drive, but also boasts of a 117.5 MPGe rating.
Pairing the TwinPower four-cylinder turbo engine with a modest electric motor, the BMW 3 Series PHEV makes a combined 245 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while offering up to 22 miles of all-electric driving. The 117 MPGe rating would also make it amongst the most efficient plug-in hybrids, though it still falls short of the 124 MPGe the all-electric i3 can attain.
Like the i3, the 3 Series PHEV also has three different driving modes; COMFORT, SPORT, and ECO PRO. COMFORT is your base driving mode, and SPORT emphasizes performance over efficiency. In ECO PRO though, BMW pulls out all the stops to offer the highest fuel economy, even going so far as to mess with the HVAC settings in order to achieve the most efficiency and electric driving range. There’s also the “Power eDrive” system which BMW says can lay out up to 500 kW, or about 670 combined horsepower in a plug-in hybrid format.
Just when we might see a BMW 3 Series Plug-in Hybrid the German automaker isn’t saying, but the company did say they’re working to increase the amount of time its hybrids spend in electric driving mode. Elon Musk has held up the 3 Series as the benchmark for the upcoming Tesla Model III, which will start right around the same mid-$30,000 price range, so it makes plenty of sense for BMW start electrifying its bread-and-butter model now.
This focus on optimizing electrification emphasizes BMW’s interest in alternative drivetrains, and BMW is promising plug-in hybrid versions of all its top models in the next few years. Recent talks with Tesla could help usher in the second generation of BMW EVs and hybrids. But there’s also an intense rivalry in the works. the Model S supplanted the 3 Series on Car & Driver’s 2014 10 Best List, the first time the mid-size Bimmer hasn’t been represented in recent memory.
The comparisons have been ongoing, and for all of good-guy-Elon’s talk about helping competitors get into electric cars, the auto industry as a whole is still decidedly against electric cars. It may take some more “tough love” from Tesla via stolen sales to get the industry to listen up and heed the call of an electric car future.