BMW M3 vs. Toyota Prius: “It’s how you drive it that matters….”

3-Series | June 12th, 2009 by 11

With the risk of being flamed on, we’re going to talk today about a test drive that Jeremy Clarkson and his team put together: the …

With the risk of being flamed on, we’re going to talk today about a test drive that Jeremy Clarkson and his team put together: the almighty BMW M3 vs. the “Ms. Green” Toyota Prius.

So the superfast and cool M3 to be compared to the …..Prius? What’s this world turned into…..

But I was quickly reminded that the purpose of this video is, to quote Jeremy Clarkson, that “it isn’t what you drive that matters, it’s how you drive it”. So what does this translate into?


Well, Jeremy and his TopGear team decided to make this odd drive comparison and see which car achieves better gas mileage after 10 laps of a race track. The idea was to really push to the max the 1.5 liter 4 cylinder, 110 horsepower Toyota Prius, while the M3’s job was simply to keep up with it.

After 10 laps, surprisingly, Jeremy gives the M3 some credit, with its 19.4 MPG fuel consumption versus the 17.2 MPG for the Prius.

Does that mean that the BMW M3 is more economical than the Prius? Not really, if the test would have been conducted during a broader mileage range and in different driving situations, the Prius, as expected, would have come on top.

Bottom line: drive the car it should be driven and you will get that advertised MPG.

[Photo Credit: GreenOptimistic ]

11 responses to “BMW M3 vs. Toyota Prius: “It’s how you drive it that matters….””

  1. Jag says:

    this means at the same performance, the M3 is even better in fuel consumption than the Prius? wow

  2. tony says:

    something like that.
    its trying to say tht if u go full on pressing the gas.n u do the same thing in the M3 at that speed the M3 is more efficient.
    I’ve seen it in TOP GEAR UK.Its how u drive the car tht will bring the efficiency up or down.
    hope u got ur answer

  3. Doug says:

    I remember this episode, and the test is completely misleading. Any car driven full-out will get a tiny fraction of it’s optimum fuel economy and the prius is well known to only achieve its potential when gas-saving strategies are employed. At that level of prius performance, the M3 is essentially hyper-miling. Had they driven the prius in its intended way and let the M3 follow that, the results would be very different.

    Presumably their actual point is that engine displacement matters less than driving style for fuel economy, but their test did not at all prove this *or* their illogical assertion.

    • The Lee says:

      How did it not provide information in the displacement vs. driving style argument?

      The test is perfectly valid. Does it mean the E90 M3 is a more economical car (in general) than a Prius? No, absolutely not. Did it serve to highlight the fact that even if you “do your part to protect the environment” by purchasing a hybrid, it’s not going to benefit you nor the Earth if you still drive like a freakin’ idiot.

      And to be honest, it’s not an entirely rare driving behavior for Prius drivers in my area. It seems that when you’re full of self-importance for having purchased the Messiah of “green” vehicles, you’re allowed to drive like (as I previously stated) a freakin’ idiot.

      Does that mean you can take Mr. Haulass out of his ecoenvirotrendy Prius, place him behind of the wheel of an M3 and see improvements on fuel economy? Absolutely not. An idiot is an idiot is an idiot, regardless of what the badging of his vehicle says. He’ll just be a faster idiot.

      I can personally testify (after thousands of miles of “testing”) that a C5 Corvette Z06, with displacement larger than that of the Prius and M3 combined, will get 33mpg EASILY with a conservative driver on the highway.

      The fact of the matter is that our behavior is MUCH more difficult to change than our cars. GM can spend all the money they want in R&D, but if they’re bolting that electric engine to a 5400lb Chevy Tahoe, the gas mileage is still going to blow because our behavior requires 9,194,286 cubic feet of cargo space for our one kid and obnoxious little dog…

      • Doug says:

        Well, sure it provided information, in that there is one scenario where the m3 can get better mileage than a prius. But there’s several other scenarios that TG did conspicuously not test that would have given a much more realistic, comprehensive understanding to joe public, and what most intelligent people would be left wondering about. You can’t really draw a useful conclusion without making the 3 other comparisons (prius-to-prius, m3-to-m3, reverse prius-to-m3 I mentioned).

        It actually sounded like TG was fighting back against some unidentified pro-eco, anti-supercar sentiment, and representing only the strong part of their case. Which bugs me. Or maybe it’s against speeding prius owners — probably stemming from some Prius cutting off Jeremey in his Ford GT on his way to work, resulting in a rant that lasted well into lunchtime at the BBC.

        I haven’t really seen aggressive prius drivers, and the two I know do follow the rules and have probably saved a seal or two. But I’d be unimpressed by someone who bought the car for the eco-image– or stupidity– and did the opposite. But at the same time, I’m equally unimpressed by the fact that you even know the maximum mileage of your vette! Shame on you, you pretentious “vette owner”! Get out there and put the pedal down, that’s what it’s there for! :)

        • The Lee says:

          There’s one thing about Top Gear that a lot of people really don’t understand/realize: they aren’t journalists in the truest sense of the word. They’re not scientists. They’re more along the lines of entertainers. Top Gear caters to a very specific crowd: car junkies. Just like any other biased media source (New York Times, Fox News, etc), things will be skewed in the favor of whatever they want to highlight/prove. I can guarantee, though, that had they performed that test and the Prius came out with better MPGs, that segment would have never aired.

          Sure, there’s some factual information to be had in an episode of TG, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. Above all, it’s a great show simply because it borders on illegal quantities of absolute fun moreso than its informational value.

          Keep in mind that it is, in fact, a scripted show.

          And don’t worry; I flogged the living crap out of the Z06. Pike’s Peak… twice. 150+ trips down the drag strip, ~12k miles in the 4 months I owned it. I truly do feel bad for the person that got it after me. There was, I’m sure, dirt in places that would NEVER see the light of day nor the high-pressure spray of a car wash and a solid 1/4″ thick of accumulated rubber fragments from Mickey Thompson ET Streets permanently adhered to the rear fenders/bumper. I just drive conservatively on public streets (mostly).

        • Gord says:

          Some of Top Gear’s comparison are not even really comparisons.

          Jeremy pits a Lambo LP640 against a Golf in a drag race. You know who will win, but Jeremy wants to show visually what a 0-60 time of 3 seconds looks like.

          So really in this case of Prius vs M3, Jeremy wants to show the difference between reckless and hypermile driving styles.

  4. Brian says:

    All they had to do to make this a fair test, was drive the m3 around in 2nd gear instead of it’s final gear.
    Make the m3 sit at 6000rpm driving around for 10 laps, since that’s what the Prius was doing.

  5. Kevin Brown says:

    Nobody seems to notice that for much of the video the BMW is drafting behind the Prius.  That will certainly boost mileage.

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