Olympians Apolo Ohno, Janet Evans, Bryan Clay unveil BMWs

Olympic champions, from left, Bryan Clay (decathelon), Janet Evans (swimming), and Apolo Ohno (speed skating) compare medals in front of the new BMW ActiveHybrid 3.

Speed, agility, athleticism. They're qualities that any automaker wants in a car. So who better to introduce the new BMW 3 Series than three U.S. Olympians.

Speed skater Apolo Ohno, swimmer Janet Evans and decathelon champ Bryan Clay were on hand at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit today to introduce the popular compact luxury car and its environmentally friendly sibling, the ActiveHybrid 3.

The new 3 Series, which its North American introduction here, is hugely important for BMW. The model alone has accounted for about half of BMW's sales since it landed in the U.S. in 1987.

Besides its gorgeous looks, the new one should achieve some impression gas mileage, especially for the hybrid. The six-cylinder engine in the hybrid generates 335 horsepower, yet will get about 37 miles a gallon, says Klaus Draeger, BMW's development chief. The navigation system works with the motor when it knows the driver's route. When the "Intelligent Navigation System" knows the driver's route, it makes sure the car drives the last mile on electric power alone.

BMW unveiled the larger hybrid sedan, the ActiveHybrid 5, at today's show.

January 9, 2012
Chris Woodyard