Friday 13th September 2019
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First drive: BMW 330e M Sport. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 330e M Sport
BMW's latest plug-in hybrid might just be the pick of the whole 3 Series range.

 



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BMW 330e M Sport

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

With more power than before, more electric range than before and a sharper chassis than before, the new 330e plug-in hybrid goes straight to the top of the 3 Series line-up.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 330e M Sport
Pricing: 3 Series range from £32,565; 330e as tested from £39,980
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder plus 83kW electric motor
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door, five-seat saloon
CO2 emissions: 37g/km (VED Band 1-50, 'Alternative Fuel Cars' adjusted: £0 in year one, then £135 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 156.9mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Power: 292hp at 5,000-6,500rpm
Torque: 265-420Nm at 0-4,000rpm
Boot space: 375 litres

What's this?

It's the BMW 3 Series with a plug. No, sadly not a fully electric 3 Series - we'll have to wait a while for that one as yet - but the replacement for the popular 330e plug-in hybrid, a car that's expected to make up around 25 per cent of 3 Series sales in the UK. It's also the 3 Series that might just be the best model in the whole darned line-up.

We'll come back to that in a bit, but first (as Jennifer Aniston used to say) the science bit. The 330e is based on the new 3 Series (well, duh...) and therefore gets the same suspension (with Citroen-esque hydraulic bump stops) and the same gloriously informative, tactile steering. Possibly more importantly, it also has a bigger battery than the old model, this time pumping out 12kWh of electrical energy, and this has had a profound effect on the car's electric performance.

It'll now go for more than 30 miles on electric power only. OK, so did the old one, so where's the news? Well, this new 330e has been tested on the newer, tougher, WLTP emissions and economy test, which would have murdered the old 330e's figures, so status quo ante is actually quite the achievement. In fact, the new 330e actually does a bit better, with an official maximum range on electric power only of 36 miles, and you should be able to easily get past the 30-mile mark.

More electric power also means more power overall. There's a new trick called XtraBoost, which, as long as you have sufficient power in the battery, means you can draw on an additional 41hp from the electric motor, boosting the 330e's overall figure to 292hp - that's actually more than 30hp up on the theoretically more powerful 330i petrol model. Not bad, especially with 420Nm of torque to back it up (265Nm of which is electric torque, and therefore available as soon as your foot brushes the accelerator). CO2 emissions are a tax-friendly 37g/km, while fuel economy is officially 156mpg (see more on that below).

There's more cleverness when you dive down into the hybrid system. You can choose to run on pure electric power (battery charge allowing) or on hybrid power, or you can let the computer decide what's best. Put a destination into the navigation and it'll work out how hilly your route is, and deploy power accordingly, with the idea being that you'll arrive at your urban destination with enough juice left for zero-emissions in-town running. It also recognises when it's passed into a ULEZ, and switches to electric power only. You can also geo-fence specific locations for electric only running (such as maybe outside schools, or just to impress your mates) and the battery can be charged up in around four hours from a reasonably high-powered home charger. There's no inductive charging yet, but it is in the pipeline. BMW claims that, running on the average mix of European electricity, you'll cut your well-to-wheel, total vehicle life emissions by 20 per cent compared to a 330i. Run on eco-electricity, where the power comes from renewables, and that figure rises to 60 per cent.

How does it drive?

Let's deal with the environmental stuff first, as arguably that's the 330e's raison d'Ítre. When we hopped into the car at BMW's hub in Garching, just outside Munich, the battery was fully charged, and we had 50 miles of test route to cover. So, we started in battery-only mode, easily slipping through morning traffic, and running at speeds of up to 80mph on the motorway, with nary a hydrocarbon burned.

After 16 miles of this, we switched over to Hybrid mode, and then spent the rest of the journey toggling between that and Sport mode. At the point of switchover, the computer told us that we still had 11 miles of electric-only range left. Driving on a mix of Autobahn, country road and in-town traffic, we finally reached our destination with just over half-a-mile of EV range left, having achieved average fuel economy of 74mpg.

OK, so that's not the 156mpg promised, but then we were (ahem) fully exploring the 330e's 292hp potential. Equally, 74mpg for a petrol-engined car with knocking on for 300hp is some going and it's a realistic figure that one could pretty easily replicate on a daily commute. Better yet, if you can charge at work and your commute is less than 30 miles, you can probably get from one end of the week to the next on infinity miles per gallon.

Ah yes, but how does it drive, in the drivey-drivey sense of the phrase? Really well, actually. Really bloody marvellously, actually. The chassis and steering demonstrate the same poise and levels of feedback that you get from the regular 3 Series, which is remarkable, considering that: (a) the old 330e couldn't manage that; and (b) the new 330e weighs around 200kg more than a 330i petrol-engined model. The really remarkable thing is that you just don't feel the weight. A lot of hybrid and electric cars go like hell in a straight line, because of all their electric torque, but are pulled inexorably into understeer once they hit a corner. The 330e doesn't do that - it just slices through the corner like a 3 Series should, and you really only feel the extra weight in a very tight corner, or under hard braking. Acceleration is hugely entertaining, with that instant-on torque that makes it laughably easy to unstick the rear tyres.

Drawbacks? Well, the ride is still pretty firm (too much so, to be honest) and the boot, at 375 litres, is well down on that of a regular 3 Series.

Verdict

As with any electric car or plug-in hybrid, you need to be a tiny bit committed to the cause to get the best from the new BMW 330e. Ideally, you need to have off-street parking and be fastidious about charging up regularly. Do that, though, and the 330e easily becomes the best 3 Series of the current generation. It's very quick, it's huge fun to drive, but it can return the sort of economy and emissions figures that would make even Greta Thunberg smile.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 13 Aug 2019









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2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.

2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2020 BMW 330e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.








 

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