2017 BMW 330e
With this Bimmer, you can show off your Green cred and have fun behind the wheel at the same time
Words by: Adam Allen
Another hybrid from the folks at BMW?
That’s right, but this time you can plug in your hybridized 3- the last time BMW went this route was with the ActiveHybrid 335i which had a small battery and motor intended to augment the silky 3.0 turbo six with more power and better fuel economy. It didn’t exactly fulfill its mission, and it generated a collective “Huh?” from buyers and the motoring press alike as a result. We summed it up thusly: “With the engine off the ActiveHybrid 3 will move under electrical power alone, courtesy of its lithium-ion battery pack- just not for very far, very quickly, or for very long.” BMW has learned from its mistakes and will now sell you a vastly better sorted 330e, a model that is part of the quickly growing iPerformance sub brand. It dumps the inline six in favor of a 2.0 four donated by the 320i and combines it with an 87 horsepower electric motor fed by a 7.6kWh lithium ion battery pack. Not only will it actually return a sizable increase in fuel consumption over its non-hybrid counterparts, but it does not sacrifice any performance- combination of gasoline and electrons give the 330e a total system output of 248 horsepower and 310 foot pounds of torque, enough to make this hybrid as fleet footed as its conventional brethren.
How does it all work?
To get the most out of the 330e, BMW equips it with three selectable drive modes you can access from a button near the base of the shift lever appropriately labeled eDrive. When you fire up a 330e, the default mode is AUTO eDrive. This setting will allow you to drive off using only electrical propulsion all the way up to speeds of 80 km/h, at which point the gas engine will take the reins. The second setting is called MAX eDrive and it does what it says, keeping the car in silent electric mode at all times; only pushing hard on the accelerator will the engine step in to deliver more snort say, when making a pass on a two lane road. The last option drivers have is called SAVE eDrive which does the opposite of AUTO and MAX- it doggedly keeps the electric motor on the sidelines while relying exclusively on the turbocharged four to motivate the car. Like the awe-inspiring i8 we drove last summer, driving along in this setting will recharge the batteries. Even if you never plug the 330e into a charging unit, you’ll still be able to keep the batteries topped up. If your commute saps all the juice on your way into work and you have no place to plug in, don’t worry- it will recharge itself on the way home.
So you’re saying this plug-in hybrid is actually fun to drive?
Any hybrid that can accelerate almost as fast as the coincidentally powered model on which it’s based gets top marks in our books, especially when that hybrid trumps its counterpart in fuel economy. Have a look at the specifications below; notice that the combined system power isn’t too far off from the six cylinder turbo powered 340i. When you open the taps, a little ‘eBoost’ graphic appears in the lower tachometer to show you that the gas engine and electric motor are combining to deliver maximum thrust, making the 330e feel plenty quick. When you call on the brakes to scrub off the impressive speed, a funny thing happens- they work beautifully. Save for BMW’s own i8, we can’t think of another hybrid that has mastered proper feel for its regenerative brakes and they slow the car down with confidence. Another hybrid issue that BMW has eased to great effect is the stop/start system. This technology has been commonplace industry-wide for some time now, and it’s shocking how poorly some of the systems continue to function from brand to brand, noisily waking the engine while sending an unwelcome shudder throughout the car. The 330e lights off from a stop with a seamless whir and shuts itself down just as smoothly, which is good because the engine will shut down at every opportunity. At its core the 330e is still a BMW 3 series, which means it’s supremely accomplished in the driving dynamics department. Critics constantly moan that the F30 vintage has lost its edge and become too soft and demur compared to any 3 series model with an E prefix and we’ve chimed in with our own gripes from time to time. Be that as it may, but the reality is that the 3 series is still a highly gifted and extremely capable sports sedan, one we think still deserves to be mentioned as among the segment’s best. It rides comfortably without wallowing and the steering, while lacking feel, provides pleasingly accurate path control. The sporting credentials urge you to take that onramp a little faster and maybe even seek out the long way home. The positive offshoot of indulging your inner Hans Stuck is that the batteries will charge themselves faster, leaving you with a healthy reserve of elections to waft along for the remainder of your journey.
What might go wrong?
If you tend to lug a bunch of stuff around, you may want to investigate if the 330e’s truck is big enough; it has been made smaller because of the battery pack, and you cannot fold down the seats. While you’re looking into that, you should decide if your commuting style and route will actually take advantage of the electric-only range of the 330e- those who spend most of their time on the highway won’t realize the benefits of what the car is capable of. We Canadians might fret at the lack of an all-wheel drive option, and despite the generally excellent iDrive infotainment system (Remember when everyone used to hate it? Not anymore) the interior is a bit dour.
Should I buy a 330e?
As cities the world over are tentatively looking into the taxation of gasoline powered cars clogging downtown cores or giving incentives to people who drive hybrids and electric powered cars for the privilege of driving within their boundaries the 330e begins to make a great deal of sense. If you want to make a statement to the world about your dedication to environmental stewardship but you don’t want to be imprisoned in a vehicle that offers the fun-to-drive nature of a paddle boat you should really take a closer look at the 330e. Your Prius driving neighbor will nod approvingly.
2017 BMW 330e- Specifications
- Price as tested: $61,250
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 180 @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 215 @ 1,350 rpm
- Electric Motor Output: 87 horsepower @ 0 rpm (7.6 kWh lithion ion-battery)
- Total System Output: 248 horsepower/310 lbs/ft. of torque
- Curb weight: 1,769 kg (3,900 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 10.3/100km (23 MPG)