Fuel-hardy or solid sipper?
ROAD TEST/ Lerato Matebese decides whether the BMW 330e justifies the added capital outlay over its donor car, the 320i
The electric car revolution is coming, but whether SA is ready to embrace it or not is another matter. Various car makers, including the BMW Group, revealed new electrified models at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The German car maker says it expects electrified vehicles to account for between 15% and 25% of its total sales by 2025.
In the meantime, BMW’s iPerformance range continues to grow and its newest and cheapest model is the 330e.
We recently spent time driving the model, and to have an even clearer perspective, we decided to haul in a conventional 320i, which forms the basis of the 330e’s hybrid repertoire.
Essentially, BMW has taken a regular 320i, powered by a 2.0l TwinPower turbo, four-cylinder petrol engine, and added a 65kW/250Nm electric motor and ancillaries which, consequently, adds 165kg to the kerb weight of the 320i.
We devised a plan to first confirm whether the manufacturer’s claimed fuel benefits are palpable and, second, if the 320i can achieve similar figures.
In our previous experience with hybrids we have found it impossible to come anywhere close to the manufacturers’ claimed fuel consumption figures. As soon as you get onto the open road, the fuel benefits of a hybrid go out of the window.
Thankfully, plug-in hybrid systems have remedied the latter ailment to some degree in that most of the systems can now let you run realistically for anything between 20km and 40km at up to 120km/h on battery power alone.
We filled both cars to the brim — the 330e meant topping up the battery’s charge as well, which takes about three-and-ahalf hours on a 220V power socket. We reset our trip and fuel meters and set off on a 47km urban drive which included stop-and-go traffic, ascents and descents and some open-road driving. To keep things as realistic as possible, we kept at the speed limits along the route.
The 320i is decked out in M Sport Package trim, which means a slightly harder ride quality, which was quite notable on bumpy Johannesburg roads. It was even more prudent once we swapped into the 330e, which comes in this instance in a more compliant Modern Line trim, which includes 18-inch tyres versus the 19-inch option on the M Sport model as well as low-rolling resistance tyres.
In addition, the 330e also comes with a sailing function, where the gearbox decouples from the engine when you Efficiency, practicality, ride quality Pricing Technologically astute and efficient, but at a cost remove your foot from the throttle and uses kinetic and brake energy to recoup electricity to store in the battery. Also, for the first 20km of the trip, the 330e managed to drive on electric power alone, which was instrumental in the final result.
As we arrived at our final point we checked the trip meters and the results were intriguing. The 320i returned an average fuel consumption figure of 6.8l/100km, which paled compared to the 4.7l/100km figure achieved by the 330e.
We then drove the 330e in isolation and put its EV (electric vehicle) mode to the test on my 25km commute to the office, which comprises mostly urban stop-and-go and, at the most, 3km of freeway driving.
I was driving with the lightest of throttle input to see if I could muster the 1.9l/100km claimed figure, but the end result was a still credible 3.1l/100km, proving once again that plug-in hybrids make sense for commutes.
Should you be doing highmileage, mostly open-road driving, there is no denying that a 320d will be the best allrounder, particularly in the South African context where hybrid and electric cars have no state rebates on their prices. Type: Turbo petrol Capacity: 1,995cc Power: 185kW at 5,000r/min (total system power) Torque: 420Nm at 1,350r/min (total system power) Type: Eight-speed automatic Type: Rear-wheel drive 0-100km/h: 6.1 seconds Top Speed: 225km/h Fuel Consumption: 2.1l/100km Emission: 44g/km
As a result, you pay significantly more for plug-in hybrid technology, and until the government plays a more pivotal role of making buying greener cars an incentive rather than a punitive measure, then the cleaner technology will take some time to gain the traction it so justly deserves.
WE DISLIKE: VERDICT: ENGINE TRANSMISSION DRIVETRAIN PERFORMANCE (claimed) STANDARD FEATURES
Multifunction steering wheel, climate control, iDrive interface, CD/MP3 with USB and auxiliary port, central locking, Isofix child seat anchorage points, foglights, daytime running lights, leather upholstery, multiple airbags
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: One-year/unlimited km Maintenance Plan: Five-year/100,000km Price: R767,400 Lease*: R16,552 per month
See them on the road and only the truly eagle-eyed fan will spot the difference.
Left: The 330e proves its lower fuel consumption. The 320i, right, is still not a bad fuel sipper at 6.8l/100km.