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

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

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.


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


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.

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