Petrol-electric BMW puts performance in a hybrid
The BMW 330e is a petrol-electric hybrid that leans more in the direction of performance than economy.
This comes as no surprise, given the sporting German marque has long pushed its designs in the direction of handling and powertrain dynamics.
To emphasise the point, this 3 Series hybrid has been introduced as the latest member of the BMW iPerformance range.
Note that the BMW X5 xDrive 40e petrol-electric, which arrived only a matter of weeks before the 330e, is also listed as an iPerformance model.
The X5 and 3 Series ranges are the two biggest-selling model series in the BMW range, so the company’s intention of pushing hard in the direction of clean cars is clear.
The BMW 330e can be charged from a standard electric powerpoint in about 31⁄2 hours, from a dedicated BMW iWallbox in 21⁄4 hours costing $1750 plus installation, or at public charging stations.
There are now 262 public charging stations Australia-wide, almost all of which provide free electricity.
The BMW 330e looks almost the same as any other 3 Series. Giveaways are a charging socket panel in the left front guard and eDrive badges on the C-pillars.
Naturally, the readouts on the dashboard are different as the 330e provides information on driving and the choices of driving modes.
The latter allows pure electric, petrol only, or combinations of the two.
As well as a six-speaker audio system with DAB+, USB and auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth and handsfree phone operation, the 330e also features a hybrid-specific version of the BMW Remote app, eDrive Services.
This allows checking the battery status and locating public charging stations.
An electric motor sits between the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (it’s based on the unit used in the standard BMW 321i petrol) and the eight-speed conventional automatic.
Maximum combined power when using both petrol and electricity is 185kW, with top torque of 420Nm.
Thus the 330e has the same peak power as a pure-petrol BMW 330i, but the big torque inherent in electric motors means the 330e has 70Nm more grunt than the 330i pure petrol. A zero to 100km/h time of 6.1 seconds would have put it into V8 territory not that many years ago.
Seating room is identical to that in the rest of the 3 Series sedan range — good in front and not too bad in the back.
The BMW 330e has 100 litres less boot space than the other models. The missing room is due to the bulky battery pack under the rear floor.
Luggage space can be increased by folding down the 40/20/60 rear seat backrests to claw back some of the missing cargo room.
BMW Australia says the 330e hybrid has a realistic range of 28km to 32km when running purely on electricity. The company also points out that statistically the average commute by Australians living in metro areas is 15.6km. So it is possible to go all week without using petrol.
If you are able to charge the car at work as well as home, you can live a fair way out to town, with the further advantage that the boss has paid for half your electricity.
All our charging was done at home using the 10-amp socket in the garage. We simply plugged it in each evening so the 31⁄2 hours required was never a hassle.
During our week’s test, we found the range to be within BMW’s predictions, typically managing 25km to 30km of suburban running.
The biggest delight in driving any hybrid or pure electric vehicle is the instant acceleration because of the torque of the electric motor.
BMW drivers who like to drive should get themselves into the seat of a 330e to see what it feels like.
Interestingly, even when the petrol engine did kick in, the car was still very quiet. Only at idle, when the battery was low could you hear the petrol unit.
The BMW 330e looks almost the same as any other 3 Series.
The BMW 330e has 100 litres less boot space than the other models because of the battery.